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Landmark Agreement For Pension Benefits And School-Wide Bonuses Bring Professional Gains To NYC Public School Educators

At 12 Noon today, the UFT, New York City and the NYC Department of Education agreed on mechanisms to implement two of the outstanding provisions of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. The agreements create positive, pro-active programs that address two major issues which face our schools: attracting and retaining quality educators in our schools, and creating collaborative learning environments where teachers have real voice.

First, current New York City educators who have 25 years or more of service will be able to retire at age 55 without a reduction in benefits. Second, a voluntary school wide bonus program will be established on a pilot basis in a number of New York City’s highest need schools. Finally, building on the victory of making ‘per session’ pay pensionable, this agreement makes coverage pay pensionable.

Currently, NYC public school educators on Tiers II, III and IV who retire before age 62 with fewer than 30 years of service can’t retire without a monetary penalty. This now changes. Subject to legislative passage and the governor’s signature, these educators will be able to retire at 55 with their full pension once they have completed 25 years of service, as Tier I educators are now able to do. (Since pensions can not be bargained, this agreement pledges NYC, the DOE and the UFT to jointly support state legislation to accomplish these changes.) Eligible educators will receive a pension equal to at least one-half of their final average salary, which is generally the last three years of service.

Under the legislation agreed to by the parties, current NYC public school educators will have six months to decide whether or not to opt in to the new enhanced pension program, at a cost of a 1.85% of salary. Future hires will be required to pay 1.85% for their improved benefit. For future hires, the pension will be improved to an eligibility at age 55 with 27 years of service. [No union has negotiated a lower member cost for this kind of benefit, which by terms of the contract, was to be cost neutral for New York City. Tier I members pay at least 5% of their salary for the first twenty years of service.]

The NYC Department of Education and the Teachers’ Retirement System have also agreed that money educators earn for teaching the classes of absent colleagues [coverages] will now count as part of their average salaries for the purpose of calculating pensions. Educators who retired as far back as 1993 will have their pensions recalculated to include this coverage pay, and will receive retroactive payments for up to six years [from 2001 forward] on that basis.

Once 55-25 is adopted by the state legislature, these pension improvements will be a huge step forward in the decades-long fight of the UFT to achieve equity among the different pension tiers. This agreement will provide an important tool to address the retention crisis in NYC public education, providing younger educators with an incentive to make teaching a life career.

The school wide bonus plan reflects the core belief and principle of the UFT: students achieve when all the educators in a school work together on their behalf. When we foster teamwork and partnership, when educators learn from each other and share their successful educational practices and strategies, the whole school moves forward and students benefit. Unlike individual merit pay plans, which set teacher against teacher in cut-throat competition, school wide bonuses encourage educators to work together and help each other improve instruction for all students.

With the adoption of this school wide bonus plan, we have transformed a negative into a positive, and “shut the door” on individual merit pay programs. New York City is sending a clear message to the members of Congress considering the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: the way to improve schools does not lie down the road of setting teacher against teacher, but of bringing teachers together in common cause and effort on behalf of their students.

For the first time under the current Department of Education administration, a program is being established that treats our members as educational professionals, recognizing them as full and equal partners of the school principal in the educational enterprise. This is an important advance in the UFT’s quest to achieve full professional status for the men and women who educate our young people.

With this agreement, a pilot program as envisioned in Article 8L of our contract will award bonuses to the entire UFT represented staff in participating schools that meet benchmarks for gains in student achievement. In 2007-08, the plan will be offered to approximately 200 of the highest needs schools, and in 2008-09, the offer will be extended to other high needs schools, with the total number being at least 30% of all schools.

Participation in the plan will be voluntary. Each school’s participation will be decided by an annual vote of 55% of the UFT Chapter and the agreement of the principal.

Schools that meet the benchmarks will receive a pool of money, calculated on the basis of $3000 for every UFT member in the school. A four member team of two administrators and two UFT members elected by their colleagues will decide how to divide the pool among the UFT represented staff in the school. If the distribution plan of the team is not ratified by the UFT chapter, appeals may be made to an Oversight Committee of the NYC DOE Chancellor and the UFT President.

This plan empowers school-based educators, placing in their hands the choice to opt in or out of the bonuses and the decision of how to distribute the bonus money. It also creates a positive incentive for experienced, accomplished educators to work in high needs schools.

Since 1999, principals have received bonuses for gains in student achievement; this plan will extend that opportunity to UFT members in the schools.

This is not the first school wide bonus plan in NYC public schools. In 1998, the UFT entered into the Breakthrough for Learning school wide bonus program in District 19; District 23 was later added to the program. Unlike Breakthrough for Learning, however, this school wide bonus plan is focused on partnership and teacher professionalism.

With these programs, the UFT has addressed two of the major issues from the 2005 contract. We will now continue to tackle class size, school safety, ATRs, and teachers who are in ‘rubber rooms.’ For now, our members will now have additional tools and supports from our collective bargaining agreement to take on the challenges of educating all of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students.



  • 1 jd2718
    · Oct 17, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    “A four member team of two administrators and two UFT members elected by their colleagues will decide how to divide the pool among the UFT represented staff in the school.”

    It appears from the materials distributed at the DA that the other two need not be UFT members, but UFT-represented staff. (in other words, we’ve specifically included agency fee payers).

    Maybe this is a good reminder to us that we need to make sure that new members actually sign union cards. Sometimes they see the deduction code on their checks and think they have already joined, when they have not.


  • 2 bluedaisy
    · Oct 17, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Yay for 55/25! I think this is great!

  • 3 R. Skibins
    · Oct 17, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    I’m glad that we have that option. but, all of us have different short-term and long-term goals and needs. I think that we should have a hotline set up so that members can get assistance in making the decision whether or not to opt in.

  • 4 JokersWildNYC
    · Oct 17, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    After promising us the UFT would fight for 25/55, they instead tied it to merit pay. Kit was right (at the DA) – the UFT makes concessions when it could be fighting. Why does the UFT back down from everything the DOE throws at us?

    Mert pay stinks, and the UFT needs to fight it.

  • 5 art-teacher
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 8:20 am

    I love the idea of a 55/25 retirement, especially being 44 with 15 years of service.The 1.85% is just below our most recent raise so it’s a NO-BRAINER.

    BUT my BIG question is, will be have to BUY BACK the 1.85% added pension contribution (the first 10 years of service and the number of years we didn’t have to pay up until the law is changed)

    I am a little concerned about the bonus allocation, especially being an art teacher, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. The adding of coverages to pension is great too, well over due.

  • 6 Civil Servant
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 9:49 am

    This is great publicity for the Mayor and Randi as they pursue further career goals !!!
    What if no school opts in for the bonus program !! It does appear to be voluntary. Is there a hidden message in having this Bonus only on a voluntary basis ??
    Gereat retirement news for those looking to leave early, aka 55 or upon 25 years completion. Sure seems there will be a great drain of quality teachers at ages 47 nd up !!! I thought the 55/25 plan was to maintain quality teachers, not give them an incentive to leave earlier.
    A little cynical perhaps, but where are the children’s interests !!
    I say, smaller class size !!!!

  • 7 Leo Casey
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 10:52 am

    The opt in to 55-25 is from here forward. There is no requirement to do the 1.85% retroactively. You only start paying once the opt in period ends.

    The UFT Pension Department is already preparing a whole series of outreach efforts — meetings in the different boros, literature, additional pension consultations, etc. — to make sure that everyone receives the information they need to make an informed choice. We deliberately created a 6 month window for opt-ins to make sure that we could get to everyone.

  • 8 Schoolgal
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 11:30 am

    “Make an informed choice” means there are big differences in the pension plans. Can you explain what some might be?

