Teaching Profession

New Detroit Teachers Contract Faces Critics From All Sides

By Emmanuel Felton — September 13, 2016 2 min read
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The Detroit Federation of Teachers has tentatively agreed to its first contract with the new Detroit Public Schools Community District, which was formed this summer after the governor signed off on a $617 million bailout and restructuring plan for Detroit public schools. While both the union and district have hailed the deal as an important step forward, both teachers and Republican state lawmakers have questioned the plan.

The deal still needs to be ratified by DFT’s 2,900 members and the Financial Review Commission, a board with financial oversight power over the city and the school district, both of which have been bailed out by the state in recent years.

Under the deal, teachers at the top of the current salary schedule will get a 3-percent bonus. Some veteran teachers complain that this fails to make up for the $7,000 pay cut they agreed to a few years ago, reports the local FOX-affiliate WJBK.

“It’s like a slap in the face. It’s like, they’ve taken over $20,000 away and now they’re just offering a thousand dollars here $1,200 there—I say no,” one teacher told the station.

According to details of the deal released by the union, the tentative agreement relies heavily on one-off bonuses. Teachers in critical shortage areas and those who receive ratings of highly effective evaluations would receive one-time payments. But the deal could also lead to salary increases if the district takes in $12 million or more in local revenue during the 2016-17 school year. In that case, teachers would be moved ahead one full step on the schedule. Additionally, the deal reinstates salary step increases starting next school year.

The Detroit Free Press spoke to several teachers who insisted on raises being guaranteed in this deal, regardless of whether the district can secure additional revenue, in addition to bonuses and other incentives like class-size reductions.

“If those things aren’t in there, then we need to reject it,” Nicole Conaway, a 15-year teacher in the district told the newspaper. “The vague language in the document doesn’t make me hopeful. It’s a very tentative agreement.”

Meanwhile, State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a Republican, questioned the validity of the entire deal since it was made between interim Detroit school district emergency manager Steven Rhodes and the union.

“Well, I have some questions because I thought that was up to the new school board and the new superintendent (and the) Financial Review Commission,” Meekhof told The Detroit News. “I didn’t believe that the interim manager had the ability to do collective bargaining.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.