Start spreading the news! New York teachers have a new tentative agreement

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After working almost five years without a new contract, more than 62,000 New York City teachers now have a new contract to consider. Raises and savings in health care costs seem to be the issues grabbing headlines. Of the two, raises are certain and the saving are, well, to be determined.

The particulars of the tentative agreement are still a little fuzzy since it hasn't been released yet, but here are the major changes we see. For a reminder of what the last contract looked like, see our New York City Department of Education page.

The term of the agreement is nine years.This would seem really long compared to most contracts (the average for districts in the NCTQ Teacher Contract Database is 2.6 years), but over half of it is retroactive. Before the ink is dry on the signatures, they’ll only have four years left to go. Conveniently, this agreement will expire in October, 2018, meaning Mayor de Blasio will not have to negotiate another teachers’ contract before the next election.

Each teacher will get a one-time “ratification” payment of $1,000 in addition to retroactive raises for 2009, 2010 and 2013. They can also look forward to pay bumps adding up to 10 percent in the following four years of the contract. The overall increase in the cost of the contract is reported to be $4 billion.

Proposed teacher pay increases

2009-2010   4 percent     2012-2013   1 percent     2015-2016   1.5 percent
2010-2011 4 percent 2013-2014 1 percent 2016-2017 2.5 percent
2011-2012 - 2014-2015 1 percent 2017-2018 3 percent

Once we get the details of how this money will be distributed, we’ll do a quick analysis of how NYC compares to other districts with the raises included.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and NYC Department of Education (DOE) are forming a joint working committee to identify health care cost savings in excess of $1 billion in the next four years. During the press conference to announce the agreement city staff listed centralization of things like prescription purchasing and blood work (surely I heard that wrong – hey let’s go get our cholesterol tests during 3rd period!).  Something called the Municipal Labor Council has to approve this move, and they seem to have some reservations.

Maybe I’m just a cynic, but that does not sound like money in the bank to me.

In other provisions, up to 10 percent of schools will be able to apply for waivers for parts of the contract or Chancellor's regulations. After getting agreement of 65 percent of UFT members in a school, a school can submit an application for a waivers to a joint UFT - DOE panel for approval. While a positive development, it’s pretty standard at this point. Seattle, Newark, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore City all have allowances in their contracts for waivers. 

Continuing with the “yawn” category, teachers in hard-to-staff schools will receive a small extra payment for their work. The scant details on career ladder positions could garner the same response, but at least one new role, the Master Teacher, looks like it will have real money attached -- $20,000.

Teachers will see their 6 hour and 50 minute school day rearranged a bit under this contract. Time that was previously spent tutoring students will be reallocated to parent engagement and professional development. Every Tuesday 40 minutes will be spent on parent engagement and, at least during a pilot program, 80 minutes of each Monday will be spent on collaboration and professional development. While obviously well-intentioned, these moves seem a bit prescriptive (down to the day of the week), especially for employees in a professional role. We would have much preferred to see the school day stretched to something closer to the national average of 7 hours and 30 minutes with time for collaboration.

Evaluations are simplified in the new contract. Teachers will be judged on 8 performance components rather than the 22 in the current system. That does sound a lot more manageable, but without a doubt, the devil is in the details on this one. We are hoping they picked the right 8 components to include.

Lastly, the tentative agreement takes a stab at reforming the absent teacher reserve. For teachers who have crossed a line, the definition of misconduct has been expanded to include modern offenses like inappropriate texting. For others who ended up in the absent teacher reserve for unprofessional behavior, there’s a 50-day clock ticking. (It’s not clear what happens when that clock gets to zero.)

Teachers who have found their way to the absent teacher reserve for other reasons can be sent to any school with an opening in their license area. Is this the return of the dreaded forced placement? Chancellor Fariña says no. Principals can send teachers back to the reserve after a day if they don’t work out.  

We are looking forward to reading the fine print on the aforementioned teacher return policy and all the other elements of the contract. Check back for more details and our take on them soon.