    And what if the Merit Pay Committee disagree on how to divide the spoils?
    How does that get resolved?

    Nice to know that our raises are always a part of any give-backs.

  • 9 Leo Casey
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Individual teachers need to decide whether or not it makes sense for them to opt in. If you are pretty certain you would not want to use the 55-25 option, you would probably decide not to opt in and pay the 1.85%. Folks need to understand the variables, so they can apply it to their individual situation. We want to make sure that our members know everything they need to know before they decide whether or not to opt in.

    If there is a deadlock on the committee, no bonus will be distributed. There must be consensus.

  • 10 art-teacher
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    So there is no buy back in the additional 1.85%. We only pay that amount going forward…That’s great…Thank you for clarifying that…

  • 11 MichaelB
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    It would nice if we had an online calculator that could run our numbers and let us know if we’d benefit.

    Also, if we opt into the plan, do we reduce our penalty for retiring at 55-61 with fewer than 25 years of service? For instance, I’ll have 20 years at age 55. If I opted in and retired then, would would my pension formula be the same as someone retiring today at 62 with 20 years?

  • 12 karenbeth
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Greetings fellow teachers:
    There seems to be much speculation concerning the details of this wonderful opportunity. These questions have been discussed throughout the day: Will this plan only affect teachers that have 25 Years? How does this plan affect teachers that have more than five years but less than 30?
    What affect does this have on people 55 years or older that have less than 25 years, but wish to retire? For example, can a teacher with 15 years at age 50 “opt in” to retire at 55 with 20 years credited equivalent to the old tier 1 plan? In other words, will all level of pension years be adjusted for those who “opt in” or only those with 25 years?

    We all have many questions and await the answers with vigor.

  • 13 MichaelB
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Does the DOE have the right to expand this bonus program to all schools?

    I’m not concerned about my own – $3000 isn’t going to motivate me to do more test prep. However, as an elementary school parent, I can say that the current test mania is taking a lot of the fun out of school for the kids.

  • 14 karenbeth
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    It is a glorious victory with this three way settlement.
    Apparently, when the parties involved sit down and stick to the negotiating process agreements are reached.

  • 15 SueC
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    I paid into the pension system for 17 years before the requirement was reduced to ten years. What happens to the seven year excess? I will have 30 years when I am 56. Paying the 1.85% will cost me about $10,000 if I start paying now and I will only gain about 8 months of retirement time. I am not sure if this would be wise. We need a hotine number for those of us who will be retiring in the next five or six years.

  • 16 55/25 And Voluntary School-Wide Bonuses: Reaction | Edwize
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    […] rounding up reaction to the agreement between the UFT and the city on mechanisms to implement an option for educators who have 25 years or more of service to be able to retire at age 55 without …. Look for more reaction to […]

  • 17 Leo Casey
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    There is no way to answer many of the very specific questions about individual situations here. That is why we will organize the meetings, send out the literature, do the consultations. We do not want to give each member anything but the full individual attention that he or she needs to make the decision.

    On the general question, 55-25 is the minimum for retirement without a penalty. So if you will be 56 with 26 years in June, you will be eligible, where previously you would have to wait until you were 62 or until you had 30 years of service.

  • 18 willimake30yrs?
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 6:52 pm


    Would a person with 26 yrs. at 56 get the full 60% or 52% (2% per year) without penalty if they buy in?

    What about members who started teaching at 25 or younger? They still have to work 30 years, or more. The Union should have pressed for an earlier age so every member could have an option to work less than 30 yrs.

  • 19 MichaelB
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Is there a limit to the number of schools that can be part of the bonus plan?

  • 20 Leo Casey
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    The number of schools will be 200 in year one, and 30% of all schools [appoximately 400] in year two. If successful, the program could be further extended in subsequent years.

  • 21 luisa chakir
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    I will have 32 and a half years of service plus two years that I was given as a Tier II member.
    With the 55/25 rule taking effect, will I receive a larger pension since I have more than the 25 years in service?What is the additional percentage given for every year after 25
    Will I have to give the 1.85 percent???

