it's a deal

United Federation of Teachers, New York City officials agree to a new 2019-2022 contract

PHOTO: Reema Amin/Chalkbeat
City officials and United Federation of Teachers leaders on Thursday announced a new contract.

New York City’s educators have a new contract that provides extra pay to teachers who work in hard-to-staff schools, tweaks teacher evaluations, and calls for the creation of a new screening tool to be used in hiring, city and union officials announced Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

The contract was hammered out months ahead of schedule and includes a number of unexpected details. It creates a new “Bronx Plan” that targets the city’s neediest schools, providing up to $8,000 to teachers who fill hard-to-staff positions and calls for educators to play a role in developing school improvement plans.

“It really is about a different way of approaching school improvement,” said schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

An estimated 180 schools will be included in the plan, which calls on the city to identify 120 new “Collaborative Schools” where teachers and community members will have a “substantial voice” in driving school decisions. Those Collaborative Schools will receive $25,000 in additional funding.

[Related: Most New York City teachers would be observed less often under new contract deal]

Teacher evaluations were also revamped. Starting next school year, the evaluations will be tied to teachers’ experience and effectiveness. Those rated “developing” or “ineffective” will be observed more frequently than those who have already earned an effective or highly effective rating. And tenured teachers will be subject to less oversight than those still on probation.

Also new: a yet-to-be-developed screen to be used in hiring decisions. Officials likened it to the kinds of psychological profiles, workshops, and stress tests that police departments use to filter recruits.

[Related: New York City teachers will be screened for ‘suitability’ under new union contract]

Salaries will get a boost, beginning with a 2 percent raise in February, another 2.5 percent increase in May 2020, and a 3 percent increase in the agreement’s final year.

This contract is high stakes since it’s the first to be negotiated in the wake of Janus, a Supreme Court decision that could dramatically drain union membership. So far, UFT leaders say members are sticking with them, and the new contract could show teachers the advantages of staying in the union.

Even before the new deal was reached, the UFT this summer secured a huge victory for its members: six weeks of paid parental leave for birth, foster, adoptive, and surrogate parents. To cover the cost of the new benefit, the union’s contract was extended into February — an additional two-and-a-half months.

But City Hall and the country’s largest local union were able to come to an agreement well before the deadline. The speedy negotiations are a marked break from the past, when the union clashed with previous Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the financial crisis squeezed city budgets. The de Blasio administration, in contrast, is rarely at odds with the UFT, and a torrent of property taxes is once again flowing into city coffers.

At Thursday’s press conference, Carranza called the UFT president his “brother from another mother.”

“Yes, I feel like I have another brother in my life,” president Michael Mulgrew said. “The UFT truly has a partner at this time.”

It was the first contract to be negotiated under Carranza, who has made teacher training a priority for the education department.

“If we expect our students to achieve excellence, then we must support our teachers and leaders, and all our staff members to that end,” he said in a recent speech to the Association for a Better New York.

The agreement, which still needs to be ratified by UFT members, is scheduled to take effect in February and run through 2022. It would cover the union’s 129,000 members, who include about 79,000 classroom teachers. The city says it will cost $2.1 billion, but expects much of that cost to be offset by health care savings for a net cost of $572 million.

Clarifications: This story has been updated to clarify how many schools will be eligible for additional money as part of the Collaborative Schools plan. It has also been updated to reflect the union’s membership beyond classroom teachers.

IPS School Board Race 2018

Indiana teachers union spends big on Indianapolis Public Schools in election

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
IPS board candidate signs

The political arm of Indiana’s largest teachers union is spending big on the Indianapolis Public Schools board. The group donated $68,400 to three candidates vying for seats on the board this November, according to pre-election campaign finance disclosures released Friday.

The three candidates — Susan Collins, Michele Lorbieski, and Taria Slack — have all expressed criticism of the current board and the leadership of Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. Although that criticism touches on many issues, one particular bone of contention is the district’s embrace of innovation schools, independent campuses that are run by charter or nonprofit operators but remain under the district’s umbrella. Teachers at those schools are employed by the school operators, so they cannot join the union.

The trio was also endorsed by the IPS Community Coalition, a local group that has received funding from a national teachers union.

It’s not unusual for teachers unions to spend on school board elections. In 2016, the union contributed $15,000 to an unsuccessful at-large candidate for the Indianapolis Public Schools board. But $68,400 dwarfs that contribution. Those disclosures do not capture the full spending on the election. The three candidates endorsed by Stand for Children Indiana — Mary Ann Sullivan, Dorene Rodríguez Hoops, and Evan Hawkins — are likely getting significant unreported benefits.

Stand for Children, which supports innovation schools, typically sends mailers and hires campaign workers to support the candidates it endorses. But it is not required to disclose all of its political activity because it is an independent expenditure committee, also known as a 501(c)(4), for the tax code section that covers it. The group did not immediately respond to a request for information on how much it is spending on this race.

The candidates’ fundraising varied widely in the reporting period, which covered the period from April 14 to Oct. 12, with Taria Slack bringing in $28,950 and Joanna Krumel raising $200. In recent years, candidates have been raising significantly more money than had been common. But one recent candidate managed to win on a shoestring: Elizabeth Gore won an at-large seat in 2016 after raising about $1,200.

