Teaching Profession

N.Y.C. Union, Reach Tentative Deal on Contract

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 06, 2014 4 min read
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New York City teachers would be granted both retroactive pay and new raises that increase their salaries by 18 percent under a nine-year tentative contract unveiled May 1.

The $4 billion contract, among its other provisions, would also slim the district’s teacher-evaluation criteria, pave the way for a teacher career ladder, and—controversially—ease some of the 1,200 teachers who are on the payroll, but without teaching assignments, back into positions. The tentative pact still must be ratified by the union’s membership, so a final contract may not be in place for a month or more.

The deal signals a new direction for the relationship between City Hall and the United Federation of Teachers, which represents about 100,000 teachers in the 1.1 million-student system, after years of sparring over wages, teacher evaluation, and assignments. The former contract expired in 2009, and its renewal had been languishing ever since.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has a close relationship with the UFT, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, reopened negotiations with the union soon after assuming office in January. The press conference unveiling the deal opened with an embrace between Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and UFT President Michael Mulgrew, and continued with the parties launching more than a few barbs at former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s policies.

“I call this the contract for education,” Mr. Mulgrew said at the event. “Yes, teachers and educators have gone a long time without getting any proper respect. That changed with the changing of the administration.”

One of the union’s top priorities was securing retroactive pay in line with what other New York City public-employee unions received in 2009 and 2010. Under the pact, teachers would receive a 4 percent pay raise for both years. Additional raises would consist of 1 percent in each year from 2013 through 2015, 1.5 percent in 2016, 2.5 percent in 2017, and 3 percent in 2018, on top of a $1,000-per-teacher bonus upon ratification of the contract.

The retroactive raises are expected to be paid out over the contract’s nine-year span. But city officials demurred on that question and on many others regarding how the contract would be paid for.

The union, for instance, has agreed to more than $1 billion in targeted health-care cost savings, but it’s not clear what those would entail. And because of city rules, such concessions affect other labor negotiations and must therefore be approved by other municipal unions.

City officials promised a more thorough accounting during this week’s executive budget presentation.

Details Still to Come

A full copy of the tentative contract was not available by the time Education Week went to press last week, and some details remained sketchy.

One policy that remains somewhat unclear is the future of a pool of teachers who lost their positions because of program closures or other reasons.

Critics contend that the reserve pool—a product of the city’s 2005contract—includes some less effective teachers and others who have landed in the pool after being cleared of misconduct charges. Early reports indicated that the city might place some of them back into classrooms, to the dismay of local education advocates. But city officials disputed that assertion.

“There will be no forced placement of teachers,” Ms. Fariña said at the press conference. Instead, teachers would be given tryouts in schools, but principals ultimately would be given a choice about whether to take them on permanently, she said.

“If [a teacher] visits a school and after a day, the principal says, ‘I don’t want her,’ she’s gone,” Ms. Fariña said.

In a document released by the city, the administration also promised an expedited process that would take no more than 50 days to fire teachers from the pool permanently for not meeting standards. But the specifics remain unclear.

“If it’s just the same standards that apply to any other tenure case, then it’s window dressing,” said Daniel Weisberg, a former New York City education labor negotiator, and now general counsel for TNTP, a teacher-training program and advocacy group.

In one notable reversal, the contract would reduce from 22 to eight the competencies assessed under the teacher-evaluation system. The union had previously insisted on using all of the competencies.

But under the planned new system, Ms. Fariña said, educators could become deeply versed in the most important teaching practices while being relieved of some paperwork duties.

Both union and city officials also promoted a new policy allowing 200 schools to rework the school day and year and make changes to other programming. A joint labor-management panel would review proposals and select schools for the program, contingent on the agreement of the principal and 65 percent of the UFT staff in the building. The policy would be based on the expansion of an existing, rarely used “school based” option allowing schools to waive certain contract provisions.

And the parties promoted a series of initiatives that they said would improve teacher retention in the city, including a $5,000 bonus for teachers who work in certain neighborhoods.

The city would also launch a career-ladder program granting pay increases of up to $20,000 for teachers who took on additional roles and responsibilities. It was not clear how teachers would be identified for the new roles, such as whether they would have to attain a particular evaluation score to be eligible.

The contract also would set aside time each Tuesday for teachers to meet or interact with parents; allow teachers to use time allotted for extended learning for professional development; and increase the length and number of parent-teacher conferences.

A version of this article appeared in the May 07, 2014 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C. Union, Mayor Reach Tentative Deal on $4 Billion Contract

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