NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city teachers union have finalized details on a preliminary contract agreement that would give classroom educators raises for the first time in nearly five years and buy labor peace until 2018, after the next mayoral election.
Teachers will receive back pay equivalent of nearly 8 percent of their salaries and a series of additional small raises through 2018, according to the nine-year contract.
In addition to pay hikes, the new contract will allow the city to suspend union rules and use the charter school model at 200 public schools, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
During his brief term in office, de Blasio had an epic clash with charter school operators — one that was so intense that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature usurped some of the city’s authority over charters.
Now, it seems, the success of private charter schools is something the city wants to emulate.
The new pact with the 100,000-member United Federation of Teachers will allow the city to suspend union rules at 10 percent of public schools to, in effect, create its own charters, which would allow for the changing of the length of the school year, the timing of the school day and even the curriculum, Kramer reported.
The mayor and the head of the UFT announced the tentative deal at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“We have reached a landmark agreement for our schoolteachers but, first and foremost, a landmark agreement for our children and families,” de Blasio said.
The agreement is fully funded within the city’s current budget and will not require tax increases to cover the costs, according to the city. The contract will also fund merit pay for teachers.
The deal signifies Mayor de Blasio’s first major successful union contract negotiation since taking office.
“This is an extraordinary day,” mayor said. “An extraordinary day for our teachers, an extraordinary day for our children, an extraordinary day for our parents and a day that will literally frame the future of education in New York City for the better.”
The nine-year agreement brings a number of groundbreaking reforms to improve public education for every student, while also making changes to provide more than $1 billion in health care cost savings over the next four years, according to the mayor’s office. The deal will also support excellence in teaching, officials announced.
“New York City is for the first time in a long time truly in the educational reform mode and I can’t thank the mayor enough for allowing this,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Thursday. “Teachers now have a fair deal moving forward.”
“What’s not possible is possible,” City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina added.
New York’s public school system serves 1.1 million students, by far the largest in the country.
Great care was taken with this contract since it is expected to set the pattern for the rest of the city’s work force. De Blasio has 152 labor contracts to settle.
The UFT, which long pushed for retroactive raises, will receive 4 percent raises for 2009 and 2010, the same figure provided to other unions during that time by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. The money will start being paid in 2015 and is spread over the next several years.
Teachers will also receive a one-time $1,000 ratification payment, according to the contract. The teachers will not receive back pay for 2011 and 2012.
Going forward, teachers will receive a series of incremental annual raises; 1 percent from 2013 to 2015, then 1.5 percent in 2016, 2.5 percent in 2017 and 3 percent in 2018. The deal expires in October 2018, nearly a year after de Blasio faces voters again.
The new deal will not become official until it is voted on by the union’s members.
Retroactive raises have long been at the center of the contract negotiations, which became a significant issue during the mayoral campaign last year.
Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent, long said the city could not afford retroactive raises for all unions, which could total up to $8 billion. Many of the unions ended negotiations in recent years preferring to wait for a new mayor who may have warmer relations with unions; as a result, all of their contracts had expired by the time Bloomberg left office.
De Blasio is a close ally of unions but has also expressed wariness about the city’s ability to afford retroactive raises for all unions. Other municipal labor leaders are anxiously eyeing the UFT negotiations believing it could establish baselines for future negotiations.
City workers do not contribute to their health care costs, which will not change in the new deal. The $1 billion in health care savings achieved by the end of this contract will occur by other means, including centralized drug purchases and auditing health benefits to remove individuals not entitled to services.
The teachers’ deal also address several hotly debated education issues. It will provide an additional $5,000 annual bonus for experienced teachers to stay in schools in underserved neighborhoods, and provides a new bonus structure — which features payments ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 a year — for highly rated teachers. The teacher evaluation system will also be overhauled, simplifying it from 22 criteria to eight.
The contract also will change the guidelines of the ongoing debate over the 1,000 teachers who are still being paid even though their jobs have been eliminated; if the new deal is approved, dismissal proceedings will begin against poor-performing teachers who are twice removed from classrooms by principals.
It also toughens the standards against teachers behaving inappropriately against students, now making inappropriate texting, particularly of a sexual nature, an offense that could warrant firing. The deal also will increase the number of parent-teacher conferences and, in 200 schools, allow principals to make sweeping changes, including lengthening both the school day and school year.
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