BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The contract negotiations between the Buffalo Teachers Federation and Buffalo Public Schools has officially come to an end.
On Monday night, the federation officially ratified the new contract, which was approved by the Board of Education on Friday.
The vote passed with 98.7% of the 1,877 votes cast to approve the contract. 1.3%, or 25 votes, were against the deal.
“It’s a step in the right direction for Buffalo teachers,” BTF President Phil Rumore said. “The last two things we got was back pay until September, which was like a week ago and three weeks ago we got the three steps knocked off. That’s what made the big difference.”
In the contract, teachers will receive an 8% raise retroactive to September 1, 2022, a 6% raise on July 1 of this year, a 4% raise on July 1, 2024 and a 3% raise on July 1, 2025. Additionally, all active, full-time teachers will receive a 10% bonus based on their new salary once the contract is ratified. Recent retirees will receive a payment of $1,000-$2,000 depending on when they retired. The district will invest more than $240 million for these payments.
BPS says this new agreements makes it the second highest paying district for new teachers, behind Lackawanna School District.
As for the district, teachers hired after June 30, 2026 will not be eligible for district health insurance upon retirement. Teachers hired after that date will be able to “sell back” sick days and use early retirement incentives toward the cost of healthcare in retirement. Teachers will also contribute more toward their health insurance beginning on July 1.
Other parts of the agreement include an adjustment in bell times, a $1,000 annual stipend for teachers with a bilingual extension who instruct a class where that is required, an increase in petty cash allotment to $10 per pupil, with increases of $2 per year in 2024 and 2025 and an additional 30-minute prep period for adult education instructors and advisors.
“I think the biggest point of concern is starting times in future school years, but I think there are ways we can figure that out,” Aaron Conners, a teacher at South Park High School, said.
Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams provided a statement Monday night.
Dr. Tonja Williams, Superintendent
This is a great news for our teachers and the Buffalo Public School District. This landmark agreement not only makes our teachers some of the most highly compensated in the region, but it was done in a way that will preserve the District’s strong financial position for years to come. The agreement also prioritizes our students and families by permitting much needed reform with bell times and the hiring of athletic coaches. As established by this vote, all 11 contractual agreements have been successfully ratified by the District’s employees, which further demonstrates our commitment to respecting, retaining, and recruiting a highly qualified workforce for the Buffalo Public Schools.
Teachers in the district have been working towards the new deal for nearly four years. The negotiations included several board meetings, pickets, a call to Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a state of emergency in the district, a vote of no confidence in Dr. Williams and an independent fact finding report that the district said was crucial in the negotiation process.
More than half of the union membership flooded into Kleinhans Music Hall Monday afternoon to vote on the deal and many members say the Buffalo School District is now competitive with suburban districts.
“I’m thrilled. I mean I’m looking forward to it and am excited about it. I think it will be great for everybody moving forward,” Nancy Childs, a teacher at International Preparatory School, said.
“This is only my second time in 22 years. Most districts renew their contracts every two or three years, so it’s a long time to wait to come back to Kleinhans to vote,” Robin Fischer, teacher at Native American Magnet School, added.
“This financial compensation is geared toward attracting teachers to Buffalo and keeping them here. I think this does both,” Melissa Jenkins, a teacher at Frederick Law Olmsted High School, said.
The talks continued to be contentious even just a month ago. In a meeting in March, bickering at the bargaining table continued after the board said it had given its final offer. Several board members walked out of the meeting after a discussion into why the deal was not signed.
Last week, teachers federation President Philip Rumore announced that he was retiring after 42 years of working for the union.
“I think that it should be a fair contract and I believe that Phil wouldn’t leave us high and dry,” Jacqui Polk, a teacher at Academy School #131, continued.
Rumore briefly commented on his retirement Monday night after the votes were tallied
“It occured to me that maybe it is time to turn it over to somebody else,” Rumore said. “It’s not that I accomplished it [deal]. It’s that all of us pulling together accomplished it.”
In retirement, Rumore says he plans on returning to his first love: physics. He says he got into teaching after graduating early from the University at Buffalo and never thought his life would go down this path. He hopes to return to studying relativity theory after his last day on June 30.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.