BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After more than a decade, the Buffalo School Board and Buffalo Teachers Federation have approved a new contract.
The new agreement was approved 7-2 Monday afternoon in the City Hall room where the Buffalo Board of Education usually meets. Board members Carl Paladino and Larry Quinn voted against the new agreement.
Buffalo Teachers Federation then ratified the new contract at a meeting in Kleinhans Music Hall.
Buffalo Public School Teachers have not had a contract since 2004.
"It was rigorous and difficult" said Buffalo Schools superintendent Kriner Cash of creating and approving the new agreement.
“I knew this day would come sooner or later. I had hoped it would have been sooner than later though,” said long time Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore, moments after the rank and file approved a new three-year contract, which at long last replaces one which expired 12 years ago.
The contract was approved overwhelmingly by voice vote, about two hours after rank teachers assembled at Kleinhans on Monday evening.
However, many teachers left the meeting before voting, and more than one indicated there may have been some confusion when the question on the contract was called
“A lot of people didn’t realized we were voting,” claimed Donna Pastore, a teacher at Southside Elementary School. “They asked 'would you like to ratify this contract?', and some people started yelling yes, and some people around us were saying, ‘wait was that just the actual vote’?” Pastore added , I know Phil (Rumore) worked really hard, but I think we could have done much better.”
“What’s fair to some is not fair to another, and so everyone is not going to be pleased,” said Anita Martel, a teacher at Lorraine Elementary. “But one good thing is that there’s going to be some changes with pay.”
The three year contract calls for a 10% raise in the first year, with 2% raises in each of years two and three.
There will also be a one-time bonus of between $2,000 and $9,000 for teachers, depending on years of service.
Some teachers noted though, that the raises being given are going be offset by additional work hours, as the instructional day will lengthen by 25 minutes, and two additional days will be tacked onto the school year.
“That means we have to work approximately 11 more days because of the extra time. It seems like more money, but that’s in exchange for about two more weeks of work (cumulatively),” said Pastore. And don’t forget we have to pay for our health insurance.”
Teachers, who currently don’t have to pay for health insurance, will have to start paying $500 annually for an individual health care plan, and $1,100 annually for a family plan.
Those amounts will increase to $600/Individual and $1,500 family plan by the third and final year of the contract.
Many teachers entered the meeting resigned to having pay something for their health insurance. While full coverage may have been common for teachers when their last contract was approved in 1999, many told WGRZ-TV that they understood that such a benefit would be extremely rare today.
Lorraine Elementary teacher Kelly Gasior doesn’t mind the extra work load, especially because she believes it will benefit students.
“Our kids need it. I know everyone won’t agree with that, but our kids really do need that extra time,” she said.
Teachers who retire before next July 1 will pay the same contribution in retirement for health insurance as provided for in the last contract. Which means those who stay, will have to contribute more.
However, Rumore does not believe this will result in a great exodus of veteran teachers at the conclusion of the current school year.
"If anything, i think what is going to happen is that when teachers look at the upper end of the salary schedule, they might stick around for a couple of more years," said Rumore. "Your salary is determined on your highest or final three years salary, and we boosted those salaries up quite a bit."
Teachers had held several public events to stress their need for a new contract, including on Sept. 28 when more than a thousand rallied in Niagara Square following a bargaining meeting between the Buffalo Teachers Federation and the district.