Union negotiations with the district are wrapping up. Although more meetings were scheduled, the teams agreed this past Monday was their last meeting, unless the union team doesn’t like the final touches in the proposed contract the district will send today. As you know from our prior summaries, the teams have already worked out many of the topics the union wanted to change, including regaining time off for union work, collaborative decision making processes and leave time.
You might remember the new board cut in half the number of nurse hours that staff had recommended in order to make sure there is adequate nurse coverage in our schools and instead increased the dollars going to compensation. They also ignored the recommendations from hundreds of school accountability committees to increase funds available in the classrooms and instead allocated those dollars to compensation increases. As a result the union and the district have been deciding how to allocate $9.5 million in one-time funds and $16 million in on-going funds (read our story).
The last couple of weeks have been spent determining how the union wanted to allocate both the ongoing and one time funds the board set aside for compensation increases. As expected, the union got what they wanted, the biggest of which was returning to treating teachers like widgets. In fact, the result of the negotiations is that teachers who were rated highly effective are going to get smaller raises than those who were rated effective.
The tentative agreement the teams have reached (it will need to be approved by both the board and the union membership) puts all educators salaries back on a grid of steps and lanes (see finalized schedule below). In order to meet the union demands, this means that every single teacher will be placed into a “salary-cell” based on years of experience and education. The formula that places teachers into a grid will look at the teacher’s current salary and education level and then place them in the salary cell above what they are currently making. This is an attempt to make sure everyone gets at least a little raise and it will give educators who were rated effective larger raises than those who were rated highly effective.
If a teacher has been in the district for less than 6 years, then that teacher will also move up one step level, which gives an additional increase in on-going compensation to those teachers in Jeffco who have been here the shortest periods of time. Those raises range anywhere from 2% to just under 10%. We have heard from many upset teachers who received a highly-effective rating in the last two years, who will now see teachers rated effective getting far greater raises, in order to even-up the playing field.
The union team made certain to point out during the negotiating meetings that teachers who were at a lower starting salary coming into the grid placement due to their “effective” only rating, will now catch-up with teachers who have a higher salary that resulted from a “highly-effective” rating in the last two years (listen to the audio clip.)
The increase percentages of raises varied widely and have nothing at all to do with performance. The union made it very clear that they wanted NO differentiation in raises based on performance, to the extent that any sentence in the contract that had the word “performance” in it was removed.
The cost of a lock-step compensation model and to place everyone back on a grid is $3.65 million, and to give a one-step increase to those that have been in the district less than 6 years is an additional $4 million. Teachers who have been in the district longer than 6 years will be placed into the next highest salary cell based on their education level and current salary now. Those teachers will then receive a one-time stipend that will get them to a total of 3 % – 4% increase. Again (with years of service and education being equal), this catches up any teachers who received effective ratings to the same salary level as those who received highly-effective ratings in the past two years.
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Highly-effective teachers are expressing disappointment over being treated worse than widgets by the union, which is supposed to represent their interests, and although some teachers are blaming the problem on the W-N-W board, others are quick to point out it was under the leadership of Kerrie Dallman and Cindy Stevenson that the district stopped paying for levels of education. In fact, it was the W-N-W board that reinstated the practice of considering a teacher’s level of education when considering salaries. (Check back here for our next article on how the union wants the district to catch up teachers who have gotten more education but not yet reported the additional hours.)
The W-N-W practice of offering higher compensation to teachers in hard to place positions also stays in the proposed new grid formula, with teachers in hard to place spots getting pay as if they had up to three additional years of experience. It is unclear what will happen to that teacher’s salary if he or she moves out of a hard to place position and into a regular teaching position. The district had proposed language in the contract to address this, but the union quickly wanted it removed. Will a teacher close to retirement move into a hard to fill position just to pad their retirements, even if they are not the most qualified for those positions?
In addition, the union rejected the district’s request to give up to nine years of experience to teachers wanting to come to Jeffco, settling instead on only giving six years of experience. This will make it hard for great teachers who either left Jeffco or who have spent their career in another district to come to Jeffco as they will only get credit for up to six years of experience.
Parents, what do you think of the union not wanting to reward those teachers that go above and beyond for your kids? Knowing that their pay raises will not be tied to anything other than continuing their education and years of experience, what will happen to those high effective teachers who liked being financially recognized for their hard work? Will they go to Denver or Douglas County where great teachers get great financial rewards?