Teachers sign new contract

Pact boosts pay schedules, district's contribution to health insurance

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2004

Juneau teachers on Friday afternoon ratified a proposed two-year contract that gives them raises and more money for health insurance.

The Juneau School Board is scheduled to vote on the contract Tuesday. It would become effective this school year.

Teachers had threatened to strike if they didn't get a tentative contract before the new school year started.

Representatives of the teachers union would not say what the winning margin was, but Juneau Education Association President Tracy Rivera said not all teachers were happy with the agreement.

The 340-member union represents teachers, counselors, psychologists and other specialists.

"A lot of teachers aren't happy with it," he said after the vote in the Juneau-Douglas High School commons.

"We were hoping for more, obviously, but it's a fair contract that we came up with with the district," he said.

In the first year, the contract increases rates on the salary schedule by 1 percent, and it allows eligible teachers to move up the schedule for added years of experience or college credits. Moving up a step adds 3 percent to their pay.

About a third of teachers are at the highest pay level and don't move up the schedule. The contract adds an additional 1 percent to their pay rate. That change to the pay schedule was "huge," Rivera said.

The contract also increases the Juneau School District's contribution to health insurance premiums by $50 per person a month.

In the contract's second year, eligible teachers will move up the salary schedule at the beginning of the school year. But halfway through the year, teachers will move onto a new salary schedule with pay rates 3 percent higher than before.

The one exception is teachers at the highest rate, who will average a 1.25 percent increase for the year.

The second year of the contract also increases the district's contribution to health insurance premiums by a further $50, to a total of $735 per person a month. Teachers now pay about $158 a month toward their premium.

Under the contract, teachers' pay will range from $34,606 to $67,313 this school year. In the first half of next year, pay will be $34,606 to $67,650. In the second half, it will vary from $35,644 to $68,664.

Teacher Debbie Hull said that still leaves Juneau teachers underpaid compared to those in other urban districts such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, Sitka, Unalaska, the Mat-Su borough and Skagway.

Hull said it's hard for Juneau to compete for new teachers. Her student teachers can have $40,000 in college loans to pay off and other personal debt, she said.

The negotiations reached impasse in the spring because the district, facing a budget deficit of about $2 million and layoffs, wanted to freeze pay. A mediation also failed to produce a contract.

After the state Legislature increased spending on schools for next school year, which also triggered a higher city appropriation, the district was able to sign two-year contracts with raises for administrators and support staff.

The district and teachers undertook a nonbinding arbitration, but teachers reopened negotiations before the arbitrator issued the report. The cost of the new terms in the teachers' contract is $1.9 million over two years, said Patti Carlson, the district's human resources director.

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