Detroit teachers reach agreement for pay raise next year

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
Under the agreement, teachers at the top of the district's pay scale will get a 4.3% wage hike and earn $73,000 beginning in February 2020.

Detroit — The teachers union for the city's school district said Tuesday the two sides have reached a tentative agreement on a wage re-opener.

Under the agreement, which will be presented to the union's members Thursday, teachers at the top of the district's pay scale will get a 4.3% wage hike and earn $73,000 beginning in February 2020, said officials with the the Detroit Federation of Teachers. About 2,000 school employees will be eligible for that hike.

Others not on the teacher salary scale will get a 3% increase, officials said.

In addition, all unit members will get a one-time $1,500 bonus in the first semester next year.

"This is a good deal," said Terrence Martin, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. "It's not everything that we wanted, but it's good. And one of the great things about it is that it positions us for next year when we go back to the negotiating table for full bargaining."

Martin made the remarks during a 10 a.m. news conference the union held at its office on Second Avenue in Detroit's New Center area.

Martin's announcement about the deal came after about five months of negotiations with the Detroit Public Schools Community District over wages for the final year of a three-year contract. The current contract expires in June 2020. 

The chairwoman of the district's school board praised the agreement Tuesday.

“The school board has maintained its commitment to increasing teacher salaries while maintaining a budget that is not only balanced but sustainable,"  Iris Taylor said in a statement. "We want to thank the administration and union leadership for their hard work in reaching this agreement. This sets the stage for a strong summer of recruiting teachers and families for our third year of reform.”

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti also welcomed news of the agreement.

“We are fighting every day to make our teachers the highest paid in America and strategically stretching our limited and inequitable resources to make that happen in a way that is fiscally responsible so our district never faces the financial disasters of the past," he said in a statement. "Although we have a lot of work to still do to make our vision for teacher pay a reality, I am proud that we are building a legacy of increasing teacher pay in Detroit."

Martin said union leadership will share details of the agreement with members Thursday at a private meeting. Members will be able to voice their thoughts about the deal and give input, but only approval from the union's executive board is required since the agreement is on a wage reopener and not the entire contract. The board unanimously approved the deal Monday night, according to Martin.

Last month, the union asked the school district to dip into its rainy day fund to increase its members' pay after years of concessions. Union officials said the school district has $140 million in reserve and the administration agreed that teachers deserved a pay boost.

MoreTeachers union wants Detroit school district to tap rainy day fund for raises

Before that, more than 400 Detroit teachers and union employees at a school board meeting demanded the district increase teacher pay, improve building conditions and provide more classroom resources.

More: Detroit teachers call for better pay, building upgrades as superintendent scraps new school calendar

The same day as the meeting, the district scrapped a plan to put schools on a calendar with a pre-Labor Day start, recognition of a Muslim holiday and increased professional development days for teachers.

The union's members opposed the proposed school calendar for several reasons, including its additional five work days for teachers, its pre-Labor Day start and its shortening of a winter break from five days to two.

"This (agreement) didn't come without a price, without some turmoil," Martin said. "We had a number of issues with the district about the calendar and we got this deal in spite of that." 

More: Detroit teachers oppose new school calendar

The Detroit Federation of Teachers represents about 3,000 teachers and has about 4,000 members. 

District enrollment has risen by more than 4,800 students in the last three years, bringing the number of students to nearly 51,000 students in 106 schools, according to officials.