breaking

Breaking: Union site announces new contract deal, including full retro pay

Updated, 3:30 p.m. — “The wait is over!”

That’s how the United Federation of Teachers has announced details around the tentative contract agreement it has reached with the city.

The announcement was posted on its website Thursday before the union and City Hall began spreading the news. Since then, the union restricted access to that page and the mayor’s office scheduled a press conference for 4 p.m.

The nine-year deal will last until October 2018, and salaries for UFT members will increase 18 percent over that period, according to the UFT’s announcement. The deal includes full retroactive pay for the years since the union last had a contract, and health benefits and pensions will be “preserved” at the same levels, the announcement says. Union members will get a $1,000 signing bonus when the deal is ratified, the release adds.

The deal will also include a path for teachers to earn higher salaries in exchange for taking on leadership roles, which Chalkbeat described Thursday. This “career ladder” compensation system would represent a major shift from the union’s longtime lockstep pay system. The UFT announcement says the new system will “foster idea-sharing by allowing exemplary teachers to remain teachers while extending their reach to help others.”

The union said the deal contains “major changes” that make teacher evaluations “simpler and fairer.” Now, teachers will be rated based on eight components of an observation rubric, rather than the current 22 — a shift that Chancellor Carmen Fariña has endorsed and the union has previously opposed. In addition, there will be a “a better system for rating teachers in non-tested subjects” and teachers will not have to submit unit plans, family newsletters, and other “artifacts” as part of the evaluation process, the UFT said. Also, when teachers are rated ineffective, other educators will be brought in to review their work rather than “consultants or other third parties,” the announcement said.

Educators will also face far less “unnecessary and duplicative paperwork, both written and electronic,” the union added.

The Daily News reported some wins for the city that the UFT did not trumpet, such as a streamlined process for terminating teachers accused of sexual misconduct and a change to the the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers who are on the city’s payroll but lack a teaching position. Under the deal, those teachers would get tryout periods at schools, after which they would be subject to an expedited termination hearing if the schools’ principals do not approve of their performance, the Daily News reports.

The UFT’s release doesn’t say how the pay raises will be spread out over time, but the Daily News article says that members will receive lump payments over “multiple years.”

The deal must still be approved by the Municipal Labor Committee, the joint group of city unions. Some members of that group have reportedly expressed concerns that the city will fund the teachers’ back pay with savings from health-care benefit concessions that it is seeking from the unions, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Here are some other highlights from the UFT’s announcement on Thursday:

Time and tools

“Finally, the agreement gives educators more time to carry out their professional responsibilities without adding any new time to the work day. The 150 minutes of extended time can be reconfigured in a variety of ways to build in more time for professional work, professional development and parent engagement.

The proposed agreement also obligates the DOE to provide educators in core subjects with appropriate curriculum, something which we have long fought for.”

Teacher leadership and voice

Under the tentative deal, collaborative school communities will have new opportunities to innovate outside the confines of the UFT contract and DOE regulations. A new program known as Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) will give educators in participating schools greater voice in decision-making and a chance to experiment with new strategies.”

And UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s letter:

Dear Colleagues,

The wait is over! Earlier today we reached a tentative contract agreement with the Department of Education that recognizes the hard work that we do every day in the classroom and restores the dignity of our profession after years of abuse.

It is a contract for educators but, of equal importance, it is also a contract for education that will not only benefit us but also the students, schools and communities we serve.

Working in partnership with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, we now have the opportunity to rebuild our city’s school system with educators — not bureaucrats or consultants — in the driver’s seat. Our agreement is the product of a shared belief that it is our school communities that must be the agents of change and that, when we educators are empowered to use our professional expertise, we can solve our common challenges and develop new ways to improve outcomes for our students.

Our proposed agreement, which is pending Municipal Labor Committee approval and ratification by the membership, includes the pay increases we deserve after working for five years without a contract — without a single raise.

