New contract will raise salaries of Newark teachers, end performance pay

Under a contract deal, Newark teachers will get annual raises and also will no longer be paid based in part on their students’ test scores, according to union documents released Tuesday.

Teachers and other union members will see their salaries increase by an average of about 3.1% per year under the new five-year contract, which still must be approved.

The contract eliminates provisions that tied teachers’ pay to their ratings, which are based on classroom observations and student test scores. Those pay-for-performance provisions were hailed as groundbreaking when they began in 2012 under a deal between the union and Newark’s state-appointed superintendent.

Now, the district will scrap bonuses for top-rated teachers, and will no longer automatically withhold salary increases from teachers deemed ineffective. However, the district still has discretion to block pay increases for “performance and/or disciplinary reasons,” according to the union’s summary of the new contract.

“All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” one of the union documents says.

If approved, the new contract will replace a four-year contract that expired in June. It will be the first since the state ended its takeover of the district in 2018 and a new superintendent, Roger León, was chosen by the city’s school board. 

León, a veteran Newark educator, has enjoyed a warmer relationship with the teachers union than his state-appointed predecessors. Negotiations over the new contract, which resulted in a tentative deal last week, appear to have gone more quickly and smoothly than in the past.

The deal includes many provisions that are likely to please teachers, including the annual raises that begin this year, more planning time, and higher pay for teachers with advanced degrees. However, substitute teachers and classroom aides will not get modest pay increases for another two years.

The agreement also calls for the creation of a committee “to develop, implement, and monitor a new evaluation system,” according to the union documents — meaning that the district could change the way it judges teachers’ performance.

Union members will vote on the new contract Aug. 26. The Newark school board meets the following day, when it is expected to hold its own vote on the contract.

Here are highlights from the deal:

  • Annual raises: The district will raise salaries by 2.9% this school year. The raises will grow each year, capping at 3.3% in the 2023-24 school year. (The average salary increase for New Jersey teachers last school year was 2.9%, according to a survey of contracts by the New Jersey School Boards Association. In Newark’s previous contract, the raises averaged 2.4% per year.) All Newark Teachers Union members — which includes teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and other school employees — will see their pay increase, though individual raises may vary.
  • Pay increases for advanced degrees: The new contract restores separate pay scales for teachers based on their degrees. Beginning this year, teachers with master’s degrees will get salary bumps of $1,000, while those with doctorates will get an extra $2,000. Next year, those rates will double. The 2012 had created a single pay scale for all new hires, with one-time bonuses for teachers who completed an approved graduate program.
  • Pay for substitutes and teacher aides: Substitute teachers will see their daily rate increase by $10 in September 2021 — to $130 for teachers without bachelor’s degrees and $150 for ones with degrees. (Here’s how Newark’s rate stacks up against other districts’.) The hourly rate for per diem teachers aides will increase by $1, to $16 per hour in 2021.
  • Planning time: All elementary school teachers will get at least five “prep” periods per week, up from four. Teachers can choose how to use three of the periods, while administrators control the other two.