This blog represents my opinions and my opinions alone, and certainly doesn't represent the collective thoughts of any of the Boards or organizations that I serve on. Unfortunately I make all sorts of miistakes, I'm a picky eater, I can't sing and I just recently found out I have been spelling certain words in my vocabulary wrong my entire life. That being said, I still continue to muddle ever onward. Welcome.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Negotiations With The MGEA

An Update from the Monona Grove Board of Education Regarding
Negotiations between the Monona Grove Education Association (MGEA)
and the Board (September 15, 2010)

When did current contract negotiations start?
Negotiations began with an exchange of initial proposals on February 17, 2009. The initial proposals of the Board of Education and the MGEA are linked here.

When did the current contract expire?

The collective bargaining agreement between the MG Board of Education and the MGEA expired on June 30, 2009. However, during “hiatus,” the period between expiration and agreement on a new contract, the terms of the most recent contract constituting mandatory subjects of bargaining and which do not specifically sunset by their own terms remain in effect. Mandatory subjects of bargaining are defined, generally, as those items which primarily impact wages, hours, and conditions of employment.

Are teacher salaries “frozen” during this “hiatus” period?

No. Although the applicable salary schedule is subject to change only through negotiations, teachers receive increased pay in accordance with that schedule for each year of teaching experience in the District and attainment of professional development, both of which provide for increased salary during the contractual “hiatus.”

What is meant by “working to contract?”

Teachers voted in May, 2010, to “work to contract” in an effort to bring pressure on the Board of Education to settle the negotiations. “Working to contract,” in contrast to engaging in a “strike” which remains illegal for public school teachers in Wisconsin under most circumstances, means that teachers engage in concerted activity to perform only mandatory duties associated with their respective positions. Generally, teachers refuse to participate in voluntary activities such as extra committee work. In addition, they may decide not to attend student concerts or athletic events to support their colleagues and students unless assigned to do so.

Many teachers are paid additives to coach various athletic teams or advise student clubs. These kinds of activities continue because teachers are under contract and paid specifically for this work. Also, teachers’ presence at school open houses and at monthly staff meetings is required under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Job descriptions, Board policies, rules and regulations, faculty handbooks, student handbooks, evaluation criteria, past practices regarding expectations of duties in the District, among other things, all assist in determining the difference between mandatory and voluntary duties.

The decision by the teachers to “work to contract” is by no means a universal union strategy;
in fact, it is our understanding that teachers and other represented employees in the majority of districts do not elect to engage in such activities.

How do these negotiations work?

After the exchange of proposals occurs at a public meeting, negotiations sessions are closed. The MGEA is represented in these sessions by their bargaining team of teachers and their attorney. The School Board is represented by the Superintendent and the Board’s attorney.

Meetings are scheduled according to the ability and willingness of members of both bargaining teams to meet. When agreement has been reached on all proposals, which may include some proposals being dropped, the final agreement is approved by the MG Board of Education and by the MGEA.

If no agreement is reached, a mediator may be called in to help with the negotiations. If the mediator is unable to help both parties reach agreement, either party may file a petition for arbitration. The mediator now becomes an investigator who continues to work with the parties to reach settlement. If settlement is not reached, the investigator will conclude that impasse has been reached and will certify a final offer from each party. These final offers will then be submitted to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). A list of arbitrators is generated by the WERC, and each side alternatively strikes names from the list until one remains. That arbitrator will schedule an arbitration hearing, read briefs submitted by attorneys from both sides, and issue a decision. The decision will be to accept one party’s proposal in full. There is no combining of features from each.

Where are we in the process?

A number of meetings have been held since February, 2009, and tentative agreement has been reached on some items. However, the “big” items of base salary and post-employment benefits remain unsettled, along with some other issues. We began working with a mediator last March, and the School Board has now filed a petition for arbitration. While some issues may still be resolved, we basically await the request for and certification of final offers, the selection of an arbitrator, and the hearing date.

Why don’t School Board members participate in negotiations sessions?

Board Policy 185 and Board Rule 185 describe a standing Negotiations Committee, to be composed of no more than three Board members and no community members. Previous Boards have expressed a willingness to participate if the MGEA would agree to use a consensus bargaining model. However, that model is not being used, and the Board at the time current negotiations began, in February, 2009, voted not to participate directly in the negotiations sessions. This could change for the next round of negotiations, which is currently scheduled to begin in February, 2011.

How much do teachers make? What benefits do they receive?

Teachers are paid a base salary determined by their years of experience as well as degrees and other college credits earned. Each year of experience moves a teacher up a step on the salary schedule, (see linked document; note this document shows the “effective” schedule, incorporating hiring stipends described below) and each twelve college credits earned or master’s degree or PhD moves teachers horizontally across lanes. Teachers are obligated to maintain their respective certifications through DPI requirements or negotiated requirements, depending upon the teacher’s licensure status.

