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.