At its most recent Legislative Meeting, the Council unanimously approved a long overdue four-year contract between Washington Teachers Union and DC Public Schools. The contract includes a 2 percent pay increase in its first year, a 2.5 percent increase in the second, a 3.5 percent increase in the third, and a 4 percent increase in the fourth. Additionally, in the current school year, members of the Washington Teachers Union will receive a retention bonus of 4 percent, those in hard-to-fill positions will receive a $1,500 retention bonus, those performing key duties will receive two $1,500 stipends, and all will receive a stipend to purchase classroom supplies.
What is striking about the contract just approved by the Council is that while it covers a period of four years, nearly three and a half of those four years have already occurred. This means that the contract just approved by the Council actually began on October 1, 2019 and will expire at the end of September of this year. Multiple councilmembers expressed their strong insistence that a new proactive contract be negotiated and approved as soon as possible, ideally prior to the expiration of the just-approved, soon-to-expire, largely retroactive agreement.
The contract was under negotiation for years, was approved tentatively agreed to by both parties on November 23, and was approved by the union by a very wide margin on December 14. The contract was not transmitted to the Council for approval until January 20. Despite the delay, the Council acted on the contract expeditiously, holding a roundtable on February 1, and approving the contract at the most recent Legislative Meeting. The contract would have been deemed approved on February 20 even without Council action, but the councilmembers felt it was worth accelerating the process by two weeks via their action on the matter.
At the Legislative Meeting, it was announced that the first pay increases (the retention bonuses and stipends) would hit teachers’ paychecks on March 24. The retroactive pay increases will hit paychecks on May 19, after the necessary funds are included in a supplemental budget request to the Council.
In addition to the need for a subsequent contract to replace the present mostly retroactive one when it expires in September, councilmembers also spoke of interest in resolving two outstanding issues unaddressed by the current contract. The first was if/how the contract changes should subsequently apply to charter school teachers, and the second was if/how retroactive pay could be received by teachers who worked with DCPS during the relevant contract years but who are no longer employees currently.
In other action at the most recent meeting, the Council approved emergency legislation to allow the District Department of Transportation to reprogram funds in order to accelerate the design and installation of suicide barriers on the Taft Bridge. Plans were already underway for such a project, but it would have had to wait until the end of the present budget cycle to begin absent the newly passed legislation.
Also at the most recent meeting, the Council temporarily extended an expiring COVID-era measure requiring hotels to clean all guest rooms daily unless the guest requested the room not be cleaned. The Council also approved an additional six-year term for DC Auditor and former Ward 3 councilmember Kathy Patterson.
On an additional COVID-related note, the most recent Legislative Meeting was the first since the pandemic began where councilmembers were not required to wear masks. At their breakfast meeting earlier in the day, councilmembers agreed unanimously to stop requiring those in the Wilson Building to wear masks.
The Council’s next scheduled Legislative Meeting will be held on March 7.