BTU Releases Second Tentative Contract Agreement

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
John Patti and The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Teachers Union released Tuesday night a second tentative agreement of a landmark contract that, though fairly unchanged, offers more details about how initiatives that teachers have opposed would be implemented.

The new contract, obtained by The Baltimore Sun shortly after it was released to union members, highlights minor language changes from the original agreement, with the most substantial revisions addressing specifically how teachers would climb a new four-tiered career ladder.

The agreement also explains why school and union officials cannot outline how educators would be evaluated for the last two years of the contract — a provision that has been the largest source of tension about the new pact. The original agreement was defeated by 58 percent of the members who voted in mid-October.

Union officials said they have not set a date to bring the new proposal to a vote, but the city school board approved Tuesday an extension of the contract until Nov. 30.

Both union officials and city schools CEO Andrés Alonso declined to comment on the revised contract Tuesday night.

District and union leaders were sent back into negotiations earlier this month, after the vote defeating the proposed agreement that stands to overhaul how teachers are compensated and promoted.

The proposed contract would award teachers an automatic 2 percent pay increase and a $1,500 stipend in the first year of implementation. Unlike the original agreement, the revised plan outlines those pay schedules.

Teachers also would no longer be paid based on “step increases,” which are automatic raises based on tenure or the number of degrees acquired. Instead they would climb a career ladder, which would see an elite corps of teachers earning six-figure salaries. The new agreement maps out more specifics about how a teacher could reach the top of the four-tier ladder, which is one of the most radical proposals of the contract, and details safeguards to ensure that the promotion process is fair.

In addition, in the last two years of the contract, teachers’ pay would be based on an evaluation system not yet drafted by the state’s Department of Education that would tie student performance to teacher evaluations. The revised agreement, however, does not specify the effect the state’s new evaluation system will have on the city’s contract.

Last week, a state legislative committee delayed the adoption of the state school board regulation that would require student achievement to be at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation in Maryland.

“The major reason we wanted a delay in the vote was for the democratic process and to have these details,” said Robin Bingham, a teacher who started an electronic petition against the contract until the evaluation system is complete. “I feel it’s really disrespectful to dress up the same contract and present it again.”

The only part of the new contract that was not revised outlines “school-based options,” which would allow teachers to establish working conditions in their schools.

The union plans to host regional information sessions for its members with the American Federation of Teachers before the next vote.

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