pay back

No back pay coming for thousands of ex-UFT members

Updated Saturday, May 3, 10:51 a.m. — Thousands of city teachers and school staff members who worked between 2009 and 2014 and then left their jobs won’t get any extra money under a new contract agreement between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, even though a new contract applies to those years, union officials said Friday.

And in another cost-saving move, current members who worked between 2009 and 2011 will need to continue working in schools until 2020, or retire, if they want to collect all of their retroactive benefits for that period.

That’s because of the way the new contract has structured back pay disbursements from the first two years without a contract, when most of the other city’s public employees received 8 percent raises. Money from that time are going to be distributed in five chunks between 2015 and 2020. Rather than paying for the raises up front, the union and the city agreed to both kick the costs down the road and spread them out over several years.

Eligible UFT members who quit before the first scheduled payout, in October 2015, won’t get any of those payments. (They will, however, receive the first of a series of salary rate increases.) The city will cut a second pay check in October 2017, a third check in October 2018, a fourth in October 2019 and a fifth in October 2020.

Teachers will still receive smaller retroactive payments for the two most recent years when they ratify the contract, which could come as early as this month, according to the union. All members will also receive a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification.

Current members will also see salary rate increases of between 1 and 3 percent yearly from 2013 to 2018, and those who worked between 2009 and 2011 will see additional, 2 percent retroactive salary rate increases each year from 2015 to 2018.

But for the biggest retroactive payments, from 2009 to 2011, teachers get cut off after they quit, the union said. A UFT official could not say if this included teachers who become principals and a spokeswoman with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing city principals and assistant principals, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Credit: United Federation of Teachers

At least 4,000 UFT members, who resigned between 2009 and 2011, according to the union’s attrition numbers, will not receive any benefits from the new contract. Another 4,200 teachers left over the next two school years, although some many have started teaching after 2011 and wouldn’t be eligible.

In the past, UFT members received retroactive checks within months of ratifying their new contract. In 2005, for instance, top-paid teachers received a $5,771 lump payment for 28 months worth of back pay, according to the New York Times.

The new contract’s delayed payments speaks to the unusually large sum of money, an estimated $3.4 billion, that the UFT demanded in negotiations. But it also speaks to the city and union’s emphasis on rewarding teachers who stay in the school system. The contract also includes a new compensation system and bonus program aimed at retaining teachers.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a former UFT president, said on Twitter yesterday that the union would have have “liked it for all,” referring to the raises, but added that there is plenty of precedent to leave former union members out of retroactive benefits even if they worked during that period. 

But it’s still coming as news to many teachers who have already left the school system, or making plans to leave.

One fifth-year teacher who is looking for teaching jobs outside of the city said she was frustrated that she might not receive the back payments.

“I’m not happy about it,” said the teacher, who asked for anonymity because she did not want her school to know about her job search. “I put in the time, just like every other teacher in the city during that period.”

Andrei Berman, who taught in New York City schools during the 2009-2010 school year,  said the extra money would have been nice, but that he wasn’t torn up about it.

“To be honest, I can’t say I deserved it because I didn’t teach long enough to really be that deserving,” said Berman, who left teaching after two years.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”