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UFT, city announce landmark ‘contract for education’

New York Teacher
Jonathan Fickies

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, flanked by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña, announces the agreement on May 1.

The UFT and New York City leaders reached a historic proposed contract on May 1 that the union’s leaders and city officials say demonstrates the extraordinary progress possible in public schools when a city works in partnership with its educators.

At a City Hall press conference to make the announcement, UFT President Michael Mulgrew called the proposed agreement the “contract for education.”

Mulgrew said that the contract, which must be ratified by the membership, gives educators the opportunity to do their jobs the way they always wanted to.

“The solution to great education exists in each and every school right now,” he said. “We just needed to create a platform and an environment that allows them to do what they have dedicated their lives to do, which is helping children learn.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the negotiations represented “a rare opportunity to reimagine what our schools should look like.”

Under the deal, the 106,000 teachers, guidance counselors, nurses and other members of the bargaining unit would this year receive a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification in addition to 1 percent retroactive pay to May 1, 2013, and an additional 1 percent retroactive to May 1, 2014.

They would also receive retroactively two 4 percent raises from 2009 and 2010, which will be calculated into paychecks as 2 percent in May 2015, another 2 percent in May 2016, another 2 percent in May 2017 and another 2 percent in May 2018. Mulgrew underscored that retired and in-service members would be made whole by 2020.

Going forward, members will receive a 1 percent pay increase in May 2015 followed by a 1.5 percent pay increase in May 2016, a 2.5 percent increase in May 2017 and a 3 percent increase in May 2018.

The proposed agreement covers the period from Nov. 1, 2009, to Oct. 31, 2018.

Health care and pensions are protected. Five days after the May 1 announcement, the city and the Municipal Labor Committee, which represents all 350,000 city workers, agreed to convene a joint citywide health committee that will work collaboratively to identify ways to deliver health care more efficiently without diminishing benefits.

The tentative agreement addresses two critical priorities for UFT educators: addressing the problems with the teacher evaluation system and reducing unnecessary paperwork.

Teacher evaluations will become simpler and fairer. Evaluations will now be focused on eight of the 22 components of the Danielson Framework for Teaching. The system for rating teachers in nontested subjects will be fairer. Teacher artifacts will be eliminated from the evaluation process. And, moving forward, fellow educators — rather than third parties — will review the work of a teacher rated Ineffective.

Up to 200 schools with a track record of collaboration may be granted flexibility to try new school strategies through modifications to certain Chancellor’s Regulations and UFT contract provisions.

“We have hundreds of great schools all over this city,” Mulgrew said. “We’re telling them it’s OK to experiment, to do things differently.”

The agreement also gives educators at each school options to repurpose part of their workday — without adding a minute — to create time for parent engagement, training and doing other professional work.

“It’s not about adding time, but how do you use the time that you have more effectively?” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

New teacher leadership positions paying between $7,500 and $20,000 more per year will give teachers the opportunity to be paid for putting time and work into sharing effective classroom strategies with colleagues.

Fariña said she was most excited about the contract’s emphasis on peer-to-peer training and the flexibility that will allow schools and teachers to innovate.

The agreement also fosters parent involvement by carving out time in the workday for educators to engage with parents and increasing the number of parent-teacher conferences from two to four (using the repurposed time).

“In this agreement, parents are treated as the crucial partners they need to be,” de Blasio said.

Mulgrew and city leaders said the contract signals the start of a new era in public education in the nation’s largest city.

After the union’s last contract expired on Oct. 31, 2009, then-Mayor Bloomberg insisted on a pay freeze for teachers and later tried to lay off thousands of educators. Negotiations for a new contract never got off the ground.

“The last five years engendered such frustration — a logjam that seemed so often intractable and so wrong and so unnecessary, with so much rancor, and one that I know the members of the UFT deeply wanted to move past,” the mayor said.

“The teachers and educators in New York City have gone a long time without getting any proper respect,” Mulgrew said. No more, he said. “Teachers now have a fair deal.”

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