Below are the highlights.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew

Want the latest NYC education news? Follow Chalkbeat New York on Facebook

Election Forum

Tennesseans are about to get their first good look at candidates for governor on education

PHOTO: TN.gov
Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen speaks as his successor, Gov. Bill Haslam, listens during a 2017 forum hosted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education. Tennesseans will elect their next governor in November.

For almost 16 years, two Tennessee governors from two different political parties have worked off mostly the same playbook when it comes to K-12 education.

This year, voters will choose a new governor who will determine if that playbook stays intact — or takes a different direction from the administrations of Bill Haslam, a Republican leaving office next January, and Phil Bredesen, the Democrat who preceded him.

Voters will get to hear from all but one of the major candidates Tuesday evening during the first gubernatorial forum televised statewide. Organizers say the spotlight on education is fitting since, based on one poll, it’s considered one of the top three issues facing Tennessee’s next governor. Both K-12 and higher education are on the table.

Candidates participating are:

  • Mae Beavers, a Republican from Mt. Juliet and former Tennessee state senator;
  • Randy Boyd, a Republican from Knoxville and former commissioner of Economic and Community Development and a Republican from Knoxville;
  • Karl Dean, a Democrat and former mayor of Nashville;
  • Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, a Democrat from Ripley and minority leader in the Tennessee House of Representatives;
  • Rep. Beth Harwell, a Republican from Nashville and speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives;
  • Bill Lee, a Republican businessman from Williamson County

The seventh major candidate, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Republican from Gallatin, is in the midst of a congressional session in Washington, D.C.

The next governor will help decide whether Tennessee will stay the course under its massive overhaul of K-12 education initiated under Bredesen’s watch. The work was jump-started by the state’s $500 million federal Race to the Top award, for which Tennessee agreed to adopt the Common Core academic standards for math and English; incorporate students’ scores from standardized tests in annual teacher evaluations; and establish a state-run turnaround district to intervene in low-performing schools at an unprecedented level.

Tennessee has since enjoyed steady student growth and watched its national rankings rise, but the transition hasn’t been pain-free. Pushback on its heavy-handed turnaround district led leaders to widen school improvement strategies. They also ordered new academic standards due to political backlash over the Common Core (though the revised standards are still basically grounded in Common Core).

A major issue now is whether the next governor and legislature will retain Tennessee’s across-the-board system of accountability for students, teachers, schools and districts. Snafus and outright failures with TNReady, the new standardized test that serves as the lynchpin, have prompted some calls to make the assessment just a diagnostic tool or scrap it altogether. Haslam and his leadership team have stood firm.

“We as Tennesseans made the right call — the tough call — on the policies we’ve pursued,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen told Chalkbeat recently. “Nearly every other state has compromised in some way on some of these core foundational components of policy work, and we have not.”

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education, an advocacy group that works closely with Tennessee’s Department of Education, is a co-host of Tuesday’s forum. Known as SCORE, the group has sought to shape the election-year conversation with priorities that include teacher quality, improving literacy, and developing school leaders — all outgrowths of learnings during Tennessee’s Race to the Top era.

SCORE President David Mansouri said the goal is to maintain the momentum of historic gains in student achievement from the last decade. “The next administration’s education policy decisions will be crucial in determining whether Tennessee students continue to progress faster than students in other states and whether they graduate ready for postsecondary success,” he said Monday.

The one-hour forum will delve into a range of issues. College and career readiness, education equity, and school funding will be among the topics broached before each candidate is allowed a one-minute closing statement, according to David Plazas, a Tennessean editor who will help moderate the discussion.

“It will be really exciting,” Plazas promised. “We’re hoping the candidates are prepared to talk substantively on the issues and to avoid slogans.”

The event begins at 7 p.m. CT at Nashville’s Belmont University. Along with SCORE, it’s being co-hosted by USA TODAY NETWORK and Nashville’s NewsChannel 5. You can livestream the event here and learn more about attending or watching here.

Tennessee’s primary election is set for Aug. 2, with the general election on Nov. 6.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede