New York City

City starts down the path to pre-K pay parity

July 10, 2019 John Alexander

Some pre-K teachers working for community-based organizations have won a battle in their fight to be paid the same as pre-K teachers working for the city’s Department of Education. The mayor and the City Council announced on Tuesday that a new contract agreement will bump up the salary of some CBO teachers by $20,000, bringing them one step closer to pay parity.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said during a pay parity rally in June that a DOE teacher with a master’s degree who has been in the system for eight years earns about $85,000 a year — while teachers with the same qualifications teaching at a CBO earn around $49,000 annually.

The new tentative contract agreement would provide a pathway to pay parity between certified early childhood education teachers at CBOs — which account for most of the children enrolled in the city’s universal pre-K program — and entry-rate DOE salaries by October 2021. The tentative agreement also includes additional compensation for non-certified teachers and support staff, as well as health care cost reductions.

“This is a significant agreement that finally provides a type of dignity and respect — not just in words, but in deeds and actions and precious resources — to value these outstanding educators who have worked so hard to teach and to help raise our children, but were disrespected for many years with such a significant gap in pay parity,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, a former teacher who chairs the council’s Committee on Education.

“I knew there were resources in the budget to make this a reality, the council held the line and I’m proud that this day has come. And there’s more work to do.”

However, there are some glaring discrepancies in the agreement. For example, non-union teachers will not immediately benefit from the new salary bump, health care cost reductions and pension — at least not until this first agreement is ratified. The city’s Office of Labor described the union-only benefits as “a model or framework for moving forward for certified teachers.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson sign the new pre-K pay parity agreement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson sign the new pre-K pay parity agreement. Eagle photo by John Alexander

The new contract will benefit 4,241 early childhood education employees with more than 10,000 students in their care.

According to the tentative three-tier agreement, certified — and unionized — teachers will receive salary increases over the next three years, commensurate with experience. Starting in October 2019, the pay for a teacher with a master’s will increase to $53,581. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree will receive $48,372. By October 2020, a teacher with a master’s will earn $62,295, and those with a bachelor’s $55,651.

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By October 2021, teachers with a master’s will receive $62,652 (a final increase of $20,784 more than previous rate). A teacher with a bachelor’s will earn $61,070 ($17,485 more than previous rate).

“With this agreement, we’re ensuring whether you’re in one of our schools or teaching in a community based organization, you get the same starting salary,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made the announcement alongside City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, union representatives from District Council 1707 Local 205 and a group of educators. “That means our kids and parents can rest assured that they’ll always have our best teachers in the classroom, helping our future leaders develop the skills they need to succeed.”

Not everyone felt that the agreement was the great equalizer the mayor made it out to be.

“I find it amazing that once again, our mayor and City Council are slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves on the issue of parity,” said Alice Mulligan, director at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Preschool, a CBO in Bay Ridge.

“Today, Mayor de Blasio granted long overdue parity to only those that work in unionized childcare facilities and has completely dismissed the rest of us. His unethical two-tiered system still exists: he only shifted those who have more power from one tier to another.

“If Mayor de Blasio wants to tout his agenda as the Mayor of the ‘Fairest Big City in America,’ then he needs to get back to the table and make this right.”

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