Teaching Profession

Tentative N.Y.C. Accord Would Support Raises, Curb Seniority Rights

By Bess Keller — October 11, 2005 3 min read
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The proposed pact, which must be ratified by United Federation of Teachers members, would also pay experienced and “master” teachers bonuses of $10,000 annually to teach in the lowest-performing schools.

Under the hard-fought agreement, the system’s 1.1 million students would have two more days of school at the start of the year, and at least some students would get extra instruction at the end of the day in groups of 10 or fewer. Teachers’ official workday would be lengthened by ten minutes to help create the tutorials.

The deal comes as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican who won substantial authority over the school system from the state legislature in 2002, bids for re-election next month. It staves off a strike threat and virtually guarantees the 140,000-member American Federation of Teachers affiliate will stay out of the electoral fray.

Less Than Sought

The proposed contract is by most accounts a compromise with no clear winner, except—as both sides claimed—the students.

Gaynor McCown, the executive director of the Teaching Commission, a New York City-based national group that promotes changes in teacher policy, called the tentative settlement “a real step forward,” even though she said it falls short of what might have been. In a statement, she cited increased salaries, the provision for master teachers with higher pay, and the reduction in seniority preferences, among other gains.

While the provisions closely follow the findings of an independent arbiter brought in after the city and the union reached an impasse last month, the proposed raise would exceed the arbiter’s recommendation. Any raises would come on top of teachers’ normal “step” increases for experience and further education. City officials said the contract would cost the city $350 million more than it had budgeted this fiscal year.

The tentative deal would not go as far in revising work rules as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein had sought, though it would give principals more authority over hiring teachers and assigning them duties, including keeping order in hallways and cafeterias. Teachers whose jobs had disappeared would no longer be able to claim new ones based solely on seniority.

Both Mayor Bloomberg and UFT President Randi Weingarten stressed the pay raises in their remarks after the agreement was completed early Oct. 3.

“I am particularly pleased that we are significantly closing the pay gap between our hardworking educators and their colleagues in the suburbs,” the union leader said, touting what would be a more than 33 percent increase in teachers’ salaries between June 2002 and October 2007.

Stability Cited

Under the proposal, the salary for a new teacher would go from $39,000 to $42,512, and the maximum salary for a veteran teacher would rise from $81,200 to $93,400. Teachers would begin getting their raises this year because the proposed contract would stretch back more than two years.

“The contract will bring much-needed stability to schools over the next two years,” Mr. Bloomberg said. He added that he expected it to increase teaching time, empower principals, and improve school safety.

In a tip of the hat to teachers’ frustration with what they perceive as micromanagement, Ms. Weingarten pointed to language that says teachers could no longer be disciplined for “the format of bulletin boards, the arrangement of classroom furniture, and the exact duration of lesson units.”

Many teachers eyed the proposal warily, and a dissenting faction of the UFT urged on its Web site that members vote against the deal. The vote has not been scheduled.

“Squeezing more for less is what it is,” said Kathryn Munnell, who has six years of experience in the city’s public schools and teaches English at the High School for Telecommunications Arts and Technology in the borough of Brooklyn. She said that the proposed raise would barely cover increases in the cost of living, and that it did not represent full pay for the longer workday.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as Tentative N.Y.C. Accord Would Support Raises, Curb Seniority Rights

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