District public school teachers during the weekend approved a proposed contract that would give them 19 percent raises over three years but would fail to boost their salaries to the levels of suburban teachers.
Members of the Washington Teachers Union voted 1,043 to 735 to ratify the measure, which now goes to the school board and the D.C. Council, which would fund the raises.
The vote is a victory for union President William Simons, who overcame a campaign by dissident members and opposition from Parents United, the city's largest school activist group.
"There is joy in Mudville," Simons told members yesterday. "The silent majority has prevailed once again."
Parents United members say the contract proposal for the city's 6,000 teachers does not go far enough toward making salaries comparable with those in Washington suburbs. And the group protests that the proposal does not ask teachers for a longer work day in exchange for the raises.
The proposal would provide a 6 percent raise retroactive to last fall, another 6 percent raise this fall and a 7 percent raise in October 1989. It would increase starting annual pay for a D.C. teacher from $19,100 to $21,479 this fall. Simons had sought a $23,000 starting salary. Fairfax and Montgomery counties start teachers at $22,000 and will raise their starting pay to about $25,000 over the next two years.
Dissident union members, many of them supporters of Simons' predecessor, Harold Fisher, said the contract proposal would not provide large enough raises and that it gives principals too much power by allowing them to review teachers' lesson plans at any time.
Simons' opponents accused him of railroading approval of the contract proposal by speeding up the ratification process and ignoring their call for a citywide membership meeting instead of the regional meetings Simons called.
Approval of the measure also is a victory for the school board, which faces a difficult few months as it tries to move its $482 million spending plan past Mayor Marion Barry, the council and Congress. Board President Linda Cropp (Ward 4) has defended the contract proposal, the result of more than four months of negotiations, and has said that salaries can be "comparable" rather than higher than those in the suburbs.
Parents United disagrees, arguing that the District's unusually senior teaching staff -- more than a third of D.C. teachers are expected to retire in the next five years -- and the strains of teaching in urban schools make it imperative that the District offer more money than its competitors.