Janesville7.9°

Tentative agreement between teachers, district detailed

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
March 13, 2008
— The teachers union president expressed optimism this morning that members would ratify the tentative agreement between the Janesville School Board and the Janesville Education Association.

“I’ll go out on a limb. I think it will pass,” JEA President Sam Loizzo said. “… I think it’s a contract people will vote for, and I hope people will realize the alternatives are not all that great.”


Details of the contract were released to teachers this morning, and a news conference was held to tell the public.


If the union ratifies and the board approves in April, this would bring to an end the longest teacher-contract negotiations process in the Janesville School District since the state changed the rules for bargaining in 1993.


“All in all, I think everybody won in this,” school board member Lori Stottler said at the news conference at the Educational Services Center, where both board and union leaders spoke.


“I think we have a very fair contract out here,” Stottler said.


Loizzo agreed: “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was a fair contract.”


Teachers would begin paying premiums for their health insurance for the first time starting Sept. 1 if they vote to ratify. Some teachers have expressed concern that paying premiums opens the door to premium increases in the future.


Any premium increase would be the subject of bargaining on future contracts, noted Jennifer Fanning, co-lead negotiator for the teachers.


Board member Kevin Murray thanked the teachers’ negotiators for agreeing on premium payments.


“That was a huge step, and I know the taxpayers will be very grateful for this,” Murray said.


Dave Parr, the teachers’ other lead negotiator, said a “yes” vote is not a sure thing.


Two meetings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, March 26 and 27, for teachers to discuss the contract. The ratification vote is set for Wednesday, April 2. The school board would consider approval Monday, April 8.


The salary increase is 3.31 percent per salary-schedule cell this year and 3.5 percent next year.


Those percentages are a minimum, Parr noted.


Manager of employee relations Angel Tullar said 372 of the approximately 840 teachers would receive the minimum salary increase unless they advance on the salary schedule due to additional college credits.


The average pay increase is 4.87 percent this year and 4.73 percent in the second year, Tullar said. Those percentages do not include pay boosts for educational advancement.


While educational advancement increases teacher pay, teachers must pay for their college classes, Fanning noted.


Tullar said the highest pay increase without educational advances is 6.64 percent. The highest in the second year is 6.84 percent.


Teachers also would see an improvement in in-service training. Teachers long had complained about the irrelevance of many in-service sessions. They wanted them ended.


Instead, they’ll have to attend only one in-service per month instead of two.


Replacing the lost in-service will be a system in which teachers design their own professional development plans that focus on their particular needs.


Parr said the contract package does not constitute a cost-of-living increase, something for which teachers had pressed.


It would have been a cost-of-living increase if it had been settled a year ago, but costs of living have risen “dramatically” over the past year, Parr said.


“I’m very excited that a long and stressful process has had a positive ending and a big sigh of relief as well,” said board member Amy Rashkin.


“Even though this took a lot longer than we had planned, the process worked,” Murray said.


Contract detailed

Key provisions of the tentative 2007-09 contract agreement between the Janesville School Board and Janesville Education Association:


-- Salary—An increase of 3.31 percent in each cell of the salary schedule this year, 3.5 percent in 2008-09.


-- Premium payments—Starting Sept. 1, teachers who participate in the district wellness plan would contribute $17 for a single or $43 for a family per month. A teacher who does not join the wellness plan contributes $46 for a single or $115 for a family. The wellness plan would consist of a health risk assessment.


The payments equate to about 3 percent and 8 percent of the premium cost, said Angel Tullar, manager of employee relations. The board at one point in negotiations had asked for 5 percent and 10 percent.


If the district takes a premium holiday—when it does not pay into its self-funded health plan because claims are lower than projected—employees would have a premium contribution holiday.


-- Prescriptions—A three-tier formulary requires co-payments of $5, $15 or $30, depending on cost of the drugs. This replaces the current system: $5 for generics and $10 for brand name drugs.


-- Co-payments—A $100 deductible for lab work, hospital stays, surgery and emergency services is removed, Tullar said. Deductibles of $300 for a family or $100 for a single remain in place for some other medical services.


-- Early retirement benefits—always a key concern for teachers—won’t change. The benefit sunsets June 30, 2009, and becomes the subject of bargaining in the next contract.


-- A new “lane” is inserted in the salary schedule, between the pay level for a master’s degree plus 30 college credits and the Ph.D. level. The new lane is for a master’s degree plus 42 credits. About 30 teachers would benefit from the change when it takes effect next school year, Tullar said.


-- Teachers licensed after August 2004 are under a different licensing system than older teachers. They would move up the salary schedule under terms agreed to in the tentative agreement. For example, instead of earning six post-graduate credits in order to move into a new salary lane, teachers must complete a “professional development plan.” A master’s degree still would be required, however, before the newer teachers can move into that pay grade or any level above that.


-- Summer-school pay, which has been $18.70 an hour for many years, now would be tied to the hourly rate figured from the bachelors’-plus-12-credits pay level. This summer, that equates to $22.03 an hour, Tullar said.


Provisions

Two provisions in the tentative contract for Janesville public school teachers would affect parents and students:


-- Early-release days would be eliminated. Now, students are released at 1:30 or 1:40 p.m. on the second Monday of the month, and teachers attend in-service sessions from 2-5 p.m. Starting next fall, students will be released at their regular times while teacher in-services will be 3:45-5 p.m. once a month.


A second monthly in-service day is eliminated.


-- As a pilot project, elementary school parent-teacher conferences would be held on a different date than middle and high school conferences in 2008-09. Unless the two sides agree to continue the change, conference schedules would revert to the current arrangement in subsequent years. That affects only spring conferences, as fall conferences already are on different dates.


The provision is meant to help teachers attend their own children’s conferences.



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