By Hailey Heinz
ABQ Journal Staff Writer
August 4, 2011
A tentative contract agreement between Albuquerque Public Schools and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation is the best that could be expected given budget constraints, ATF President Ellen Bernstein said Wednesday.
The agreement makes some minor changes to the teachers’ contract, but the most dramatic change – an increase in the amount teachers must contribute to their retirements – was mandated by the state Legislature as a cost-saving measure.
Bernstein was critical of state lawmakers, while saying APS had been a good negotiating partner.
“APS and ATF worked well together, solving problems and making future plans,” Bernstein said in a news release. “However, as everyone knows, the state Legislature and governor slashed education funding again this year. This is the third consecutive contract without any salary increases. In addition, the state saved over $100 million on the backs of school employees by shifting the state’s portion of the retirement costs to the employees – again. The year’s decrease is an average of $60 of take-home pay a month. This decrease in pay is a demoralizing financial blow to all of us.”
Teachers also will not receive cost-of-living raises, which are guaranteed only when the budget allows. This is the third consecutive contract without raises. Teachers can still earn raises by advancing through the three-tier licensure system, earning advanced degrees or attaining National Board Certification.
Bernstein said the lack of raises and the additional retirement contributions come as teachers brace for an expected 7 percent increase in class size.
“The upshot is, truly everyone’s going to be doing more with less,” Bernstein said. “More kids, fewer supplies and resources, and less money in their paychecks.”
She did point to a few bright spots in the contract.
- The district has restored the stipends teachers receive for doing extra tasks like coaching or being instructional leaders. The stipends, which are called differentials, were cut by 15 percent in last year’s budget. They have been returned to the full amount for the coming year.
- APS also agreed to a small increase in preparation time for elementary and middle school teachers. Under the contract, schools must make a good-faith effort to add the planning time this year. If that is not possible with their schedules, they must add it by next year.
The agreement must still be ratified by union members, and a vote has been scheduled Aug. 8-12. The contract must also be approved by the APS school board, which is expected to vote at its Aug. 17 meeting.
Bernstein said she is urging her members to approve the contract as the best possible agreement under the circumstances.
“I wouldn’t put it out there if I didn’t think they should vote ‘yes,’ ” Bernstein said.
Blech. I guess the light in my students' eyes when they learn something new will have to make up for the lack of a cost of living wage increase this year :)
I do enjoy my job... I do think it's important... but I can't stop being bitter about teacher salaries and things like decreasing stipends for coaching, etc. If you want teachers to put in the extra time and effort that it will take to bring student performance up, then PAY them for it. I have a Masters degree, work full time as a teacher, and make below 200% of the poverty line. My kids qualify for Medicaid (which I'm thankful for)...but is that supposed to be one of the "perks" of my job with the school district?