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Detroit teachers to vote on new contract

Sep 7, 2016

Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After a summer of negotiating, Detroit teachers are preparing to vote on a new contract.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District — the new, restructured entity that replaces the debt-ridden Detroit Public Schools — and the Detroit Federation of Teachers announced a tentative agreement on Labor Day.

The agreement “provides members with some money in a number of ways,” DFT leaders said. “And for the first time in a decade, this agreement contains no concessions.”

Some highlights:

·        Pay increases for all teachers, based on seniority.

·        Bonus payments for teachers at the top of the salary schedule, as well as teachers in “critical shortage” areas.

·        An additional $1,000 for teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective” by an evaluation process, and added pay for teachers whose class sizes exceed certain limits.

The DFT acknowledges that many of the gains come as bonuses, rather than actual raises, but that “getting money in your pocket now is a priority.”

The two sides continue to negotiate on health care benefits.

Also, “The new agreement includes a number of provisions — some of which have been restored from past contracts — designed to support educators and strengthen teachers’ voice in the workplace,” union leaders said.

“By specifically addressing issues such as class size, work schedules, prep time, student discipline and many others, it holds the district accountable to things that support teachers in the classroom.”

If ratified, the agreement will last through June 2017 — unless Detroit’s newly elected school board wants to re-negotiate. If not, the union says it will “absolutely return to the bargaining table in the spring of 2017 to negotiate a contract for 2017- 18 and beyond.”

After more than seven years of state control through emergency managers, Detroit’s school district will transition back to local control in January.

However, the state still exercises significant authority over the district through the Detroit Financial Review Commission, which needs to approve all significant budget matters for the district, including union contracts. They meet next week.

A school-by-school member ratification process starts this week.