The MGEA has ratified the contract agreed to earlier today by the board. This contract is for the 2009-2011 school year and will expire June 30th.
The contract mostly maintains the status quo to allow us to complete the year in an orderly fashion even if the current budget repair bill passes. Hopefully it will give us enough time to deal with the implications of the yet to be released state budget and make layoff and staffing decisions with enough knowledge to minimize disruption. The same is true of senior teachers with the option to retire. It also minimizes risk: in the absence of a contract we would be governed only by the complex state statutes if the "budget repair bill" becomes law, and there is a risk that any disputes would end up in litigation without this settlement.
The agreed upon contract provides for 0% salary increase in the first year (2009-10) and 1% in the current year. This is significantly less than inflation and saves the district money relative to what had been budgeted. Given that the MGEA would retain the right to negotiate salaries up to the rate of inflation under the "budget repair bill' this is probably a deal for the district. A teacher who started in the district this year with a bachelors will receive $31,695 in salary (including the new teacher stipend), a teacher with a master's and 16 years experience will receive $51,717.
The contract makes no movement on our OPEB ("Other Post Employment Benefits") liability, but because it only extends through June and it was unlikely we would have made changes to the retirements retroactive this won't impact the bottom line.
The long sticking point over the negotiations to this point has been the OPEB liability. The MG district has OPEB benefits that are much higher than our peer districts. The major cost was due to generous retirement health care benefits which were first negotiated decades ago at a time when health care was cheap. The rapid growth of health care costs had not been anticipated. The other part of the OPEB benefits is the TEP - a payout equal to the one year's salary. The TEP was originally implemented to reduce district costs by encouraging higher paid senior teachers to retire, however the high costs of health benefits in retirement now makes this less of a deal for the district.
It is past time to adjust these OPEB benefits to be more in line with other districts': The board's proposals did reduce the OPEB benefits considerably, by $200K or more per teacher - and as such were understandably difficult for the MGEA to swallow. Although we hadn't reached an agreement (and were in the process of arbitration) I feel we had made significant progress and both sides were finally at least reading from the same page. These issues will have to be resolved by the board or in negotiations (depending on what happens with state law) during the next biennium.
I do feel that this agreement has been reached at the point of a gun, and that is not an environment conducive to developing the cooperative relationships we need to move forward. But I do want to thank Superintendent Gerlach and the MGEA negotiations team for the difficult work necessary to move this forward in the last few days.