NEW YORK, May 2 (UPI) -- New York City has announced an agreement with its teachers, who have been working without a contract for five years.
The pact, which includes $3.4 billion in back pay, will be an expensive one for the city. It also gives teachers bonuses for serving as mentors to colleagues or opting to serve at understaffed schools and gives union members pay increases of 1 percent to 3 percent for every year through 2018.
With more than 1 million students, 75,000 teachers and 1,700 schools, the New York system is the largest in the United States. Its annual budget of about $25 billion is bigger than most state's.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office in January, hailed the proposed contract at a news conference Thursday.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “We will not continue with our public schools the way they are; we must greatly, fundamentally improve them.”
The contract must be approved by the union and the city labor board. Most teachers were happy to be getting a raise, but some had problems with the bonus plan.
“It creates the haves and the have-nots,” said Nancy Wagner, a technology teacher in Queens told the New York Times. “We like to believe everyone is on equal footing. It’s going to make room for favoritism.”
One difficult problem for the city is what is known as the absent teacher reserve, 1,200 teachers who get full pay without being in the classroom. About 25 percent are awaiting disciplinary action while the rest lost their jobs through school closings or staff cuts.
Under the new contract, prinicipals who need teachers would be required to find them in the reserve starting in October. But they would also be able to dismiss them if they do not perform well, and any teacher fired from two schools would be subject to permanent dismissal proceedings.