News & Events

Quincy teachers’ union votes to defer 4 percent raise till next year

Move could save $2.3m for schools

By Molly A. K. Connors, Globe Correspondent  |  May 25, 2010

DORCHESTER — Facing the elimination of as many as 200 positions and cuts to programs such as all-day kindergarten and foreign-language instruction, members of the Quincy teachers union voted yesterday evening to defer their 4 percent pay raises until next year.

The vote, which officials say could save the schools about $2.3 million, came during a two-hour special meeting of the Quincy Education Association. About 74 percent of the approximately 700 members in attendance voted for the deferral, with the stipulation that the city put the savings toward teachers’ salaries and save jobs, said Paul Phillips, president of the association.

“They did, at the end, what I thought was the right thing,’’ said Phillips, sitting on a bench outside the headquarters of the Boston Teachers Union in Dorchester, where the meeting was held.

But the agreement has not been formalized. “It could still go south at this point,’’ Phillips said.

The agreement, which required the approval of two-thirds of those present by secret ballot, will be submitted to the School Committee and Mayor Thomas P. Koch in the next few days for approval, Phillips said.

In an interview, Koch praised the union members for their concession but declined to comment on their specific requests.

“It’s a great effort, and I’m grateful to the teachers,’’ Koch said. “We’re all in this together.’’

The possible $2.3 million concession comes as the schools face a roughly $9.1 million budget deficit for fiscal 2011, which begins July 1. Koch recently appropriated about $82.3 million for the schools, which had requested about $91.6 million. Officials say that pay raises for school employees — about $4.8 million for teachers, $132,000 for custodians, and $366,000 for administrators — count for half of the budget shortfall.

Other city unions, including the police, have taken pay raise deferrals or furloughs.

Although the educators will not receive their 4 percent pay raise until next year if the mayor and School Committee accept the compromise, two other raises — commonly known as “step increases,’’ which teachers receive in the early years of their service in a district, and “lane changes,’’ which educators receive after they earn advanced degrees — will remain intact, Phillips said.

Tensions ran high as the vote pitted young against old, said Phillips and teachers, primarily because 4 percent of a veteran teacher’s salary, which in Quincy can surpass $70,000, is significantly larger than the same raise for a first-year teacher, whose starting salary is just short of $40,000.

“For them to do this is very painful,’’ Phillips said.

The sentiments of teachers leaving the union hall ranged from “relieved’’ to “very sad.’’

Holly Rendle, a teacher at the Atlantic Middle School, said the mood in the room was “pretty respectful, pretty collegial’’ and that she herself was hopeful.

“I feel like it’s a happy compromise,’’ Rendle said. “We gave a little, and in return we’re going to save many of the jobs of our colleagues.’’