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NYC to Offer Virtual Option at All Public High Schools

NYC will be the first major school system in the nation to offer such an expansive program, including more course offerings and the ability to take classes at non-traditional times, like evenings and weekends.

Middle-aged distance teacher having video conference call with pupil using webcam. Online education and e-learning concept. Home quarantine distance learning and working from home.
(TNS) — New York City plans to offer an expansive voluntary virtual learning program to all public high school students and some middle school students, under a tentative contract agreement with the teachers union.

The program was included as part of a tentative five-plus-year contract agreement with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday. The agreement covers approximately 120,000 municipal employees.

It established New York City public schools as the first major school system in the nation to offer an expansive voluntary virtual learning program that would ultimately be available to all high school students and at least some middle school students.

"This is really cutting-edge stuff that the UFT and the chancellor were able to come together on of what teaching is going to look like in the future, and how you take that great teacher and have a wider pool of young people who could learn from their knowledge," said Adams. "Particularly, the accelerated learners. Really giving them that opportunity is amazing ... many of our young people are living a different lifestyle, and the traditional classroom setting just does not fit in it."

While not a substitute for in-person learning, it would give students access to a much broader set of course offerings across the city, and the ability to take classes at non-traditional times, like evenings and weekends. It would also give an opportunity for educators to teach virtually.

The initiative will allow public schools to expand course offerings to students who don't currently have access to the full range of accelerated courses and to reach students for whom traditional in-person schedules don't work, such as students who work full-time jobs.

Virtual classes will be offered through school-based programs, as well as the citywide program — as the contract also allows the city to broaden its current centrally run pilot program of virtual and hybrid programs.

"An opportunity to reimagine, and it's not just a reimagined experience for kids, it's a reimagined experience for teachers as well," said Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks. "And so when you want to really focus on how to make the profession respected at an even higher level, you have to engage in new and creative ways for teachers to even be able to teach. And I think that this is 21st-century thinking. We're the first major school district in the nation that is even taking this on."

UFT President Michael Mulgrew explained that the new tentative contract includes language that allows instruction to be flexible, especially when it comes to the virtual learning program. This new expansion of virtual learning will begin next school year, with 25 percent of high schools eligible to be elected for the program, growing to 100 percent of high schools in the 2027-28 school year.


The city and UFT tentative agreement is retroactive beginning on Sept. 14, 2022, and expires on Nov. 28, 2027.

It includes wage increases of 3 percent for each of the first three years of the contract, 3.25 percent in the fourth year, and 3.5 percent in the fifth year. It also includes a $3,000 lump sum ratification bonus for all UFT members and a first-of-its-kind annual retention payment to be paid in May of each year, beginning with $400 in 2024, $700 in 2025, and $1,000 in 2026 and every year thereafter.

UFT members will receive the following compounded wage increases:

  • Sept. 14, 2022: 3.00 percent
  • Jan. 18, 2024: 3.00 percent
  • Jan. 18, 2025: 3.00 percent
  • Sept. 14, 2025: 3.25 percent
  • Sept. 14, 2026: 3.50 percent

"Our city's educators work each and every day to provide a brighter future for our children and our city, and they deserve to be paid a fair wage," said Adams. "Today's agreement includes major victories, including wage increases and additional programs to retain our educators, along with groundbreaking new programs, like the option of a virtual learning program, to ensure our students receive a world-class education. I thank UFT President Michael Mulgrew, OLR [Office of Labor Relations] Commissioner Renee Campion, and DOE [Department of Education] Chancellor David Banks for reaching this historic agreement."

The total cost of the tentative agreement through 2027 will be $6.4 billion — funded in the labor reserve in the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget.

The tentative agreement must be ratified by UFT's membership and would apply to teachers, paraprofessionals, school secretaries, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, staff nurses and supervisors of school security.

According to the UFT, the new top salary for the most experienced teachers would be $151,271, including the bonus, by the end of the proposed contract. The proposed contract also cuts in half — from 15 to eight years — the length of time it takes most teachers to reach a salary of $100,000.

The starting salary for new teachers would be $72,349, including the bonus, by the end of the proposed agreement, up from $61,070. The top salary for paraprofessionals would be $56,761, including the bonus.

The union's 500-member Negotiating Committee, the Executive Board and Delegate Assembly will decide whether to send the tentative agreement to the full UFT members for a ratification vote. While generally referred to as one contract, there are a dozen different contracts covering different titles, from classroom teachers and paraprofessionals to nurses and guidance counselors.

Once approved, the contracts are sent to each school with a list of eligible voters — and to the home of workers who have no permanent school assignment — in the form of a two-envelope secret ballot. The ballots are collected by the school's UFT chapter leader, checked off against a master list of eligible voters, and then forwarded by prepaid Express Mail to the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Completed ballots are expected to be returned to AAA by the end of the school year.

Since 1991, DOE contracts have been approved by the UFT membership at rates ranging from 63 percent to 94 percent.

©2023 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.