Read more: See candidates’ answers to a Chalkbeat survey

One part of Stand for Children’s spending became visible this year when it gave directly to tax campaigns. The group contributed $188,842 to the campaign for two tax referendums to raise money for Indianapolis Public Schools. That includes a $100,000 donation that was announced in August and about $88,842 worth of in-kind contributions such as mailers. The group has a team of campaign workers who have been going door-to-door for months.

The district is seeking to persuade voters to support two tax increases. One would raise $220 million for operating funds, such as teacher salaries, over eight years. A second measure would raise $52 million for building improvements. Donations from Stand for Children largely power the Vote Yes for IPS campaign, which raised a total of $201,717. The Indiana teachers union also contributed $5,000.

Here are the details on how much each candidate has raised and some of the notable contributions:

At large

Incumbent Mary Ann Sullivan, a former Democrat state lawmaker, raised $7,054. Her largest contribution came from the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee, which donated $4,670. She also received $1,000 from Steel House, a metal warehouse run by businessman Reid Litwack. She also received several donations of $250 or less.

Retired Indianapolis Public Schools teacher Susan Collins, who is one of the candidates supported by the union, raised $16,422. The Indiana Political Action Committee for Education contributed $15,000. She also received several donations of $200 or less.

Ceramics studio owner and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Joanna Krumel raised $200. Her largest contribution, $100, came from James W. Hill.

District 3

Marian University Executive Director of Facilities and Procurement and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Evan Hawkins raised $22,037. His largest contributions from individuals were from businessmen Allan Hubbard, who donated $5,000, and Litwack, who donated $2,500. The Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee contributed $4,670 and web design valued at $330. He also received several donations of $1,000 or less. His donors included IPS board member Venita Moore, retiring IPS board member Kelly Bentley’s campaign, and the CEO of The Mind Trust, Brandon Brown.

Frost Brown Todd trial attorney and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Michele Lorbieski, who is one of the candidates supported by the union, raised $27,345. The Indiana Political Action Committee for Education contributed $24,900. She also received several contributions of $250 or less.

Pike Township schools Director of Information Services Sherry Shelton raised $1,763, primarily from money she contributed. David Green contributed $116.

District 5

Incumbent Dorene Rodríguez Hoops, an Indianapolis Public Schools parent, raised $16,006. Her largest contributors include Hubbard, who donated $5,000; the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee, which gave $4,670 and web design valued at $330; and the MIBOR PAC, which contributed $1,000. She also received several contributions of $500 or less, including from Bentley.

Federal employee and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Taria Slack, who is one of the candidates supported by the union, raised $28,950. The Indiana Political Action Committee for Education contributed $28,500.

Innovation zone

Two more Denver schools win additional freedom from district rules

PHOTO: J. Zubrzycki/Chalkbeat
Alex Magaña, then principal at Grant Beacon Middle School, greeted students as they moved between classes in 2015.

Two more Denver schools this week won more flexibility in how they spend their money and time. The schools will create a new “innovation zone,” bringing the district’s number of quasi-autonomous zones to three.

The Denver school board on Thursday unanimously approved the schools’ application to operate more independently from district rules, starting in January.

The new zone will include Grant Beacon Middle School in south Denver and Kepner Beacon Middle School in southwest Denver. The two schools are high-performing by the district’s standards and follow a model that allows students to learn at their own pace.

With just two schools, the zone will be the district’s smallest, though Beacon leaders have signaled their intent to compete to open a third school in the growing Stapleton neighborhood, where the district has said it will need more capacity. The district’s other two innovation zones have four and five schools each.

Schools in zones are still district schools, but they can opt out of paying for certain district services and instead spend that money on things that meet their specific needs, such as additional teachers or aides. Zones can also form nonprofit organizations with their own boards of directors that provide academic and operational oversight, and help raise extra dollars to support the schools.

The new zone, called the Beacon Schools Network Innovation Zone, will have a five-member board of directors that includes one current parent, two former parents, and two community members whose professional work is related to education.

The zone will also have a teacher council and a parent council that will provide feedback to its board but whose members won’t be able to vote on decisions.

Some Denver school board members questioned the makeup of the zone’s board.

“I’m wondering about what kinds of steps you’re going to take to ensure there is a greater representation of people who live and reside in southwest Denver,” where Kepner Beacon is located, asked school board member Angela Cobián, who represents the region. She also asked about a greater representation of current parents on the board.

Alex Magaña, who serves as executive principal over the Beacon schools and will lead the new zone, said he expects the board to expand to seven members within a year. He also said the parent council will play a key role even if its members can’t vote.

“The parent council is a strong influence,” he said. “If the parent council is not happy, that’s going to be impacting both of the schools. I don’t want to undersell that.”

Other Denver school board members questioned the zone’s finances and how dependent it would be on fundraising. A district summary of the zone’s application notes that the zone’s budget relies on $1.68 million in foundation revenue over the next 5½ years.

Magaña said the zone would eventually seek to expand to four schools, which would make it more financially stable. As for philanthropic dollars, he said the zone would work to ensure any loss of revenue doesn’t hurt the schools’ unique programs or enrichment.

“I can’t emphasize enough that it won’t impact the schools,” he said.

Ultimately, Denver school board members said they have confidence in the Beacon model and look forward to seeing what its leaders do with their increased autonomy.