City schools OK 4% teacher raise

Still no agreement in contract talks

August 25, 1999|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore school board approved a 4 percent raise for teachers last night despite its failure to reach a settlement in tense contract negotiations.

School board members gave teachers the pay raise retroactive to July 1, the date their contract expired.

Ed Brody, a school board member, said the board believed "it was the proper thing to do" because no agreement is likely before the start of school Monday. The raise will affect about 7,000 teachers and cost the school system $12 million.

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English thanked the board for the raise, but said teachers are more concerned that no changes be made in health care benefits.

FOR THE RECORD - In an article in yesterday's Maryland section, it was incorrectly reported that the Baltimore school board voted to increase the hourly pay for substitute teachers. In fact, rates increased to $70 a day for substitutes with a degree and to $85 a day for substitutes who have a degree and certification. The Sun regrets the error.

"We have sacrificed much for our health care. It means more to us than the 4 percent you passed," English told the board.

The school board had agreed to the 4 percent increase during the negotiations, so a number of contentious issues remain to be resolved, including work hours and teacher training.

The union and the school board began negotiating last spring, but talks quickly broke down. In late June, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick declared an impasse after the BTU wrote a letter that stated talks were deadlocked.

Grasmick convened a three-member panel to arbitrate the issues: one person from each side and a neutral person who would present a settlement proposal to both sides Sept. 3, after schools open Monday.

"We don't want school to open without a contract," English told the board last night. "I beg you to continue [negotiations]."

The teachers have worked before without a contract, most recently in 1997 when it took an entire year to reach an agreement. But tensions appear higher this year. One school official who asked not to be identified said the board appears determined not to give in to the union on some issues.

The union has staged protests recently in front of school board headquarters on North Avenue, including last night before the board meeting.

The union has suggested in the past month that it might stage a job action, although English declined to comment on such a development last night.

The teachers have tried to "work to rule" in the past, which meant that they did only what was required in their contract. Teachers often voluntarily go beyond their contracts and oversee the cafeteria during lunch hour and watch the halls during class changes.

The board also voted to increase the pay of substitute teachers to attract more substitutes and help fill 167 teaching posts that remain vacant.

Pay for a noncertified substitute teacher with a degree will increase from $45 an hour to $70 an hour; for those with degrees and certification, from $65 an hour to $85 an hour.

For substitutes who are in the classrooms more than 10 days in a row, the pay increases to $90 an hour for noncertified teachers and $110 for certified teachers.

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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