Boston Reaches Deal with Union on Teacher Contract

Chicago and its teachers continue to be at war, but Boston and its teaching force have resolved a long-standing contract dispute and avoided interrupting K-12 education in the city.

The Boston Globe has reported that after more than two years of negotiations, the Boston Teachers Union and the city's Department of Education have reached an agreement on a new contract. The breakthrough was announced by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino at a news conference attended by union officials and the city's education leaders.

The new contract is expected to pave the way for an overhaul of the system used by the city to assess teacher effectiveness. Specifically, at least a portion of the final rating of the city's 5,000 teachers will now be derived from student test scores or other objective student performance metrics. The new system will also bar underperforming teachers from getting tenure and pay-raises and will make it easier for the district to terminate those who rate poorly. The agreement will allow for simpler teacher transfers from school to school without regard for seniority.

In exchange for concessions on tenure, evaluations and seniority, teachers will get automatic pay raises in each of the six years covered by the contract which will break down to 1% increase for the first year, 2% for the second, and 3% for the remaining four years. The increase in pay is expected to cost the city in the neighborhood of $135 million dollars.

"We think this is a great day for the children of Boston," said Superintendent Carol R. Johnson.

Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, said he was pleased to have reached a tentative agreement.

"We wanted a contract that is good for students, fair to members, and affordable for the city," Stutman said.

The union and the district have been locked in contentious negotiations for more than 27 months, with the talks commencing even before the expiration of the previous contract. The breakthrough was reached during the negotiating session that began late last Tuesday and continued until early Wednesday morning. Prior to last week, the two sides hadn't met since talks broke down this August.

The tentative agreement — should it be approved by the union's membership and the School Committee — would end the need for the state Department of Labor Relations to formulate a resolution to break what had been a tense and bitter stalemate between the union and the School Department.

Throughout the talks, each side has made major concessions. In July, the School Department dropped its proposal to add 45 minutes to the day of most schools — a big stumbling block in the talks at that time — with the hope that the move would bring a resolution to the negotiations soon.

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