The deal is done.
The United Federation of Teachers general membership approved their proposed contract with the city, the first in five years, on Tuesday. The union said the deal passed with more than 77 percent of the roughly 90,000 votes cast in favor.
The agreement, announced in April, gives teachers an 18 percent raise spread over nine years beginning in 2009 — the last year teachers worked with a contract. Eight percent of that raise will be retroactive, while the other 10 percent will come over the next five years. It also adds more professional development and parent meetings during the school day, creates a “career ladder” system for experienced teachers to receive raises, as well as a network of 200 schools that operate outside the DOE and UFT rules in order to come up with innovations that may eventually be adopted system-wide.
The deal created some controversy, mainly surrounding a clause about the “absent teacher reserve,” which some fear will force bad teachers back into the classroom. Also, the contract states that costs, $9 billion to the city, would be partially offset by healthcare savings, but how that would work has not been specifically explained.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari–a, who negotiated the contract with the UFT, both applauded the vote.
“We are going to help good educators stay and grow in this profession, and usher [in] real reform that will lift up kids across the whole system,” the mayor said in a statement. “And at the same time, we are securing unprecedented healthcare savings, which make this a fiscally responsible contract that protects our budgets and our taxpayers.”
Fari–a praised the deal as “an education contract.”
The de Blasio administration is hoping the UFT deal sets a precedent as the city works to negotiate deals with the other public sector unions.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew also lauded the vote. In a statement, he took a shot at former Mayor Bloomberg, who had an extremely contentious relationship with the union, especially in his final term when the two sides failed to reach a deal on the new contract.
“I am proud of our membership and thrilled with this outcome,” Mulgrew said. “The UFT and all other city workers were badly served by the previous mayor. We are entering a new chapter in our school system’s history where educators will have a greater say in school-level decisions.”
Many teachers and UFT representatives had previously blasted the deal, arguing that it was written so some teachers who leave the profession in the next few years won’t get their retroactive raises.
The “absent teacher reserve” was also an issue for some members, who fear the teachers in the reserve due to disciplinary issues or because they were rated ineffective will be allowed back in the classroom before qualified teachers who may be in the reserve due to budget cuts.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s something,” said one Queens elementary school teacher who voted yes. “It’s a step.”
The Bloomberg administration offered a deal to the UFT in 2009 that the leadership rejected as “insulting.” Negotiations broke down not long after.
The UFT has only ever rejected a contract with the city once — in 1995. It would ultimately approve a similar contract the next year.