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City teachers OK 2-year contract; deal includes 4.5% raise this year

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore teachers and paraprofessionals overwhelmingly approved a two-year contract yesterday that will give them a 4.5 percent pay raise this year and a 4 percent increase next year but will not resolve proposed changes affecting planning time, an issue that will stay in mediation.

The vote at Polytechnic Institute had been held up for months as the school board and union remained at an impasse over the use of planning time and a health care issue involving emergency room visits. Last week, both sides agreed to a vote without those disputed issues on the table.

A mediator is expected to render a decision on those matters in coming months, according to union officials.

Under the contract approved last night, teachers will get a 1 percent pay raise retroactive to June 1 and a 3.5 percent pay raise retroactive to July 1. In the 2008-2009 school year, teachers and paraprofessionals are to receive a 4 percent raise.

About 78 percent of the educators voted in favor of the contract, union officials said.

"I'm happy that teachers will now be able to get their pay increases for the holidays," union President Marietta English said. "We've had dealings with the board to secure what we already agreed upon. We felt it was necessary to go ahead and ratify those things so that there would be no changes."

Teachers had been working without a contract since July 1.

Schools chief Andres Alonso wants principals to have the authority to require teachers to spend one planning period a week - about 45 minutes - collaborating with colleagues.

The union opposes the proposed change, which it considers a loss of planning time used by teachers to draft lessons and meet with students.

City teachers are not legally permitted to strike, but since the start of the school year, the union had asked them to "work to rule," or not do anything beyond what the expired contract required.

With a new contract, some observers believe that yesterday's vote might put a dent in union members' support of the planning-time issue. The raise is the most significant in years, union officials said.

But English said she expects teachers to continue to fight the collaborative planning session.

"It's still an issue that teachers feel very strong about," English said. "We're still negotiating, trying to work it out."

Neither school board Chairman Brian D. Morris nor Alonso could be reached for comment.

The agreement comes after a contentious few months between the union and Alonso.

Last month, about 150 teachers and supporters showed up at a school board meeting and demanded the ouster of Alonso, who has been in office about three months.

Union officials staged numerous protests over planning time, including one on the steps of City Hall before a City Council meeting last month.

The union represents about 6,200 teachers and more than 1,000 paraprofessionals.


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