The tentative agreement between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, of which I am president, is a good deal for the students, schools and communities we serve, in addition to the teachers themselves.
It gives educators more time for professional work, training and parent engagement; it will foster idea-sharing by allowing accomplished teachers to remain teaching while extending their reach to help others.
And a new program will give educators in collaborative school communities a greater voice in decision-making and give the school an opportunity to try ideas outside the confines of the contract and Department of Education regulations.
This agreement also addresses two critical priorities for our members: making the teacher evaluation system simpler and fairer and reducing unnecessary paperwork that takes us away from our students.
It also obligates the department to provide educators in core subjects with appropriate curriculum, something which we have long fought for. In terms of treating teachers as the professionals they are, it offers a fair set of wage increases over the life of the contract.
Our previous mayor tried to make it impossible for the next administration to give educators the raises they deserve. Mayor Bloomberg failed to set aside money in the budget to pay teachers the two 4 percent raises for 2009 and 2010 that other city workers received. He also purposely drained the city’s entire labor reserve fund. Over the five long years Bloomberg refused to negotiate, the cost of paying out those raises ballooned.
By agreeing to stretch out these retroactive payments and raises, we made our members whole and at the same time won significant raises in the contract’s later years.
After years of fighting off bad ideas from so-called “education reformers,” we have, in this contract, turned the tables by enabling teacher-led innovations in our schools.
Working in partnership with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, we now have the opportunity to rebuild our city’s school system with educators – not bureaucrats or consultants – in the driver’s seat.
Our agreement is the product of a shared belief that it is our school communities that must be the agents of change.