Saturday, June 20, 2009

2009-11 Teacher Contract Details; Board Votes on Monday

On Monday June 22, the agreement between SPEA (teachers union) and the school district comes before the school board for a final vote. That vote is likely a formality. And with only several days to see the parameters, it is unlikely any residents have =even looked at the contract, let alone will come out and address it.

Links to Contract Agreement and Costing Details

A review of the contract details yields the following key points :

  • Teachers receive a 7.0% increase over the 2-year deal. A 4.2% salary increase for 2009-10, and a 2.8% increase for 2010-11.

  • The average salary per teacher raises 7% from $47,469 to $50,840.

  • Retiring teachers gain a "golden parachute": a $6,000 (maximum) lump sum payment for those that, prior to October 15, 2009, declare retirement at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

  • An increase upon receiving a PI-34 license.

  • No increase in the percentage cost of health and dental insurance paid by teachers. This contract caps teacher share of health insurance costs at $400 per year for a family and $150 per year for an individual. The school district covers $14,223 per family and $5,472 for a single plan. Note also that the employee can cuts its costs in half ($200 and $75 per year) if they agree to participate in a Health Risk Assessment (paid for bu the district). For reference, the average state worker pays over $1,000 per year towards their health insurance costs and the Governor has indicated that they will pay a larger share in 2009-11 contracts.
Questions you might be asking:

(Q) Hey! How come this contract calls for a 4.2% salary increase in 2009-10, but the "QEO" only calls it a 2.80% raise?
[A] Good eyes! That's because, for QEO consideration purposes. both the salary and the fringe benefit increases are calculated as a percentage of the TOTAL compensation package.

(Q) So is that why the fringe benefit percentage increase is so much different than that calculated for the QEO basis?
[A] Absolutely! In fact, the difference is far more pronounced (3.24% vs. 1.0% for the QEO) because everything is calculated on a "total package basis".

(Q) Could you explain this total package basis one more time? It seems important.
[A] For the QEO, it IS important (of course it appears that the QEO officially dies sometime between July 1, 2009 and July 1, 2010). Increases have to be assesses relative to the TOTAL cost of salary and benefits. In the SPASD, fringe benefit costs represent about 44% (on average) of salary costs. Do a little math, and that means that salary costs are about 2.25 times that of fringes. That means that the "pie" often referred to by the school board is one that is cut into 3.25 pieces, with one slice (~ 30%) being fringes and 2.25 slices (~ 70% of the pie) representing salary.
This explains why an overall salary increase of 4.2%---when expressed in terms of the QEO-- is called a 2.8% increase. Similarly, a 3.25% increase in benefits--in QEO terms--represents only a 1.0% increase.

(Q) Does this contract represent a "QEO offer"?
[A] Technically, yes, it appears to meet the minimal requirements to avoid arbitration.

The $2,964,930 question
Because that's what this contract costs the district (and taxpayers) over the next 2 years, a 7.75% increase over 2008-09 costs.

Will the school board approve this contract? Sheee-ahhhh! 3 board members (McCourt, Stackhouse, and Diedrich) negotiated it. All they need is one more. So, of course they will. Note that Terry Shimek should (and likely will) abstain from the vote because his wife is a teacher.

The school board will approve the contract of course, but perhaps Terry Shimek's comments at a recent Finance Committee meeting are most appropriate here. We lack an exact quote, but Shimek commented that this is one year when the district should pursue a sub-QEO offer.

We appreciate Mr. Shimek's candor in that remark. Yes, the downside of making a sub-QEO offer would be that binding arbitration would likely ensue. Would the arbitration cost us? Sure. But we think the chances are good, given the economic climate

Should the school board approve this contract? Now THAT is the gorilla in the room, isn't it?

Do we support teachers? Absolutely? Do we LIKE this agreement? No. Why? For a handful of reasons.

(1) It raises the teacher base (minimally), but does nothing to stop long-tenured (off the grid and far down the salary "lane" ) from taking up most of the increase. Remember: 4.2% of $30,000 means that newer teachers will only see $1,260 next year, or about $850 after taxes. Those making $60,000 or more will get $2,520, or more. Something has to be done about accelerating increases early in a teacher's career and then slowing the percentage down later in their tenure. Some may not like this concept, but all will agree that giving a $6,000 increase (4.2%) to someone that already is making over $145,000 (Hint. Hint.) is ludicrous. Who's hurting these days? The ones making the big money? Or is it the ones making $30K? Bottom line: an entry level teacher gets a $423 increase (1.32%) in 2009-10 and a $99 (0.32%) increase in 2010-11. We hear all this talk about wanting to attract and retain good teachers. 1.39% and 0.32% increases aren't going to attract good teachers. Sure...once you GET them....if they stay 20 years, this contract could be very lucrative. But you can't retain what you don't have.

(2) People are losing jobs left and right. Those that don't lose their job are accepting pay CUTS. State employees are being furloughed 8 days in each of the next 2 years. That equates to a 3% salary REDUCTION. In addition, they losing a 2% raise which was already provided in the LAST contract. That's a 5% salary reduction. How does THAT compare to a 7% INCREASE?

(3) The state budget also cuts aids to schools by 3.5%. Sure, the QEO is being repealed, but the revenue caps are NOT. That means school districts will have to pay for this by cutting programs...not raising property taxes. Repealing the QEO is not a solution. It's only PART of a solution to fundinging our schools. And it should have been retained until a complete solution could have been identified.

(4) This contract was settled too early. How many other school districts have negotiated contracts? Nearly all are waiting to see the final state budget. In addition, by jumping early, we lack the vision of what stances other school districts are taking in their negotiations.

Dear Teachers:
SP-EYE DOES value what you do. We would love to support this contract for you. Unfortunately it comes at a time when everyone else is losing ground. Can you rationally step back and say, when everyone else is seeing cuts, that you--more than any other profession---deserve a 7% raise over two years and not pay a penny more for your benefits?

We understand that this agreement is actually very good for you, and in your place, we would want it as well. Sometimes, however, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

You can hate on SP-EYE if you like, but we're just sayin' what everyone else is thinking. We're just upfront enough to say it.