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Teacher Pay Hikes Tucked Into Funding Formula

Don't bother looking for the spot in the proposed FY 2010 budget where it says there is money for teacher raises. District officials, who confirmed yesterday that public school teachers are the lone exception to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's proposed salary freeze, have placed it into the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF), which would rise by two percent under the spending plan. The increase is fueled by $29.4 million in federal stimulus money.

Mayoral budget aide William Singer said money is set aside for "a performance-based teacher contract." Performance pay is one of the big sticking points in the Washington Teachers' Union's 16-month contract negotiation with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who wants to single out and reward individual teachers for good work. Teachers' unions have historically been leery of that form of merit pay, although American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says she is willing to discuss it.

So how much money is available? And does a performance-based contract mean that a conventional round of across-the-board adjustments is off the table? Nobody is saying.

"I really can't disrupt negotiations by disclosing the amount of funding available," Singer said. "However, we believe District and other funds will be sufficient to support a compensation structure that is consistent with the Chancellor's statements."

If Rhee gets her way, those "other" funds are likely to be grants from private foundations eager for big changes in public education--changes that generally involve a weakening of union influence.

WTU president George Parker said he didn't want to comment on the budget outlook until he had a chance to confer with District officials. "I think it's best to discuss that at the bargaining table," he said.

The District sets the UPSFF for public and public charter schools by analyzing a "market basket" of education goods and services based on local, regional and national data. It establishes a basic per-pupil allocation--$8,945 in 2010, up from $8,770 this year--and then adds to that amount depending on grade level or special needs. High school students, for example, would receive $10,376, up from $10,173. Allocations for high-needs special education students will see a big bump. "Level 3" and "Level 4" kids, those with serious emotional and physical disabilities, would would be funded at $13,954 and $25,314 respectively, up from $11,927 and $20,785.
Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  March 26, 2009; 12:20 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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