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D.C. says finances won't endanger contract

Despite a $175 million gap in this fiscal year's budget -- one that could grow by $400 million by fiscal 2012 -- the District says it is still good for the 9 percent pay raise due to DCPS teachers over the next two years under the terms of the contract approved in June.

The pact has delivered an 11 percent hike to teachers, retroactive to 2007. An additional 4 percent comes due this month, and educators reading about the District's dicey fiscal circumstances are starting to wonder whether they'll see the money. Officials said it is coming, beginning with the Oct. 22 pay check, which covers the first pay period of fiscal 2011.

"We remain fully committed to honoring the agreement we've signed," said Safiya Simmons, spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Another pay issue vexing some teachers -- bonuses awarded to 600 or so "highly effective" instructors who aced the new IMPACT evaluation system last school year -- has grown into the first labor-management spat surrounding the new contract. DCPS says that teachers who accept the money waive their rights to certain protections in the event they are excessed -- that is, lose their jobs because of enrollment or program changes at their schools. Other teachers in good standing who are "excessed" can take a $25,000 buyout, early retirement with 20 years of service, or a full year with pay and benefits to look for another position in the system.

These are also the conditions in the contract attached to the performance pay plan that is supposed to launch this fall. But the Washington Teachers' Union argues that these bonuses -- for work done during the 2009-10 school year -- should not be contingent on waiving these protections.

"The WTU does not believe DCPS can legally eliminate the three options for teachers receiving the bonuses for the 2009-2010 school year. DCPS disagrees," union President George Parker said in a message to members this week. The deadline for accepting the money, which was originally Friday, has been extended a day so that WTU can meet with bonus recipients "and explain WTU's legal options for teachers who accept the bonuses and those who decline."

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By Bill Turque  | October 8, 2010; 5:09 PM ET
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