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DC educators to receive 1st raises in 3 years under tentative deal

FILE – Desks are spaced apart ahead of planned in-person learning at an elementary school on March 19, 2021, in Philadelphia. The COVID-19 pandemic spared no state or region as it caused historic learning setbacks for America’s children, erasing decades of academic progress and widening racial disparities, according to results of a national test that provide the sharpest look yet at the scale of the crisis. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The Washington Teachers’ Union and D.C. leaders have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract that will give teachers a raise for the first time in three years.

The union, which represents 5,000 D.C. Public Schools educators, was planning on moving talks to arbitration next month after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement in mediation.

The tentative agreement, according to a news release, includes benefits, a 12% salary increase over four years and a one-time 4% retention bonus.

The agreement comes after weeks of union action, which has been ongoing since the school year began.

The agreement also concludes weeks of public jabs between the union and city leaders. Earlier this month, Mayor Muriel Bowser advised the union to accept a proposed contract she called “an outstanding offer that’s on the table.” In September, Bowser also announced that the city reached a new agreement with the Council of School Officers, which represents 840 administrators and service providers.

Union President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons said a new contract is necessary to keep teachers in D.C. The lack of an agreement had some educators considering leave the school system, she previously said.

“Our teachers have not had a cost of living raise since 2019, when our last contract ended,” Pogue Lyons said in an interview with WTOP. “We know that a lot has gone on since 2019 — the pandemic, high gas prices, high food prices, inflation.”

The new deal, Pogue Lyons said, will be essential in helping the city overcome staffing issues.

“When teachers have to cover for the lack of teachers being in a classroom, or there’s concern year after year that we’re not able to retain teachers, that falls on the folks who remain and that affects our students,” Pogue Lyons said. “A fair contract is what’s good for students.”

Teachers will also keep their dental and vision benefits under the new agreement, which Pogue Lyons said was a top concern for the city’s educators.

Ward 7 teacher Laura Fuchs said the new agreement should help improve classroom conditions.

“Part of what we’re fighting for and trying to help people see is that when you make conditions actually doable, you also see less turnover, and you see us do our jobs better,” Fuchs said. “We’re doing the best we can.”

Education advocacy organization EmpowerEd said in a statement that “the fact that DCPS teachers went three years without a contract is an embarrassing statement of values.”

Pogue Lyons said a vote on the tentative deal hasn’t been scheduled yet.