The new collective bargaining agreement is still not formally approved, but significant progress was made.
The meeting took place on Friday January 19th when the union, the district and two mediators began talking about a new CBA.
It was a marathon conversation that did not finish until 3 am Saturday, but they found common ground on salary, benefits and other language items.
“In our contract this time around we were able to get the best increase I would say ever since I’ve been a teacher and its been many years,” said Val Holthus, Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota President. “First year we got five percent and the second year we got three percent. We were also able to reduce our contract and make it shorter so it doesn’t take as many years for a teacher to get to the top of the pay scale.”
Both parties will vote on the deal in mid-February.
Said Holthus: “I think our teachers just want to put this behind them so that they can do what they do best.”
Happy with proposed CBA
If it’s a yes vote the contract goes to the school board for final approval. Holthus is happy with the proposed CBA.
“One of the things I’m most excited about with our contract this year is we got early childhood family education teachers onto our regular pay schedule,” Holthus said. “We have negotiated that year after year but we’ve never been able to do it.”
Student to teacher ratio is a major concern in the district and Holthus believes it affects academic performance. However, the union was unable to convince the district to shrink class sizes.
“That was a very concerning item for us,” Holthus said. “We weren’t able to negotiate class size however we were able to allow additional pay for Special Ed teachers with very large case loads.”
Holthus has been a teacher and knows how much time goes into the job.
“If you add up the amount of hours during the school year, divide it by the number of days in a work year, they’re working way past eight hours a day,” Holthus said. “If you average it out that theory of getting summers off doesn’t hold water. Plus a lot of teachers during the summer, they either teach summer school or they take professional development.”
Before the tentative agreement was reached, Anoka-Hennepin’s 2500 plus teachers were in a work to rule situation.
“Work to rule is you work to the rule of your contract,” Holthus said. “If your duty day starts at 7:20, you walk into the building at 7:20. If your duty day ends at 2:40, you walk out at 2:40. You don’t bring work home and you don’t do anything extra that you don’t get paid for. That was to bring attention to all the extra hours teachers put in.”
So the clock is ticking. There is optimism both sides can seal the deal. If they can’t?
“We go all the way back to square one,” Holthus said.
The range of pay for an Anoka-Hennepin teacher before this CBA was 46 to 98k per year. Holthus is hoping a new CBA would keep current teachers and make it easier to find new ones.