Monday, October 28, 2013

AHEM Negotiations Team Statement to the School Board, 10.28.13

Chair Heidemann, Members of the Board, Superintendent Carlson, and all those who have gathered to observe.

My name is Paul Goupil and I am the lead negotiator for Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, our district’s teachers union.

I am here with an invitation to the next contract bargaining session between our district and our teachers.

As you know, this round we have decided to open school employee contract bargaining in a new way. 

Instead of keeping our work private, we have opened up the process.  Our proposals and agendas are shared publically on our website and we have invited our members and neighbors to attend the meetings in person.

Over the past nine bargaining sessions attendance has increased steadily, to the point that we have needed to move to larger rooms.  Interest is high, and growing.

We are reaching a crucial point in bargaining. Virtually everything is now on the table. We have come to some small agreements on language items. Both sides have made economic offers, and the teachers have made some economic movement.

However, the district side has now made three economic offers, none of which have changed in value. Any increases to one kind of compensation have come with equal decreases in another compensation area.  In total, the district offers have the same effect on teachers as our last settlement of a soft freeze. All of this despite an improvement in district finances.

We don’t want to get bogged down in simply rearranging offers. Bargaining needs to be more than just pushing veggies around the plate to make it look like you’ve eaten your broccoli.

So what’s missing? We have increased transparency, teacher involvement, and communication.

The one thing missing is you. We invite you to attend our sessions. In the past, when we’ve had difficult problems, we’ve solved them by all coming together and working toward a solution.

It’s time for that now.  We hope to see you at our office, 4:45 pm, November 6th. Thank you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Session #9, October 23rd, 2013

We began our session with a description of the funding structure of Adult Basic Education and Early Childhood Family Education programs from district Community Education Director Steve Kerr.  We asked a number of questions about their intentions regarding putting ABE/ECFE teachers, who are on a significantly lower pay schedule than the rest of our unit, onto the regular salary schedule. Kerr responded that the state funding has not kept pace with increases in costs.  We also asked if the school board had any intention to subsidize these programs like they do other underfunded priorities. They do not seem to be planning to use general fund dollars to bolster these programs, despite the high returns on investment for this kind of education. 

Next, the district team made an “alternate economic offer”. They proposed adding an additional step between Step 11 and Career 1 that would split the increase a member normally gets as they go into the career steps.  The money saved from lengthening the contract this way would be used to fund an increase on the career steps of 1.25% the first year and 1.55% the second (they still propose no salary schedule improvement on the earlier steps).   

The district confirmed that this proposal includes no real improvement over their last offer, it simply rearranges where the money is placed around the schedule. That was the same situation in their last offer, so though this is their third proposal, there is effectively no change from their first offer. You may remember that the first offer only had money added onto the career steps that was taken from a reduction in district contributions to our health care premiums. 

In summary, we have had three economic offers from the district that are effectively the same value as our last settlement, despite an improvement in district finances.

The district team also presented a couple of language items. The first was a response to our communication time idea. They shared a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding six hours of communication time at the secondary level for addition to the contract. One of the AHEM team’s concerns was that those hours were used with varying levels of success. We would like to see any communication time be at the discretion of the teacher so it can be tailored to each educator’s specific assignment. Both sides acknowledged that there needs to be more work on a solution at the elementary level.

The district also introduced an item that would provide exceptions to current seniority rules. They would like to see those with training in International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, AVID, Reading Recovery, Project Lead the Way, College Concurrent Enrollment, Music Teacher area of specialty focus (winds, strings, choral), and/or other mutually agreed upon programs be able to be retained in the case of layoffs over teachers with more seniority. Though the categories are new, the district has introduced similar language for the past several rounds.

After a short caucus, the AHEM team confirmed that we agreed to the new positions the district proposes adding to the contract in Appendix B.  We decided that we will respond to the economic proposal at our next meeting November 6th, 4:45 pm at the AHEM office.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Session #8, October 2nd, 2013

On Wednesday, October 2nd, we met for our eighth bargaining session this round at the AHEM office.  The AHEM team began by presenting language on class size and caseloads.  Basically, we worked from numbers set in state statute, professional organizations, and our current stated class sizes. Based on that, we proposed codifying specific caseload limits in our contract. For class size, we proposed paying teachers who have class sizes over district stated averages and/or have a total of 150 students all together, an additional 20% of their salary.  The district was seeing the proposal for the first time, so they did not have a response.  The did indicate they were not interested in bargaining items like class size size, caseload, or caps on the number of sections for elementary specialists. Those are each permissible, but not required, subjects of bargaining. We responded that if there were items in that list that the district was not willing to agree to, particularly the state mandated caseload limits, those are areas where we have a problem.

