On Dec. 3, the Detroit Federation of Teachers and the Detroit Public Schools announced a tentative agreement on a new teacher contract. The tentative agreement includes cutting-edge education reforms as well as financial concessions by Detroit’s teachers.
WASHINGTON—The Detroit Federation of Teachers and the Detroit Public Schools have reached a tentative agreement that reflects the urgent need to improve education while addressing the city’s dire fiscal situation.
Arriving at this point was not easy. Both the DFT and DPS entered negotiations knowing that the future of the city and its children is at stake. This agreement asks for sacrifices from teachers, given that the city’s schools could be on the brink of bankruptcy. At the same time, its educational provisions would make it one of the most progressive big-city teacher contracts of our day. Both elements reflect teachers’ commitment to raising the academic achievement of Detroit’s schoolchildren and stabilizing their city. Make no mistake—they, and their local union, are the real heroes.
Some of the provisions in the tentative agreement include adopting meaningful and constructive teacher evaluations; peer assistance programs that allow accomplished teachers to mentor new and struggling colleagues; high-quality, teacher-designed professional development; shared decision-making in school matters; and the opportunity for teachers to earn school-based performance bonuses. DPS leaders answered the union’s call to develop these reforms “with us, not to us,” and the result is a collaborative approach to implementing best practices in Detroit’s public schools.
While this agreement must still be ratified, Detroit’s educators, their union leadership and school administrators have reminded us all of what community means. Compromise, collaboration and mutual respect—as well as smart investments, even in a tough economy—are needed to bring our country back. We commend Detroit’s education community for deciding not to let itself become a symbol of urban decline; instead, it has chosen to stand for a shared commitment to a better future.