Tuesday, September 06, 2016

New Detroit Teachers Tentative Pact Includes Bonuses
Ann Zaniewski,
Detroit Free Press Education Writer
8:23 p.m. EDT September 6, 2016

Detroit teachers leaving an informational meeting Tuesday night about a new proposed union contract expressed mixed feelings, with some saying the deal doesn't go far enough to restore lost wages and benefits. Union officials said the tentative agreement would put more money in teachers' pockets.

After bargaining since midsummer, the Detroit Federation of Teachers announced Monday that it had reached a tentative agreement with the Detroit Public Schools Community District. .

The agreement includes pay increases, mostly in the form of bonuses and including a 3% bonus for instructors at the top of the salary scale; an added prep period for elementary school teachers; and the creation of a committee to address teachers' health and safety concerns.

"There were no concessions, there were no givebacks. ...," DFT interim president Ivy Bailey told reporters after the meeting at Second Ebenezer Church. "The goal was to get everybody at least a couple thousand dollars to put in their pockets."

Packets with voting information will be distributed to schools Friday. Voting will be open through Sept. 14.

Before the meeting started, East English Village teacher Nicole Conaway stood outside the church entrance passing out flyers and urging her peers to "vote this garbage down." She said the deal lacks teeth.

Marcus Walton, a special education teacher at the Jerry L. White Center, said he likes that the agreement would restore salary step increases, but said he doesn't like the uncertainty of the new school board being able to renegotiate the deal in January. He plans to vote in favor of it and expects the vote to be close.

"It's not everything we wanted," Walton said, "but it gives us a fighting chance to work for our members, to work for our students."

The tentative agreement would be for six months, retroactive to July 1 and lasting through December, union officials said. The new school board that takes office in January can maintain it through the end of the school year or renegotiate it.

Dwight Walker, who teaches math at the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School, said he's concerned that the agreement doesn't restore the pay teachers have lost over several years of stagnant wages.

"It's not going to be what the district needs to retain teachers," he said.

The contract, which covers more than 2,900 teachers and paraprofessionals, will need to be approved by Detroit's Financial Review Commission, which is overseeing the school system's finances.

Bailey said the tentative deal restores some things that were lost in previous contracts, but she believes teachers deserved more. She said the $617-million school district restructuring package lawmakers passed in June — which included $25 million of $150 million in transition costs going toward the new district — fell financially short.

"Because Lansing kind of took advantage of us, the money was not there," she said.

Here are some highlights of the tentative agreement, according to information provided by the union:


• A bonus payment amounting to 3% of their base pay would be given to members at the top end of the salary schedule.

• There would be increases in the biweekly pay of teachers equal to the next level of salary steps, amounting to an annual increase ranging from $924 for someone with a bachelor's degree on Step 1 who was hired in 2015-16 to $8,505 for employees with advanced degrees on Step 9. "Steps" are incremental pay raises based on teachers' years of experience and earned graduate degrees or academic credits.

• Salary step increases and movement would be reinstated. Starting in 2017-18, teachers would move one-half step at the beginning of the first semester, followed by another half-step at the beginning of the second semester.

• Bonus payments would be available to teachers in critical shortage areas.

• Teachers whose class enrollments exceed the maximum limits re-established by the agreement would receive additional compensation from a class-size overage funding pool established by the district.

• Teachers who are rated highly effective or effective could receive "academic achievement payments" of $1,000.

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Working conditions, calendar changes

• A fourth prep period would be added for elementary teachers, with five periods per week still in place for middle and high school teachers.

•  Class size limits would be restored.

•  The number of formal parent-teacher conferences would decrease from four times a year to two.

•  The Wednesday before Thanksgiving would be added to the Thanksgiving break.

•  The district and the union would establish a joint Health and Safety Committee that would meet monthly. The district will comply with laws regarding the cleanup and removal of hazardous materials from schools. Bargaining unit members would be protected from discrimination or retaliation for filing a health-and-safety complaint.

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Health care

• The union's bargaining team will continue to negotiate with the district on health care, with the week of Sept. 26 the deadline to reach an agreement. If one is not reached, the parties will negotiate and agree by Oct. 3 on health care coverage options that would begin Jan. 1  under a default plan designated jointly by the DFT and the district. The district's plan would have two options — a core plan and a premium plan — with an increase in deductibles but minimal increases to monthly costs.

• There would be a one-time bonus of $2,000 for members who opt out of district-provided health insurance.

Tuesday kicked off the first school year for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, which replaced the Detroit Public Schools as part of a $617-million legislative package aimed at restructuring Michigan's largest school system.

Contact  Ann Zaniewski:  313-222-6594 or azaniewski@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnnZaniewski. 

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