We then discussed open items to check on the status of the district response. You can see a list of each open item below.

Regarding our economic offer, it was our turn to respond. Because we were so far apart on health insurance, we decided to offer to drop our request to increase district contributions to family coverage if they would rescind their decrease in funding single coverage and freeze on future contribution increases. Essentially, we would be at our original goal of protecting current health insurance benefits and keeping current contribution levels and language.  The district team responded with another explanation of their offer, but not a formal response.

We concluded by setting tentative agenda items for the next meeting of district reponses to open items, an explanation of why the school board does not want to add ABE/ECFE teachers to the regular salary schedule, and our response to their substitute leave changes.

The next sessions will be Wednesday, October 23rd,  4:45 – 6:45 pm, at the ESC; and Wednesday, November 6th, 4:45 – 6:45 pm, AHEM Office. Hope to see you there!

Here is the current side by side of open proposals:

AHEM Proposal
District Proposal
Salary Schedule
·       Step and lane movement both years
·       2.5% increase on all cells both years
·       Place ABE/ECFE teachers on the salary schedule with a 2.5% raise
·       Step and lane movement both years
·       1% increase on career steps the first year, 1.5% increase the second year
·       For ABE/ECFE teachers, first year increase the top step only by 1.5%; second year increase all steps by 1%, except for the top step which would increase by 1.5%
Health Insurance
·       Maintain current health insurance contribution amounts and current language regarding how increases to premiums are handled
·       Freeze current district contribution rates at this year’s amounts. If there are future increases in premiums, members would pick up entire increase
Leadership Pay
·       Create a Leadership Pay Task Force to review ESA/Coaching/Leadership pay systems and make proposals we can use in the next round of bargaining
·       Increase pay for all ESA, Coaching, and Leadership positions by 2.5%
·       Eliminate pay levels E and F, and move all those positions to level D
·       Addition of some new positions
·       Addition of some new positions
·       No increase to ESA, Leadership, or Coaching positions
·       Eliminate Level F and move those positions to Level E, and increase the pay for Level D.
·       Define Planning Time in the contract as unstructured, continuous time during Work Shop Week and at the end of trimesters
·       Add three planning days
·       Designate ten hours of conference time as Family Communication time to be used at teachers’ discretion
·       Offer six days of work time for special education teachers to complete due process paperwork during the year, with substitutes relief if needed
·       Eliminate all extra duties for traveling teachers
·       Cap the number of elementary specialist sections at 42 half hour blocks (or 21 hour blocks) per week
·       Include caseload caps spelled in state law to our contract (using Minnesota rule 3525.2340.
·       Cap caseloads not defined in state statute at 25 students
·       Cap caseloads for Speech/Language Pathologists and Occupational/Physical Therapists at 40.
·       For those teachers who class sizes exceed 24 students in elementary, 25 students in middle school, 29 students in high school, or 150 students total, include an compensation equal to 20% of their current FTE.
Other Language Items
·       Eliminate Sub Deduct Days
·       Increase the number of personal days from three to four
·       Create Substitute Leave where time off can be earned by subbing for colleagues during prep time
·       Include grandchildren as family members for whose care leaves can be used
·       Extend parental leave to mothers
·       Add tech specialists at program sites as we do at elementary schools
·       Add pay for members of the Staff Development Committee at Level C
·       Change the name of the Math Club to the more accurate Math Team.
·       Create a “monitor” position with a stipend of $500 for online classes at the new StepAhead virtual school
·       Responded to our Substitute Leave idea with some modifications
·       Editorial changes regarding buy back language and site names
·       Editorial changes to bring us into compliance with the new marriage equality law
·       Change how we label union correspondence put in members’ boxes and how we use Association Leave.