Nearly 60 people bunched along long conference tables in a lower Manhattan basement are working through more than 80,000 ballots that will decide the outcome of the city’s proposed contract with the United Federation of Teachers.
The union plans to announce final results of the contract vote sometime after 6 p.m. That’s two hours later than when officials originally said they wanted to make an announcement, a delay a spokesman attributed in part to a larger-than-expected voter turnout, which was projected at around 80 percent.
The vote-counting process includes verifying, sorting and scanning ballots, the majority of which were sent in last week. Overseeing the process is the American Arbitrators Association, an independent organization headquartered up the street from the UFT’s offices.
Ballots were supposed to be postmarked by Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., and Assistant Secretary Leroy Barr, the union official who has closely observed the vote counting, said more ballots have trickled in over the weekend and into Tuesday morning.
“The issue is that members have been without a contract for four-and-a-half years, and they’re excited to have an opportunity to vote on one finally,” Barr said.
The nine-year contract agreement include a 19.5 percent raise, when compounded, that would bring starting teacher salaries from $45,530 to $55,411 by 2018. Top-earning teachers’ salaries would climb to $119,565 from $100,049.
The contract also establishes three new positions that would give teachers additional responsibilities in exchange for extra pay ranging from $7,000 to $20,000. The city will also be picking “hard-to-staff” schools that serve low-income communities and where teacher turnover has been high, where teachers will be eligible for $5,000 bonuses.
The contract also includes more time for teachers to work with each other and with parents, but a reduction in time allotted specifically for small-group instruction. The contract allows some schools to apply to opt out of certain rules and contract regulations.
Despite receiving a healthy dose of criticism from teachers within the union and some outside of it, the contract is likely to be ratified—though perhaps not by the near-unanimous margin the union would prefer. That was evident in a two-minute spurt of ballot-sorting by two counters on Tuesday afternoon.
During that span, they sorted about 15 ballots, which were color-coded by the type of contract they were voting on: white cards for teachers, pink cards for guidance counselors, and blue cards for paraprofessionals.
A tally showed 10 votes for “yes,” five votes for “no.”
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