Monday, October 03, 2005

Tentative Deal Reached In New York City

This just in:
Ending what once seemed like an intractable dispute, the city and its teachers union reached tentative agreement Monday on a 52-month contract with wage hikes totaling nearly 15 percent.

The deal comes five weeks before Election Day and salves what has been a high-profile political rift.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg began pushing hard for an agreement after arbitrators called for a series of concessions and improvements for the city's 120,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and others.

The result was a pact covering June 1, 2003, through Oct. 12, 2007, with raises of 2 percent effective Dec. 1, 2003; 3.5 percent on Dec. 1, 2004; 5.5 percent on Nov. 1 and 3.25 percent on Oct. 1, 2006.

The city estimated the cost of the pact at $350 million in the current fiscal year, increasing to $600 million to $750 million when it takes full effect. A portion of the taxpayer cost is offset by concessions, officials said.

Starting next year, teachers will report to work on the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day for "professional development." Classes will begin the following Tuesday instead of the following Thursday, Bloomberg said.

Teachers will work an extra 50 minutes per week, to be combined with the 100 minutes added in exchange for a 22 percent pay hike enacted three years ago.

That added time, officials said, will be used for tutorials, test preparation, or instruction for groups of up to 10 students needing special attention. Instruction would come in a 37-minute period immediately after dismissal, Monday through Thursday.

Bloomberg called the contract "good for New York's 1.1 million schoolchildren."

Salaries for new teachers would increase 9 percent, to $42,512 from $39,000, except those who started this year. Those teachers will get the full pay hike. A teacher with five years' experience and 30 credits to a master's degree would go from $50,828 to $58,452 by contract's end.

In a selling point for Weingarten as she seeks ratification, teachers would no longer be disciplined for the format of bulletin boards, arrangement of classroom furniture and exact duration of lessons.

Other features of the pact:

Paraprofessionals who earn a bachelor's degree will see top salaries rise to at least $32,000.

"Forced" transfers and "bumping" of jobs due to seniority would be banned.

Administrators will have more leeway in assigning teachers to homeroom, hall patrol and cafeteria duty.

Expansion of a pilot program in which some teachers lead others in less-successful schools, worth an extra $10,000 pay.

Elimination of a teacher's right to file a grievance over any letter a principal puts in his or her file.

Mandatory dismissal of any teacher found to have had a sexual relationship with a student or minor.
The deal becomes final following ratification by the rank-and-file.

It has been said that a compromise is an agreement that nobody likes but that both sides can live with.

Having said that, however, I believe that the teacher's union will rue the day that they negotiated away their right to contest letters dropped in teachers' personnel files by school principals.

Once lost, contractual protections such as the right to contest disciplinary letters placed in personnel files and have the teacher's supervisor show cause (proof, if you will) are rarely regained.

On the other hand, contractual language facilitating the dismissal of teachers for having sexual relations with their students was long overdue.
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