  • 22 luisa chakir
    · Oct 18, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Will there be additional pension clinics set up now that this new legislation will go into effect???

  • 23 Equalizing Benefits: The 25/55 Pension Agreement Is A True “Family Value” « Ed In The Apple
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    […] The newly negotiated pension agreement  will give the teacher referenced above the right to retire at age 55 – with 26 years of service. […]

  • 24 Applauding Big Thinking | Edwize
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    […] agreement announced on Wednesday by the UFT and Mayor Bloomberg will mean more money for New York’s neediest schools and real incentives to help educators […]

  • 25 Insideschools.org Blog: Roundup of "merit pay" opinion
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    […] in any field. And the UFT’s own blog, Edwize, is predictably thrilled about the agreement, saying, “The agreements create positive, pro-active programs that address two major issues which face our schools: attracting and retaining quality educators in […]

  • 26 Civil Servant
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Why will the union permit a school not to participate in the bonus program
    It seems strange that 55% of UFT members could oppose.
    What would be the basis for this opposition. Please advise.
    It seems that UFT’ers are throwing away an opportunity to earn an additional $3,000.00 a year.
    I can not understand this.

  • 27 MichaelB
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    OK, so here’s my fear: The DOE expands the program to all schools. Instead of offering a raise in the next contract, they tell us we can get a raise by “improving” our schools and earning a bonus. After all, they’ll tell us, why should they offer raises to those who can’t “perform”?

    Aren’t we opening ourselves up to this kind of attack?

  • 28 Steve Perez
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    MichaelB, we’re already open to that kind of attack, look at what Congress is doing with NCLB.

    This way, teachers will vote on whether to participate in the program, teachers will have a say in how any bonuses are distributed, and teachers will have veto power because decisions about bonuses will be by consensus.

    Civil Servant, teachers that don’t think school-wide bonuses will work for their school should be able to turn them down.

  • 29 Leo Casey
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 8:27 pm


    Language was written into the agreement to preclude it being used in that way.

    Civil Servant:

    The idea of this plan is that the important decisions need to be made at the school. That means the decision to participate is up to the UFT members in the schools and the decision of how to divide up the bonus requires the agreement of the elected UFT members on the committee.

  • 30 Civil Servant
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you for your response regarding the voluntary bonus. Will the union members be prejudiced in the event all schools vote to reject the bonus offer. If this occurs, there can be no implementation of the current agreement. Will this effect future salary negotiations. Seems strange to have an opt out to an implementation program.

  • 31 danielle
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Congratulations on the 55/25 victory! The more seasoned teachers among us,like myself, who had had other careers prior to public school teaching, and are now in Tier IV, have been looking forward to the news!
    Still, we are also looking forward to more information as to how this will affect those of us who will have 19 or 20 but not 25 years of service in three years, at 55 years of age… Hopefully, our union reps will have graphs or workshops handy so that we can avail ourselves of the 6 months’ window if indeed it is available to us… if we are ready to retire at 55, will we have the option to contribute 1.85% or more betwen now and when we turn 55? How will it affect the amount of our retirement?

  • 32 paulrubin
    · Oct 19, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Someone asked why a school might not opt in. Interesting question because if it’s going to be that popular why did our union refuse to do this for so long. Personally I can see a few reasons why we’d opt not to opt in.

    1. Send a message that we don’t believe standardized test results are the gold standard of what makes or breaks a school.
    2. Try to avoid the inevitable bad feelings that will result if the money isn’t distributed the way a given teacher wants it or when some teachers take it personally if their colleagues cost them money or realize that $3,000 a teacher minus taxes isn’t very much money for a new teacher and is negligible altogether for the veterans this plan hopes to move.

    That’s not to say this is a bad idea or a good idea. More money is usually a good thing all things considered. But this continued push to just schools and staff on a single issue in what should be a complex ecosystem is horrifying simplistic.

