DCPS proposes new teacher contract

Ellida Parker

Five years of stagnated salaries and growing discontent among teachers culminated in the proposal of a new teacher contract this August. Under the proposed contract, teachers would receive a 9% salary increase over the next three years. Their previous contract expired in 2012.

The proposal was agreed upon by DCPS, the Mayor’s Office, and the Washington Teachers’ Union. The announcement comes less than a year into the tenure of DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who said in a December interview with The Beacon that working to satisfy teachers’ demands would be one of his top priorities.

Now, it’s up to union members to vote on whether to accept the contract. The Washington Teachers’ Union will hold information sessions for teachers over the next two weeks, and a final vote is expected to occur shortly thereafter. In a letter to DCPS teachers published on the WTU website, President Elizabeth Davis wrote, “I, personally, am convinced that the tentative agreement represents a step forward for all DC public school teachers and students. I urge you to vote ‘yes.’”

The contract is likely to be approved by union members, but some teachers remain dissatisfied. “There’s a lot of things that are left ambiguous in the contract,” said Wilson social studies teacher David Heckler. “By contract we are ‘full and equal partners with DCPS.’ What does that mean? There’s no real teeth in any of these things,” said Heckler. He also perceived a lack of clarity in general: for example, the contract doesn’t clearly specify what time teachers are to arrive to school in the morning.

Retroactive pay has also been a point of contention. The salary increase in the contact will begin in 2016, which means that teachers receive one year of retroactive pay. However, the four years prior to this are ignored in the contract. “We essentially received 0 percent raises for the past 4 years, and 9 for the next three. That really averages out to about a one percent raise a year, which is less than inflation,” said Jeremy Singer, a math teacher at Wilson. “To me, that’s very disappointing. It makes me feel like we’re not as valued as I hoped DCPS would value us.”

Teachers who left before this year will not receive any compensation for the five years without a raise, even if the contract is approved. Last year, Wilson lost 26 teachers, some of whom left due to frustration with the unending fight for a contract. “The sad part is that we lost a lot of people before this happened. People were like, I’m tired, I can’t wait any longer, I have to leave,” said Rebecca Bradshaw-Smith, the WTU Building Representative for Wilson.

Still, Bradshaw-Smith is optimistic. “Personally, I think it’s a good contract. Considering we were supposed to have one five years ago, it’s probably the best we’re going to get,” she said. Bradshaw-Smith called the compensation package offered in the contract, “decent,” and said that the contract offers a step forward on the negotiative playing field, so that when the time comes to push for a new contract they’ll be better equipped to do so.•