Times change, but contract talks remain stalled
It is not unusual for contract talks between the Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Teachers Federation to drag on for years. But the latest stretch spans a decade marked by economic and educational change.
Here’s what has happened since the teacher contract expired:
2004: The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority enacts a wage freeze just months before the teacher contract expires.
2005: After repeated attempts to reach a new agreement, the BTF and district declare an impasse.
2007: The fiscal authority lifts the wage freeze, but teachers’ placement on the salary schedule was not adjusted to reflect time worked during the freeze. BTF sues to get credit for the teachers for those years, which would drive up salaries.
2008: The Great Recession forces tight budgets in the public sector. Health insurance costs climb, driving up employer expenses.
2011: The state Board of Regents approves the Common Core standards, ushering in a new era of school reform.
2012: The State Legislature approves an annual evaluation for teachers, based in part on test scores.
A federal judge rules that the teachers will not get credit on the pay scale for the years the wage freeze was enacted. The union appeals, further delaying negotiations, but loses the following year.
2013: A mediator proposes new salary scale that would give teachers $18,712 in retroactive pay and salary increases. Teachers would have to start paying 10 percent of their health insurance premiums. BTF President Philip Rumore rejects it.
2014: A fact-finder issues recommendations calling for salary increases, with teachers paying a small part of their health insurance. Rumore says he will support the proposal, but the Buffalo School Board – led by a new majority – rejects it.
2015: The two sides begin working with a superconciliator, the last part of a three-step process for mediation laid out in the state’s Taylor Law.
2016: The school board election results in a power shift on the board, and the newcomers appear sympathetic to the union. The Public Employee Relations Board finds the school district guilty of bad faith negotiations. Contract talks are expected to resume with the new school year.