Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mediation Session #3

The AHEM and district negotiations teams met today for our third mediation session. Our team believes we made enough progress to suspend Work to Rule effective immediately.  At Monday's special Representative Assembly and Executive Board meeting, our bargaining team will recommend that we postpone discussing a strike authorization vote until after our next mediation session.

We and the district team will schedule an additional session at the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services over our spring break.  We will update the results of that meeting on our website at

We believe that our members' work played a major role in our progress today.  Your showing up and taking action is deeply appreciated. 

We still have work to do, but today was a step in the right direction. We will keep you posted,

Your AHEM Bargaining Team:
Paul, Jay, Vicki, Tom, LeMoyne, Val, Duane, David, and Julie

Monday, February 24, 2014

Statement to the School Board at the 2-24-14 Meeting

School Board Chair Heidemann, Board Members, Superintendent Carlson, guests. My name is Julie Blaha and I am the president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, our teachers union.  I am joined by the AHEM Negotiations Team, colleagues, fellow union members, and neighbors:

It’s time.

Our contract is 239 days over due.

And we are not alone. There are seven groups that are over seven months overdue for a new contract in our district. You may approve a one-year contract for Interpreters tonight. Custodians are 359 days – almost a year – overdue.

We are doing our part to come to a fair, reasonable settlement.

·      We started by making our bargaining process truly open. We met in the evening so more people could observe. We shared our proposals publically all along the way.
o   Despite that transparency, Superintendent Carlson’s last interview in MinnPost regarding bargaining shows you all are not up to speed on what actually happened during those twelve sessions.

·      We made offers based on your own budget assumptions. Then we double checked to see that your plans were affordable. (They were.)
o   You responded with economic offers that would continue years of take home pay that has remained unchanged or even dropped for many of our teachers.

·      In November, we came here and shared our concerns about lack of progress and asked you to join us at the table.
o   You offered a Meet & Confer, which is an informal meeting, but weren’t willing to join us at the bargaining table where decisions are actually made.

·      We sent you over 2,000 postcards highlighting our above average student achievement results that deserve the recognition of a fair, competitive contract.
o   We have heard no response.

·      We filed for mediation.
o   After two sessions, we (as in AHEM) have made real movement at the table. Apart from shifting things around, your position is virtually unchanged.

·      We began to working to rule, where we withhold the many voluntary activities teachers do above and beyond their normal duties. That is one of the most wrenching actions teachers can take.
o   Again, no response.

We are running out of options.

We don’t understand why we are in this place when our district’s financial situation is improving and academic performance is on the rise.

·      Our district has unprecedented reserves, $94 million dollars at last count – that’s about 23% of our budget.  The National Association of State Budget Officers recommends 5%-15% in a fund balance. We are well beyond that.

·      School funding finally turned the corner at the legislature. We are seeing an increase of about $13 million over the period of our contract.

·      Your staff is delivering above average student achievement results. Our scores are above average in every subject and at every level.  We were singled out for our progress just two weeks ago by the Star Tribune.

All of that should add up to a reasonable settlement.

Yet, if we were to accept your current offer, we would be taking one of the worst settlements in the state. That just doesn't add up.

·      It is time for serious offers that make real progress toward a settlement.

·      It is time to budget in a way that puts people before fund balances.

·      It is time to recognize the significant progress we are making for our students.

We are doing our part. It is time for you to do yours.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mediation Session #2

We met with the district team and mediator from about nine to noon today at our office. In mediation, we can't go into detail but we can tell you this: the district made a financial offer that had some compensation shifts from one area to another.  However, it was virtually unchanged in total value from their last offer.  We are deeply concerned about the lack of progress today.

Your support of our team has been invaluable - we appreciate it.  See you on Monday!


Your AHEM Negotiations Team: Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, Jay, Tom, Val, and Julie

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Affordability of Our Offers

Our proposal of 2.5 percent increase in the salary schedule each year while maintaining current benefits was not only based on the idea that it is a fair, competitive offer, but that it is also reasonable given our district’s financial situation. Here are the main ideas that make our package affordable:

New Funding
Improved funding from the Legislature has helped several districts increase pay for their teachers.
·       The basic funding formula increased for all districts
·       New state funding for all-day, every-day kindergarten will free up money we now put into sites that already have it
·       The Legislature increased a compensatory education pilot for the Anoka-Hennepin district
·       Impact: $7.7 million available

Fund balance history from our district's most recent audit
Appropriate Fund Balances
The professional organization of school finance officers says school districts should hold reserves of 5 percent to 15 percent, with larger districts safely able to maintain the lower levels.
·       Currently, the district has 7 percent to 9 percent of our funds in the unassigned fund balance, which is one of several such fund balances
·       District fund balances have been rising steadily over the past six years to point they are outpacing the state average in both sheer size and rate of growth
·       Impact: $15.8 million available

The district overstates the cost of our package
The district artificially inflates the actual value of our compensation package through the use of the “cast forward” method of predicting future costs.
·       Thirty positions in our unit are paid for by Q-Comp
·       Thirty positions that will be cut next year are costed against our package
·       An estimate of 10 percent increase in health care costs is not likely
·       Retiree savings, conservatively based on our past five-year history, is $30,000 each for at least 75 retirees. Currently, the district only considers $25,000 savings for 50 teachers
·       Impact: Reduces district estimate of package costs by $8 million

Our Fair Share
In creating our proposals, we are mindful of the many needs and obligations of our district.
·       Teacher compensation and benefits currently amount to 61.5 percent of the district budget
·       Our proposal would maintain that share of the budget.
·       By keeping our request reasonable, other employee groups and programs will be able to access increased funding
·       Based on our calculations, our proposal is not only affordable, it leaves additional funds available for other proposals like class size / case load reduction, substitute relief for special education teachers, and increased pay for hourly subbing
·       Overall Impact: These ideas covers costs with $5.8 million to spare

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wednesday, February 6 Session Cancelled Due to Illness

Due illness on the district team, today’s mediation session was cancelled and rescheduled for Friday, February 21st.  Our February 27th session is still on the schedule as well.