Pittsburgh Public Schools to pay new teachers more, scrap performance-based pay | TribLIVE.com
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Natasha Lindstrom
Anthony Hamlet, middle, gets a glimpse of the Summer Dreamers program at the University Prep school in the Hill District with James Doyle, right, coordinator of out-of-school time for Pittsburgh Public Schools, on Friday, July 1, 2016. Earlier in the day Hamlet was sworn in as superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is scrapping a performance-based pay system, giving all its teachers at least a 2 percent raise and paying its least experienced teachers as much as 15 percent more per year.

The tentative changes are included in three-year contracts overwhelmingly approved Wednesday by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the union’s president. The union represents about 3,000 teachers and support staff.

A little more than 2,000 members voted on the contracts, which were approved by 90 percent of teachers, 90 percent of paraprofessionals and 77 percent of technical and clerical employees.

“We really focused on the new teachers. We were falling behind other districts in terms of our starting salary,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “A lot of money was put at the bottom of the salary schedule because we want to attract the best and the brightest in Pittsburgh.”

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet issued a statement Wednesday night thanking “parents, stakeholders and the larger city for their patience” through stalled negotiations that nearly culminated in districtwide school closures.

Hamlet said he expects the new contracts to help reduce teacher turnover and improve school stability.

“It’s a testament to our members and to both negotiating teams that we were able to resolve things,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “We’re glad this chapter is over.”

Six weeks ago, the state’s second-largest school district was on the verge of its first strike since 1975 .

Negotiations had stalled after dragging on for 19 months.

Three days before the scheduled strike, union officials and district negotiators announced they had struck a deal to avert it.

But they didn’t discuss the agreement’s details at the time.

Contract details

Here are some newly disclosed changes to the tentative contracts, which are set to be in effect through June 30, 2020:

• Performance-based pay will end. The contract calls for the district to eliminate a pay-for-performance incentive system in place since 2010 that’s allowed teachers to get raises more quickly if they performed well on the state’s teacher evaluations.

Esposito-Visgitis dismissed the evaluations — based on a combination of principal observations, student test scores and school performance — as unfair, inconsistent and ineffective. She and other critics have pointed to studies that suggest teachers who received bonuses do not perform better than those who do not.

“It was unequal from school to school,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “It was based on the ‘distinguished’ rating, and to be honest, at some schools it was easier to get ‘distinguished’ than others.”

The district will revert to a 12-step salary schedule that bases raises primarily on seniority, with the potential to make more after earning advanced degrees or taking on extra duties like coaching.

The stipends for coaches will increase by 12 percent annually, up to $7,474 for the head high school football and basketball coaches and $2,210 for sports like golf and tennis.

• New teachers will make more money. The district’s starting salary for teachers will increase from roughly $40,000 up to $46,920 next school year and $47,858 in 2019-20, according to Esposito-Visgitis and district documents.

The highest-paid (Step 12) teachers will make $90,889 with bachelor’s degrees and $95,254 with master’s degrees.

• Early childhood educators will get a boost, too — but not as much as the union had wanted.

“We wanted parity between the early childhood and classroom teachers,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “We certainly didn’t get there, but we were able to make some progress.”

Preschool teachers will get 2 percent annual raises through 2020. Their salaries will start at about $36,118 with a bachelor’s degree and $37,954 with a master’s degree and cap out at $56,000 to $60,000, the agreement shows.

• The district must limit mandatory teaching reassignments. Under the tentative contract, the district will be permitted to make 35 involuntary assignments a year to meet shifting school needs, so long as officials follow certain guidelines.

Among them: No teacher may be involuntarily assigned more than once in five years, and no more than three teachers from the same school may be involuntarily reassigned in the same year.

• Union members are happier with their health care benefits — at least most of them are.

The district simplified its offerings to one PPO plan each from UPMC and Highmark.

“Some people got reductions, some people pay more, to even it out,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “It’ll be a cost-savings to the district, and it’s going to be a cost-savings for the majority of our members.”

The contracts are expected to be ratified in final form at a Pittsburgh Public Schools board meeting next week.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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