The school district of Newark violated key terms of a 2012 groundbreaking contract it had signed with the Newark Teachers Union, an arbitrator just ruled, and now it owes millions of dollars to public school teachers. The district was then entirely run by the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has long had a contentious relationship with teachers and their union.
The arbitrator, James W. Mastriani, released a 158-page decision that sided with the union on all seven grievances, including a failure to pay agreed-upon longevity payments worth more than $1.5 million, as well as a failure to create a committee to approve education programs, such as a graduate degree, for compensation. The union estimated that about 200 employees were affected by this, each entitled to up to $20,000.
The contract between the union and the district, signed on Oct. 18, 2012, and praised by both sides, was seen at the time as groundbreaking. It changed compensation structure and teacher evaluation, and was unique in that some of its provisions were funded by part of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the school district. For the first time, teachers agreed to have their salary based in part on student standardized test scores.
In April 2013, not long after the contract was signed, the union began filing what amounted to seven grievances alleging that the Christie administration was not living up to key tenets of the contract or of provisions that had carried over from the previous pact. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement:
“Gov. Christie and his appointees really didn’t care about respecting educators or making Newark public schools better, so they ignored the aspects of the then-new contract that enabled teacher voice and professionalism. Additionally, they out-and-out refused to honor some of the compensation provisions. Sadly, they just wanted the Facebook money, and they used state control to put testing over teaching and learning and to close schools. State control didn’t work in Newark, and it’s time for the state to get out of the business of running school districts elsewhere.”
That contract ran out in 2015, and it took until May for a new one to be negotiated and approved. The state also recently said Newark could control its own schools again after more than 20 years.
Here’s the decision: