BEDFORD — One of teaching’s most hallowed traditions may be on the way out under a new contract that is on the table in a northern Westchester County district.
“Steps and lanes,” which supplement teachers’ pay for their years of service and education, will not be offered to new teachers in the Bedford schools if a tentative agreement is approved by the rank and file and the school board next month. Instead, they will be offered “a completely new compensation framework” ruled by the state’s tax levy cap.
“We’ve not heard of anything like that” before, said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center, an Albany-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that keeps track of public spending. “You are taking a really complicated pay scale and making it simpler. It’s a huge step in the right direction for them” depending on what the details show.
Eliminating or curbing steps and lanes, he said, “puts the board of education on equal footing in negotiating the next contract. I think this is a huge thing.”
School districts and unions have been wrestling with pay scales for years.
Angry taxpayers, slipping state aid and the tax levy cap have forced districts to cut past the bone to pay for required programs, health and retirement systems and contracted raises.
Layoffs, school closings and early retirement incentives can only go so far, educators said.
Now, districts are looking for contract concessions that would take away from what had been given in the past.
In many salary discussions, precedence is everything.
“There are certain sacred cows on the part of certain bargaining units and they want to save those, but it’s a new landscape: Concessions are being made, adjustments are being made,” said Kenneth Mitchell, South Orangetown schools superintendent and president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen cooperation and recognition of limitations for the preservation of quality programs.”
Some recently negotiated contracts have touched on steps and lanes without eliminating or significantly modifying them. More…