Providence teachers’ contract heads to full City Council for vote

Providence
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence teachers are one step closer to having a three-year union contract after a City Council subcommittee gave its blessing to the agreement Tuesday evening.

The School Department Oversight Committee voted unanimously to send the agreement to the full council, a sign the deal will likely be approved before the end of the year.

The committee also held a public hearing on the pact Tuesday, but the only person to testify was Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro.

“We know that this contract is a good contract,” Calabro told the committee. “It’s good for the teachers, it’s fair for the city and it’s good for the kids.”

The union has already voted to support of the contract, which guarantees members raises of 2% retroactive to September 1, 2% on the first day of the 2019-20 school year and 1.25% on Jan. 1, 2020. The agreement covers last school year, the current school year and next school year.

As an example, the entry-level teaching salary in the capital city would increase from $40,547 last year to $42,712 by Jan. 1, 2020.

The teachers have been working under an expired agreement since Aug. 31, 2017, but tension between the union and the mayor bubbled up last February when hundreds of teachers and their supporters shouted Mayor Jorge Elorza down during his annual State of the City address. Calabro accused Elorza of reneging on an offer to provide raises, but the mayor maintained he was seeking a “transformational” contract.

Asides from the pay increases, teachers of English language learners would be paid $800 beyond their additional salary, a bonus school officials hope will encourage more teachers become ELL certified. Earlier this year, the school department entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that requires more ELL-certified teachers to be hired.

Teachers with advanced degrees will earn an extra $250 on top of what they were already entitled to, meaning a teacher with a master’s degree would now be paid $3,355 on top of their regular salary.

A fiscal note prepared by the Elorza administration stated the agreement will cost the city an additional $10 million through 2021, but Finance Direction Larry Mancini told the committee he is confident the school department can find the funds needed to cover the deal in the coming years.  

The agreement does not extend the school day, but it does remove a provision that set mandatory bell times for teachers at various grade levels. The contract also caps the work day at six hours, forty-six minutes for elementary school teachers and six hours, forty-five minutes for middle and high school teachers.

The district is also required provide two additional days of professional development, but teachers are not required to participate.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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