New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a tentative five-plus-year contract with the city’s teachers union Tuesday afternoon that includes a significant expansion of remote learning opportunities for older students – one that officials said builds upon lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares for an evolving, tech-heavy educational landscape.
“The days of simply working in the classroom and the four walls of the school are over,” said New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks, addressing reporters in City Hall. “This contract takes the best of what we’ve learned over the last three years and refines those takeaways.”
Remote learning certainly wasn’t best for everyone. Research has shown that students fell behind in reading and math during the pandemic when schools went remote - especially vulnerable students. Still, city officials said it wouldn’t function as a substitute for in-person learning. Participation would be voluntary for both students and teachers.
The contract for the United Federation of Teachers’ some 120,000 education department employees would implement 3% annual wage increases in the first three years, followed by a 3.25% increase in the fourth year, and 3.5% in the last. By the end of the contract, starting salaries for new teachers with a bachelor’s degree would jump from $61,070 up to $72,349 and most experienced teachers would earn around $151,271, according to a fact sheet from the UFT. If the agreement is ratified by the UFT’s members, it would kick in retroactively for Sept. 14, 2022 and conclude Nov. 28, 2027, according to city officials.
The deal would also bring teachers an annual retention bonus that would span their entire time working with the education department – even after the five-year contract expired. Bonuses would begin at $400 in 2024, gradually increasing to $1,000 in 2026. UFT members would also receive a one-time $3,000 bonus.The incremental wage increases in the deal parallel the pattern set by the city’s agreement with District Council 37 earlier this year.
Tuesday’s announcement comes on the heels of a lengthy negotiation process between the Adams administration and the United Federation of Teachers. For months, union members have held rallies across the city, spreading information to parents and community members about their demands. The last UFT contract expired Sept. 13.
The component of the deal that sets the stage for expanded remote learning would give high schoolers and some middle school students a broader set of course offerings and the ability to take classes at non-traditional times, according to Banks. While the city would also expand its remote learning program that started as a pilot this school year, high schools and schools serving 6-12 graders would be able to offer virtual programs on the weekends or after school.
“We learned during the pandemic that some students, especially non-traditional students, benefited from the additional flexibility in their schedule. Students who were at risk of dropping out were able to continue their coursework on a schedule that works best for them. This expands those types of opportunities across the entire system,” Banks said, adding that the educators who work with these students would be able to become “experts in the craft of virtual learning.”
The remote learning opportunities would begin at 25% of high schools next school year, but it would gradually grow to all high schools in the 2027-28 school year. While the “concrete conversations” that ultimately solidified the idea came from himself and UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Banks said the seeds were first planted by the mayor who has repeatedly talked about wanting to reimagine the educational experience.
“These are bold moves, initiatives. Look, you all aren’t going to appreciate what I’m doing until I’m done. You are going to look back and say this guy was just ahead of what other people want,” Adams said. “This is New York – we lead from the front, and that is what this chancellor and this union president is doing.”