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D.C. Teachers Approve Contract

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District of Columbia teachers voted 1,412 to 425 to approve a new contract that gives them a double-digit pay increase and provides Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee with the ability to award pay based on performance and fire underperforming teachers more swiftly.

The new five-year agreement includes a 21.6 percent increase in pay that will raise average salaries from $67,000 to about $81,000, according to The Washington Post, which first reported news of the contract's approval today.

Now that members of the Washington Teachers' Union have approved the contract, it will go to D.C.'s city council, which is expected to give swift approval. The new contract is a signature achievement for Rhee and her boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

"I am very pleased with the contract," Rhee told The Post's Bill Turque. "It strikes a great balance between making teachers understand that we very much value and support the work they do every day and on the administrative side giving us the tools we need to staff the schools effectively."

As our Stephen Sawchuk reported when the tentative agreement was announced in April, this contract is said to be the first of its kind in America, with foundations giving more than $60 million to pay for the performance-based raises. The contract will cost about $140 million over five years.

Fenty is up for re-election this fall, and faces a serious challenge from the city council's chairman, Vincent Gray, who has often been critical of Rhee and Fenty, who have both seen their approval ratings fall in recent months.

The road toward this contract has been anything but smooth. Rhee announced her proposed contract in August 2008, which would have given teachers the opportunity to earn up to six figures in exchange for giving up tenure. What followed was a contentious battle for more than two years.

Check out Steve's Teacher Beat blog for more analysis on what this contract means in the grand scheme.

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