Leaders of the Newark Teachers Union faced a barrage of criticism from rank and file members tonight over the historic three-year contract signed Friday that, for the first time, will offer annual bonuses of up to $12,500 to top teachers.
Many of the teachers and school employees who spoke during the meeting at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center urged fellow members to reject the contract when it is voted on by the union’s 3,300 members on Monday.
"It’s not everything I wanted, and it’s not everything you deserve," union President Joseph Del Grosso told the 1,000 people who gathered tonight. "You’re going to vote on it, so it’s in your hands."
Teachers complained the $5,000 annual bonuses offered for teachers rated ‘highly effective’ according to a new four-tiered evaluation system will be impossible to attain. Others expressed fears that merit pay would pit one teacher against another and diminish the overall quality of education.
Under the contract, teachers can also earn bonuses of up to $5,000 for working in the district’s lowest performing schools and $2,500 for teaching subjects with shortages like math and science. Base salaries in the contract will increase by 13.9 percent over three years.
Teachers have been working without a contract for the past two years and as part of the new agreement, every union member will receive a slice of the $31 million dedicated to retroactive pay. No teacher will get less than $3,500 and veteran educators could earn up to $12,000. Half the money for back pay and bonuses will come from private donors, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has donated $100 million to improve the city’s schools.
Teachers who spoke at tonight’s meeting, however, said the one-time checks won’t make up for the salary increases they could have had if a contract had been reached two years ago.
Del Grosso tried to tame the crowd, repeatedly reminding the teachers to "be professional," but he was frequently shouted over.
He also said the union could walk out on Tuesday if the contract is voted down, even though teacher strikes are illegal in New Jersey.
"This contract is a piece of garbage that will divide the union," one teacher said. "Wait three years until we can get something better."
A lot of people met Del Grosso and the union leadership tonight and it doesn't sound like too many of them are happy with this sell-out contract.
We'll have to see how the vote goes, but if tonight is any indication, Randi Weingarten and the rest of the corporate shills at the AFT and the NTU might have some trouble getting this "piece of garbage that will divide the union" passed.
And that's of course exactly what this contract is meant to do - divide teachers, pit school staffs against each other, pit young against old, pit other teachers in New Jersey against teachers in Newark if they agree to this contract and merit pay comes to other towns and municipalities.
The NTU leadership and Weingarten ought to be ashamed they're pushing this piece of shit contract onto Newark teachers, but they're incapable of that emotion.
They're too busy sucking up to the corporatocracy as they collect their six figure salaries and benefits and sell working teachers down the river with these "innovative" contracts Weingarten and the education reformers/corporatocracy love so much.
It's time to rid the AFT and the locals of these corporate shills and bring in leadership that defends public schools and teachers from the horrors of corporate education reform.