Teacher contract talks break down

Salary, insurance derail negotiations

Posted: Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Contract talks between the Juneau School District and the teachers' union disintegrated Monday night, with representatives from both sides saying they will need outside help to reach an agreement.

Take-home pay and benefits were the sticking points, said Carol Shurson, president of the Juneau Education Association.

"It's salary and it's health insurance," Shurson said. She said she is not a member of the bargaining team and could not discuss specific goals.

Superintendent Peggy Cowan, speaking for the district's bargaining team, said the district "offered what we believe is a fair and generous three-year compensation package for our teachers."

For 2006-07, teachers would get a 2 percent increase to their base salary and a 3 percent "step" increase, which moves teachers to higher pay scales based on years of teaching experience and education level. Salary increases would have been slightly higher for the next two years.

Shurson said the step increase wouldn't have applied to about one-third of Juneau's teachers who have at least 18 years experience and therefore are already at the top of the pay scale. That point, however, isn't a major obstacle in the negotiations.

The offer rejected by the union called for a 6.8 percent increase in the district's contribution for teacher's health insurance costs. Next year's insurance costs haven't yet been determined, Cowan said.

The current two-year teacher contract will expire at the end of June. Salaries range from $35,644 for beginning teachers to $68,657 for the most experienced and highly educated.

Both sides have agreed to mediation.

"The district is hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to settle through mediation," Cowan said. The district is looking for a three-year contract, she added.

The rejected offer would have increased salaries by 2.5 percent, plus the 3 percent step, in 2007-08 and 3 percent, plus the 3 percent step, in 2008-09. Insurance contributions would have been 6.4 percent in 2007-08 and 6 percent in 2008-09.

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