ETA Moving Forward

Members of the ETA have had an amazing 2 weeks. We have processed 50 pages of contractual changes, debated, reflected and ultimately rejected the agreement as presented. Of course it does not stop there and we continue to discuss and look for solutions that will make sense for everyone. The Representative Assembly has approved our team to continue the conversation at the table and they will be guided by the direction of the membership. We will continue to seek improvements to improve the learning environment for all.

The language of the first TA will continue to be reviewed as well.  Of course class size and compensation have always and probably will always be issues. With limited resources, teachers need to know what the district true priorities are for spending now and in the future.

We have never bargained a hard cap for classes. We know it is a complex issue. Sites need flexibility due to differences in available space, the needs of students, and the changing curriculum, and legislative requirements for ELL and Special Education all impact those numbers. Our Class Size Letter brings additional adult assistance when the District exceeds the guidelines they have set, so students receive needed services. The TA only made minor adjustments for our primary grades which was the ETA top priority. For the first time we were able to add Secondary PE classes to the Class Size letter. The ability to appeal overloads still exists and gives voice to our concerns, but it does not provide for any specific solutions. The TA did not address what will be the solutions moving forward if funds do become available.
The compensation covers many issues, but clearly the salary step movement is not a simple increase. Teachers that are eligible to move on the schedule will receive an increase. But there were approximately 60 members that would again see no increase under this agreement and at least another 15 that would have received less than $100 for this school year. The higher percentage increase is occurs in the first 3 Steps of the schedule where salaries are lower.  The only way for members to gain a lane increase is for them to have paid for graduate credit courses, successfully completed the work and submitted proof to the District. While we can use historical data to estimate that movement, the changes in certification, staff demographics, and other factors can influence those estimates. We also continue to pay insurance increases as determined through actuarial set premiums and our District Insurance Committee manages the plan to hold down costs. Our collaborative work in the past has saved the District plan millions of dollars and we want to honor that process.

While it seemed that we both had similar issues in regard to the structure of the school day, we continue to disagree on how to plan and implement any needed changes. Perhaps the complexity of trying to manage all that might happen with Springfield simply made it impossible to feel as if either party were really committed to the deep look at comprehensive changes. We all know that the future is uncertain. That does not mean that we stop planning for what we know are the right changes. Agreeing to work together to create a road map to the best school day is what we all want. But to implement real reform, we need plans that acknowledge all the challenges, limited resources, and impact on our community. For that plan then to succeed, we need true consensus. It could be that needing a default model to force either side to an artificial change can only be viewed as an inability to acknowledge the real work that needs to be done first.

And while we may have contractual language that allows teachers to share their professional opinions, we have experienced negative consequences in doing so. We wish we did not have to bargain things like classroom safety and formal venues to allow us to speak up about our professional responsibilities. But if we can improve the learning environment for our students and all our staff, then we will continue to support those efforts in this agreement. As long as the District is willing to come to the table for open conversation, so will the ETA.

Comments

  1. During this whole process it seems that ETA rarely if ever made clear to their teachers—and the press–about the considerable fund balance U-46 is carrying forward from last year. I am sure most teachers (and I’m thinking some ETA negotiators??) have no idea what dollars are available for raises, more staff, insurance, etc. This info needs to go out to teachers, and the press, immediately.

    As of the June 30, 2011, U-46 financial audit show (pg. 55), U-46 has a SURPLUS of cash of $29,383,790 in the Education Fund and a healthy $89,925.088 in the Working Cash fund. The board can abolish the working cash fund and place it into the Education fund. So total dollars available for education purposes, including raises and reducing class size, and additional staff is actually $119,308,878.

    Remember, you had over 600 teachers vote for this awful contract. You need to get them, as well as the community on your side. Making public this financial data will help ETA move forward. Also, get rid of the awful 29.2.1 The Termination Clause. This will be a DISASTER for teachers. No negotiation team should EVER agree to something like this. The board can re-open this contract at any time withour union approval? If anything, the openers need to be a JOINT decision, not just the Board. If this TA passes, this clause will become your greatest nightmare.

  2. First, I would like to thank our team for the countless hours put into the process of collective bargaining. Second, in regards to the TA that was presented to the members I felt it was much too open ended. So much of it was an “if…than” statement. A contract should hold certain guarantees. In addition, I felt there were not enough informational meetings held to explain and answer questions and concerns about the 50+ page document that contained extreme changes never before encountered. For the next TA I would like to see more time given to the membership to study the document and have enough time to have questions addressed. I do not think anyone wants to feel rushed into a decision that we have waited to make since last May.

    Finally I would like to commend our membership for continuing to do what we do best, with or without a contract, which is pour our heart into our teaching. I wish the best to the team that will continue this work on behalf of all of us.

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