Union leaders and district officials in Buffalo, N.Y., agreed to a teachers’ contract last week, halting an on-again, off-again strike that has kept students and parents glued to televisions and radios for news of school closings since the beginning of the academic year.
State mediators offered a five-year contract that gives the district’s 4,000 teachers a 13.5 percent salary increase and requires retirees to pay more for their health benefits. The school board approved the contract unanimously Sept. 20, and members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation were expected to approve it late last week.
“This is a very good contract,” said Philip Rumore, the president of the union. “The financial package is pretty close to what we’d been seeking.”
The contract was “a tough sell” for school board members, despite the 9-0 vote, said J. Andrew Maddigan, a spokesman for the 47,000- student district. “There is no question that the board was hoping for more concessions.”
The district had made “significant inroads” in such areas as health-care benefits, he added.
The agreement also mandates that art, music, and physical education be offered in grades K-3, a committee look at ways to reduce class size when students with special needs are present, and the number of days allocated to professional development be increased.
The deal was forged after more than a year of contentious negotiations. Union members had been working under their old contract, which expired in the summer of last year. The organization is an affiliate of the National Education Association.
Teachers staged walkouts Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, but have returned to class every other day since Sept. 6. Teacher strikes are illegal in New York state.
N.J. District Settles
In other strike-related news, union leaders and district officials in the 13,000-student Hamilton Township, N.J., district reached a settlement last week following a walkout there by the NEA affiliate.
Schools had been closed since the strike began Sept. 6. Negotiations had grown tense over salary issues.
Labor talks seemed to stagnate elsewhere late last week.
Discussions between union and district leaders in Boston, Philadelphia, and Punxsutawney, Pa., continued with little progress.
“If you can find a snail, you can find something moving faster than we are,” said Hal Moss, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.