School board, teachers union agree to raises

City educators would get first increases in 3 years under two-year contract

July 02, 2005|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore school board and teachers union reached a labor agreement yesterday that would give teachers and paraprofessionals their first pay raises in three years.

The two-year contract, which must be formally ratified by members of the Baltimore Teachers Union and the school board, would grant the employees an immediate 2 percent raise, followed by an additional 1 percent increase in January.

In the 2006-2007 school year, teachers and paraprofessionals would receive a 5 percent raise. As they have in recent years, the employees will continue to receive "step" increases tied to length of service.

The agreement follows a contentious year of negotiations, during which the union unsuccessfully sought raises for its members for the academic year that recently ended. The school board - which has been working to eliminate a $58 million budget deficit incurred two years ago - steadfastly refused, prompting an impasse in negotiations.

The teachers union represents 6,700 teachers and 1,500 aides, school officials said. Yesterday's agreement is likely to be approved for all 11,000 school system employees because the school board usually offers the same raises to other bargaining units.

The across-the-board and step increases for all employees are expected to cost the school system $60 million over two years, said Patricia Welch, chairwoman of the school board. The board also agreed not to demand that teachers pay more for health insurance, although health care costs have increased.

"There has been a lot of give and take, but we think what we have come up with will be agreeable and acceptable to the teachers," Welch said.

Teachers union President Marietta English said the union had asked for larger raises than the board agreed to.

As part of the agreement, the union will abandon its dispute over raises for the past school year - although a mediation panel sided with the union two weeks ago and said the system had sufficiently recovered from a budget crisis in 2003-2004 to afford raises.

The school board ignored the panel's decision, maintaining that the system's financial situation in the fiscal year that ended last month was too precarious.

The union argued its members deserve raises because they made sacrifices to help the system recover from its budget crisis.

After refusing to take pay cuts, employees agreed to shoulder higher health care costs and give up their right to convert sick days to cash. In exchange, the school board said it would consider a pay increase for teachers and aides this past school year, the union said.

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