City teachers more concerned about shortfalls than contract raises
Today we wrote a story about Baltimore city teachers receiving new career pathways under the recently ratified Baltimore Teachers Union contract. Placing the city's 6,900 teachers on a new career ladder, introduced into the district by the contract, is one of the first developments of the new pact. On the ladder, many teachers are seeing a pay bump and have a better idea of their future promotion and compensation opportunities in the district.
But, in several interviews, many teachers said that they were less concerned about their own financial futures under the new contract, and more concerned about the financial forecast of the district.
Updated information, pointed out to me by city school officials on Feb. 23: The city school system is noting a $70 million shortfall for next year, on top of a $15 million cut in state funding. The new teachers union contract is estimated at $60 million over three years, but accounts for only $13,293 million of the shortfall this year. The salary increases under the previous BTU contract would have been $12,876.
School officials have said that the shortfalls could result in everything from larger class sizes to cutting enrichment programs.
One teacher expressed their concerns over the budget woes in the pathway story that ran today, but others who didn't make it into the story also expressed strong views worth noting.
Robin Bingham, who led an opposition against the contract because district and union leaders didn't release enough details--particularly how they'd pay for it--said that she believed the contract could be the reason for some of the shortfall.
Admittedly, I expected Bingham to have a change of heart once she received her own pathway noting an increased salary, but she instead expressed concern about the recent buyout offers on the table for 750 of the city's most experienced teachers. She said that the ramifications of the budget shortfalls, for example large class sizes, etc. could possibly come as a price of the contract.
“I just feel that as a result of [the contract], we’re going to lose 750 experienced teachers, and we’re going to have greater class sizes," Bingham said. “It’s really hard to stomach that we only signed this contract for people for lots of money, and now we have a shortfall.”
Bingham rejected schools CEO Andres Alonso's notion that the early retirement plan was strictly a "business decision." "Our leaders can’t have an honest discussion about this and the kids are the ones who pay,” Bingham said. “It’s a human rights decision, and a quality of life decision."
Similarly, Bill Bleich, another very public opponent of the union contract, said that his $21 increase in salary was null and void compared to the deficits the district could face. Bleich, however, is at the top of the pay scale.
"I'm more concerned about the negative effects of the contract on class size, than I am about salary," he wrote in an email.
"The $60 or $70 million cost of this contract (especially to pay big bucks to only a tiny percentage of our teachers) is about equivalent to the expected size of the BCPS deficit. Next year, with less funding and with more students, we may see a very bad rise in class sizes, which will negatively impact learning."