  • 33 luisa chakir
    · Oct 20, 2007 at 12:34 am

    I would like to know if under the new provisions of 55/25 would a teacher who is 55 and working over 25 years be given a larger pension because of the additional years?
    IF so what is the percentage for every year after 25?
    I believe in the old contract it was 2% for every year after 30 years.

  • 34 luisa chakir
    · Oct 20, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Would a teacher age 55 and planning to retire this June need to make additional contributions?

  • 35 Civil Servant
    · Oct 20, 2007 at 10:01 am

    ” The bonus plan is contingent on the 55/25 legislation being enacted in Albany.”
    What if many schools reject the bonus plan?
    This could prejudice UFT’ers in future salary negotiations.
    I am concerned that a public perception of ” teachers and staff not wanting to work together to improve education” may arise.
    Seems strange that the intended bonus to be implemented may not be implemented by design.

  • 36 NCLB: Act II
    · Oct 22, 2007 at 11:06 am

    […] “New York City is sending a clear message to the members of Congress considering the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: the way to improve schools does not lie down the road of setting teacher against teacher, but of bringing teachers together in common cause and effort on behalf of their students,” the UFT’s blog—EdWize—says in this post. […]

  • 37 karenbeth
    · Oct 22, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Does anyone have an idea when the UFT will release the details of the 55/25 plan for those who wish to “opt in?”

  • 38 afallon
    · Oct 22, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    This new 55/25 pension benefit that is sitting in the legislature is only as good as the information the teachers are given to help us understand what would happen if an individual decided not to opt in. I am 55, but only have 20 years of service. If I opted in, would it really make a big difference for me? Paying the 1.85% adds up to a nice chunk of change. We need information to help us make this decision.

  • 39 Steve Perez
    · Oct 23, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    There are a lot of good questions in this thread, and I want to thank everyone for weighing in. I know not every question got answered; the UFT Pension Department is working to get more info out there and to answer everyone’s questions, and the Secure Your Future section in the New York Teacher will have more information as it becomes available.

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  • 41 The Quick and the Ed
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  • 42 History Is Elementary
    · Oct 24, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    […] York City on mechanisms to help teachers retiring at 55 and a pilot program establishing voluntary school-wide bonuses.I Thought a Think is attempting to answer the nagging question of teacher quality.Epic Adventures […]

  • 43 TeachPeaceAndJustice
    · Oct 28, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    It seems the implication is that we are not doing the best we can and that if we receive a bonus for results, we will make sure we get the results. I work at a small school where the majority of the staff, myself included, is AT school 9 – 12 hours per day and we are constantly evaluating ourselves, our impact, our curriculum, our school culture, etc. We deserve more money; however, simply offering us a bonus is not enough. We are already working hard to improve our students. What we really need is more parent involvement, a better work ethic among more of our students, more resources for the schools, more teachers so we are not all spread too thin, etc. We ARE invested and we ARE working as hard as we can for the students. But little is going to change unless we get what we need. I resent the attitude toward teachers that WE need an “incentive”, money, to do our jobs, as if we will work harder if you give us bonuses. I’m already working harder than I ever imagined I would, and I’m not satisfied enough with all my students’ performance. Telling me to work harder, and paying me for it, means very little when I am already working. We need to be respected, better understood, and we need equitable resources.

  • 44 jd2718
    · Nov 6, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Teach P&J,

    somehow I missed your comment. I think the points you raise are important. We need better treatment. We need smaller classes. We didn’t need merit pay.


  • 45 Teacher Bonuses — How to Do it Right | Edwize
    · Nov 14, 2007 at 10:49 am

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  • 46 Laura
    · Oct 27, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    56 with 21 years of service. Decided on the 55/25 program but would like to retire at 22 years of service. What kind of percentages would I get and would I benefit at all from the 25/55 program since I am buying into it.