The UFT Contract Proposal: Can a Teacher Contract Rebuild Trust in Public Schools: An Aggressive Agreement Confronts Teacher Shortages, Teacher Collaboration and High Poverty/At Risk Schools

As Hurricane Michael whistled by the city the Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza and Union President Mulgrew announced a proposed union contract months before the mid February contract expiration, and, none too soon for a chancellor faced with one inherited crisis after another.

This afternoon hundreds of union delegates will convene  to hear details, ask questions, and, after what I expect will be vigorous debate vote on the contract. If approved, as I expect, it will move to the members, who, in a secret ballot, will vote to approve or reject the agreement. As with every contract there will be naysayers: not enough money, class size should have been addressed, etc., I expect an overwhelming approval by members. In 1995 the members did vote to reject a contract, a five year contract with no raises in the first two years, months later virtually the same contract was approved.

Public employee negotiations are guided by the Public Employees Relation Board (PERB) regulations, and salary is governed by the principles of “Ability to Pay” and “Pattern Bargaining;” (see an earlier blog for more detailed discussion).

The tentative 43-month contract provides a 2 percent salary increase on Feb. 14, 2019, followed by an increase of 2.5 percent on May 14, 2020, and 3 percent on May 14, 2021.  After the May, 2021 increase, the maximum teacher salary will jump to $128,657 from today’s high of $119,472. Starting teacher salaries will go from the current $56,711 to $61,070.

UFT-represented employees will still receive the lump-sum payments scheduled for this October and the following two Octobers that were negotiated in the 2014 contract.

For the chancellor the contract proposed contract settlement is crucial, he was drowning in inherited crises that have been bubbling for years.

The education headlines: thousands of students left stranded as school buses failed to arrive, a $100,000 rabbi with the $50,000 driver, working for the Department, to supervise publicly funded buses for Yeshivas , staggering numbers of special education qualified students without services (Read NYTimes story here), and, of course, the lingering and contentious specialized schools segregation conundrum.pitting students of color against Asian students.

The contract is complex and the implementation difficult, it attempts to blend the needs of the union and the needs of the school system.

 Teaching shortages and teacher retention: enrollment in teacher education programs is sharply down, and, teacher retention in high needs schools, more than half the teachers leave within five years, creates a cycle of constant teacher shortages. Are we selecting the “proper” candidates?   The department will begin to pre-screen potential candidates. When I worked as a consultant in the Chancellor’s District in the late 90’s we pre-screened candidates before we sent possible candidates on to be interviewed by principals, a similar model will be implemented for selective schools.

A subset of high needs schools, mostly in the Bronx, will have the opportunity to participate in a carefully structured local decision-making model.

 The tentative contract establishes a Bronx Collaborative Schools Model for up to 120 high-needs schools, mostly in the Bronx. Schools will be identified based on staff turnover, student achievement and other criteria, but the chapter leader and the principal must both agree to participate. These schools will form joint labor-management committees and be provided with support to make significant changes in school operations. Each school will make its own decisions on how to improve school climate, reduce teacher turnover and increase academic achievement. The changes could include an additional $5,000 to $8,000 per year for teachers in a hard-to-staff license or title.

  A continuing frustration has been obdurate school leaders who cannot/will not engage staff in the school decision-making process. The contract addresses the issue,

The agreement will expand the authority of school-based UFT consultation committees, empowering them to raise and address issues of professional development, basic instructional supplies, curriculum, inadequate space and workload. Those issues will be raised first at the school, but the chapter leader can escalate them to the district and central levels if resolution isn’t reached. The contract also provides stronger protection for members who voice concerns from attempts by a supervisor to retaliate against or harass them.

The tentative settlement includes a major victory for paraprofessionals,  due process rights not previously in the agreement.

In a major victory for paras, the tentative contract provides due-process rights for paras that are similar to those of teachers. You remain on the payroll while the case is adjudicated.

ATRs, teachers who were excessed from their schools into a pool of teachers without a permanent placement will be placed by local superintendents into vacancies from day one of the school year.

The number and length of teachers observations will be reduced for “effective” and “highly effective” rated teachers.

Read a Contract at a Glance here and full text of the Memorandum here.

In Los Angeles, a city with an elected central board, teachers have voted to strike and are currently in state-directed mediation, the central board hired a hedge fund despoiler as superintendent who wants to turn all of Los Angeles into a portfolio model; driven by charter school choice. Chicago, a mayoral control city has been battling their mayor and their governor for years, with very limited success as schools continue to be closed.

Elections have consequences, huge consequences for teachers and schools; negotiating a contract in a nation led by Trump and Betsy DeVoss is beyond challenging.

Both leaders, Mulgrew and Carranza have taken risks: can they create a truly collaborative climate at the school level; can they build a culture of trust?

Marc Tucker, in Education Week, explores the loss of trust in our schools and how we can rebuild trust,

… the distrust of school administrators by teachers, the distrust of teachers unions by governors and legislators, the distrust of state government by school district administrations, the distrust of parents by school professionals and vice-versa…well it seems to go on and on.

Where did trust go?  How can we get it back?

A union leader and a school district leader have used the vehicle of a collective bargaining agreement to address issues that hopefully will begin to rebuild trust in our public schools.

One response to “The UFT Contract Proposal: Can a Teacher Contract Rebuild Trust in Public Schools: An Aggressive Agreement Confronts Teacher Shortages, Teacher Collaboration and High Poverty/At Risk Schools

  1. Pingback: Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education Conference: A Report and Reflections | Ed In The Apple

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