A proposed nine-year contract deal between the city and the teachers union would increase teachers’ pay and simplify the way they are rated, free some schools to design innovative schedules, provide parents with more opportunities to meet with educators, and allow the city to more easily fire teachers who are deemed incompetent or accused of misconduct, officials announced Thursday.
Teachers’ pay would grow by 18 percent by 2020 through spread-out raises and back pay, and they would receive a $1,000 cash bonus when the deal is ratified. The contract between the United Federations of Teachers and the city would expire Oct. 31, 2018, and would preserve teachers’ existing health-care benefits while saving the city $1 billion in health care costs over several years, the officials said.
All told, the deal will cost the city $5.5 billion by the time the last payment is made in 2020, the city said.
At a celebratory press conference on Thursday afternoon, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor Bill de Blasio both praised the deal as a historic agreement representing a new vision for education reform in a large urban school system.
De Blasio is betting that the path to higher student achievement is through cooperation with the union, raising teacher morale and increasing parent involvement. But some of those changes came at the cost of extra learning time for the city’s low-performing students.
His collaborative vision for the school system marks a sharp break from that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who viewed the teachers union as a barrier to educational change.
“This is what partnership and equal operations look like,” de Blasio said before he embraced Mulgrew at the podium. “This is what respect engenders. Respectful relations allows us to get to the results that our people deserve.”
[If you missed it, we broke the news here and here; live-blogged today’s announcement; analyzed the issues here (backpay and excessed teachers) and here (evaluations and training). If you’re looking for even more context, check out this timeline of UFT contracts over the last 20 years.]
The UFT’s 110,000 members have been without a contract since 2009, and the deal grants them retroactive pay raises similar to those that other city workers got in previous years. An umbrella group of other municipal unions must still approve the deal, which is likely to set a pattern for the raises that they will receive in their own contract negotiations with the city. A committee representing UFT members must also ratify the new contract.
The contract has not been finalized and questions surround some of the changes that officials touted Thursday.
For instance, officials were not able to immediately say where savings came from in changes to the union’s health care benefits. And there is a legal question about whether a new process to remove educators who are deemed unfit to teach will have teeth.
The expedited process would be focused on terminating ineffective teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, a pool of about 1,200 educators who are on the city’s payroll but lack permanent positions in schools.
The contract deal says the city must send those teachers to schools that still have vacancies by mid-October in positions they are qualified to teach, according to the union. Fariña said that the teachers are being vetted by the department, “And if we don’t feel they’re ready, we don’t send them out to interviews [with principals].”
Principals have the right to send those teachers back to the pool. If a teacher is sent back twice, a truncated termination process will be triggered, city officials said.
The deal amends a new state-imposed teacher evaluation system that has been criticized for judging some teachers based on the performance of students they do not teach and for overwhelming principals who must now observe and rate teachers multiple times a year. Now, principals will have to consider far fewer criteria when rating teachers — a plan the teachers union opposed when the evaluation system was first being negotiated. Educators who teach grades or subjects that do not take standardized tests will have the option of being evaluated based on their own students, though it was unclear what measures that will involve.
Meanwhile, the city will find it easier to remove teachers for sexual misconduct, which now includes more behaviors, such as inappropriate texting.
Both sides said the agreement is also intended to spur innovation by freeing up to 200 schools from certain city regulations and contract provisions. That would enable those schools to experiment with their schedules, add time to their days or years, or give teachers more input in hiring decisions.
De Blasio framed that piece of the contract similarly to the way he has said he wants charter schools to interact with the rest of the school system.
“Innovations will be shared,” de Blasio said, adding, “and we know it will be easy.”
The deal also rewards teachers for taking on leadership roles or tough assignments, and gives them more professional development time.
Under a new “career ladder” compensation system, high-performing teachers can earn yearly bonuses of $7,500 or $20,000 for allowing colleagues to observe their work or sharing best practices. Teachers who work at certain schools in low-income areas will be paid a $5,000 bonus. Low-rated teachers won’t receive the bonus, the city said.
All teachers will now spend 80 minutes every Monday in school-based professional development, and 35 minutes each Tuesday collaborating with colleagues.
To foster closer ties between schools and families, teachers will get another 40 minutes each Tuesday to communicate with parents through emails or phone calls, meetings, or a class website or newsletter. And parents will get more face time with teachers: Two additional parent-teacher conferences will be added to the school year, and each will last 30 minutes longer than in the past.
Those minutes were reallocated from the 150 minutes a week that schools have previously set aside for tutoring struggling students, thereby reducing instructional time for some.
“It’s a historic day because it is, first and foremost, a great day for children and their families,” de Blasio said.
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