Detroit teachers union reaches agreement with school district

A woman stands at the front of a classroom with a few students in the foreground of the frame.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers reached a tentative agreement with the Detroit Public Schools Community District on a contract for the 2023-24 school year. (Andrea Morales / for Chalkbeat)

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The Detroit Public Schools Community District and the Detroit Federation of Teachers union reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement for the 2023-24 school year just hours before the current contract was set to expire, the union announced Sunday night.

The school district and union are keeping the terms confidential until DFT members have reviewed and ratified the agreement, according to the union statement.

Teachers are expected to report to work on Monday, and the first day of school for students is Aug. 28.

The announcement arrived the same day the DFT’s two-year contract expired. The union’s 2021 to 2023 contract was originally set to expire on June 30, but both parties agreed to a contract extension that lasted until Sunday.

It’s unclear how long the new agreement between the union and the district will last. A DFT building representative who spoke on background with Chalkbeat said that the district and the union might agree to a one-year agreement. The teachers union may have made that decision in order to negotiate under the restored teacher bargaining rights signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this summer. Those laws will go into effect in 2024.

Wage increases for DFT members were central to the monthslong bargaining talks. 

“We in Detroit work against what seems to be insurmountable circumstances every day, yet we make miracles happen,” Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins, DFT president, told Chalkbeat after a district school board meeting on Aug. 8. “We deserve the highest increase ever. One that raises our maximum salary out of last place in the Metro Detroit area.”

In 2021, DFT and DPSCD agreed to a 4% salary increase for veteran teachers, as well as increasing the starting salary for new teachers to $51,000. The maximum salary for a veteran teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $69,000.

In neighboring Dearborn and Grosse Pointe school districts, union members with a bachelor’s degree who were at the top of the pay scale received upwards of $76,000 in recent contracts. In the Birmingham school district, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree who is at the top of the pay scale received over $80,000 in their 2021-23 contract.

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Voting begins tonight and will continue until Thursday at noon.

Monday morning, hours before union members will meet to learn the details of the agreement, a group of members rallied outside the Fisher Building to protest what they said was a lack of member involvement in the negotiations. The protest was not sanctioned by the union, Wilson-Lumpkins said.

“We haven’t had a clue about what’s in the tentative agreement,” said Frances Curtis, an educator at Renaissance High School. “You don’t direct people to go to work, to go to a meeting, and you haven’t even shown us our contract.”

Steve Conn, a former DFT president, said he was skeptical that the union and district agreed to a contract “anywhere near where they deserve.”

Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at ebakuli@chalkbeat.org.

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