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Baltimore Teachers Reject New Contract

By guest blogger Alyson Klein

Baltimore teachers said thanks, but no thanks, Thursday night to a new contract that would have based their pay on student outcomes and professional development, instead of seniority and degrees.

The contract had been touted by many in education policy as a potential new model for the state, and even the nation. Even the morning of the vote, the U.S. Department of Education had bragged about the expected deal in a press release highlighting examples of cooperation between teachers and education-redesign minded managers.

Back when the contract was announced, Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, told The (Baltimore) Sun that the agreement was "extraordinary" and squelched claims that unions are impediments to reform. And Emily Cohen, a policy analyst at the National Council on Teacher Quality, told the paper that the city went further than any other district to eliminate automatic pay increases.

Although the contract included pay raises and kept health benefits at their current levels, some teachers were skeptical of the idea that future salary increases would be tied to effectiveness and professional development, the Associated Press reported after the vote.

Marietta English, president of the AFT-affiliated Baltimore Teachers Union, told The Sun that the rejection was the result of "frustration and misinformation" about the contract. And she said in a statement that the union had been told that "some charter school operators have encouraged their teachers not to vote for this agreement."

"We negotiated a very new and different agreement at a time when fear, frustration and distrust are at an all-time high," English told The Sun. "We are confident that this is a bump in the road, and if we continue on the road of working with the administration, and listening to and respecting our members, we will soon have a great teacher contract for the city of Baltimore."

The vote drew more than 2,600 teachers, with about 58 percent voting against the contract, schools Chief Executive Officer Andres Alonso said. He issued a statement stressing that he would keep working with the union.

"The proposed contract makes a historic shift in how teachers are compensated, in the district's ability to attract and retain excellent teachers, and in the ability of schools to shape key aspects of school operations," Alonso said. "Many teachers wanted more information about all the dimensions of the contract and more time to digest what it would mean. I respect the seriousness with which teachers approached the vote and the importance of the questions they have raised."

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