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Some Council Members Concerned About Impact Of Teacher Contract

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By Kavitha Cardoza

While D.C. Public School teachers overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new union contract, city council members still need to sign off on it. They are speaking with Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee at a hearing this afternoon. One area of concern seems to be pay for recently retired teachers.

All current teachers and those laid off last year will get retroactive pay under the new contract. But not teachers who retired while negotiations were still underway. Rhee says that's because there was a limited amount of money available.

"If we decided to include retirees and people who had left the system with the resources that we had, it would mean probably a lesser, across the board, raise for everyone because we'd have to include more people," she says.

D.C. Council Member David Catania says he will vote for the contract and the increased retirement dollars it will require the city to commit to, but only this time. He says the cost of pensions for police and firefighter payouts is more than $130 million dollars this year, which is about the same as the cost of running the fire department.

"This has got to end," he says. "Anyone who thinks this can continue, it cannot continue. It cannot continue because we have to rob the operating funds of existing revenue today to pay for what we received yesterday." "Now in a perfect world we would like all of our employees, every one of us, to receive a pension that is generous. The reality is we cannot afford it and we will be General Motors soon."

Catania also says he doesn't want money paid under the pay- for-performance plans to have implications for retirement. But Rhee says that money is what she calls is "non-pensionable."

Council members also have concerns about teacher evaluations and failing schools.

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