As a result of negotiations for the 2007-2009 collective bargaining agreement, the “effective” salary schedule (see link) for teachers in the District reflects a stipend being added to all cells in all columns at Steps 1 through 5. Therefore, the actual starting salary of a newly hired teacher in the District, with a bachelor’s degree and no previous experience, is $31,400, and the actual starting salary of such a teacher with a master’s degree with no previous experience is $34,940.

Under current contract language, the District can give credit for up to three years of actual previous teaching experience to a newly hired teacher in the District. In other words, effective with newly hired teachers in the 2008-2009 school year, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and three (or more) years of prior teaching experience is hired at Step 4, at a salary of $34,243.

The other substantial change which took place for all teachers with regard to the 2008-2009 salary schedule was the modification of the longevity provisions to include an experience increment raise for each year that the teacher continues to be employed in the District.

Note that the step and lane on which each teacher is placed on the schedule gives only the base salary for that teacher. Benefits paid by the District currently include full health insurance premiums and annual retirement contributions, including the employee share, to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) equaling 11% of the teacher’s earnings, as well as District-paid dental insurance premiums of up to 100% depending upon the dental plan selected. The District also provides life insurance protection and long-term disability protection for teachers, as well as payment of the employer’s share of FICA/Medicare payroll taxes.

Teachers may earn additional pay for coaching, advising clubs, and directing various co-curricular activities, monitoring after-school detention centers, substituting for absent colleagues during prep periods, etc., in addition to the salaries quoted. Note that such activities are beyond the normal 7 ½ hour (excluding the 30 minute duty-free lunch) workday.

When all of the above is taken into account, the average teacher’s salary in the District in 2008-2009 was just over $49,000. The average teacher district-paid benefits for 2008-2009 totaled almost $21,000. The resulting total salary and benefit cost, on average, was slightly more than $70,000 per teacher in 2008-2009. These averages are taken from costing documents typically reviewed by the parties during negotiations.

What was the QEO? What has been the impact of its elimination?

The QEO, or Qualified Economic Offer, became law in 1993 as part of an attempt to control property tax increases. The idea was that the QEO could enable a school district to avoid arbitration on economic issues if, after attempting unsuccessfully to reach settlement, it offered its teachers a total salary and benefit package of at least 3.8% over the prior year. All existing fringe benefits were required to remain, and the employer’s percentage of contribution toward such fringe benefits had to stay the same. With the increase in health insurance costs, it was possible that a package increase of 3.8% could mean no salary increase, since health insurance costs had to be covered.

Teachers’ salary and benefit increases were never limited to the QEO. Rather, a district could impose this package settlement if it chose to do so. Many districts continued to negotiate package increases higher than the QEO rate of 3.8%.

In the current economic climate, the elimination of the QEO (effective with negotiations for the 2009-10 school year) has not led to higher settlements than while it was in existence. In fact, during the time the QEO was in effect, teachers’ bargaining units tended to view “imposition of the QEO” as punitive, tended to view the QEO 3.8% total package increase as a “floor” for settlement, and many settlements were higher than the 3.8% total package increase.

Did Monona Grove ever impose the QEO?

No. The MGEA and the Board have always reached voluntary settlements throughout the entire period that the QEO was in effect.

What are the sticking points in the current negotiations?

Post-employment benefits and the salary-benefit package are two big items on which there is no agreement. Current post-employment benefits for teachers include a payment of a stipend (Teacher Emeritus Program (TEP)) which is equal to a teacher’s highest annual salary and is paid out over a period of three years in equal installments. In addition to this and to the regular monthly pension benefit received by the teacher from WRS, full health insurance and the major share of the cost of dental insurance are paid by the District until the retired teacher reaches the age of 70. In the event of the death of the retiree prior to reaching the age of 70, the surviving spouse continues to be eligible for the District’s group health insurance coverage until the date the retiree would have reached age 70 at the retiree’s spouse expense.

The School Board’s current proposal for post-employment benefits is proposal #6 in the Initial Board of Education Proposals to the Monona Grove Education Association (linked here). There is no corresponding initial or counter-proposal from the MGEA; its position is to maintain the existing benefits described in the previous paragraph.

The School Board’s current salary and benefit package proposal (see link) is an increase of 3.90% for 2009-10 and 3.70% for 2010-11. The MGEA’s current total package proposal (seelink) is an increase of 5.35% for 2009-10 and 5.28% for 2010-11 and includes an average teacher salary increase of 4.21% for 2009-10 and 4.07% for 2010-11. These percentages reflect what’s known as “cast forward” costing and do not include the cost of horizontal lane movement on the salary schedule or the post-employment benefit costs of retirees.

Is the Board trying to alter the post-employment benefits for teachers who have already retired?

No. In fact, the current Board proposal preserves the current negotiated benefits for teachers employed during the 2008-2009 school year and within ten years of retirement.How do Monona Grove salaries and benefits compare with other school districts in the area?
Although the Board has attempted to engage the MGEA in a study which would lead to the restructuring of the salary schedule in such a fashion as to make the hiring rates more competitive with area school districts, the hiring stipend agreement has helped in that regard. The remainder of the current salary schedule structure is very competitive, especially the feature that allows teachers to receive salary increases for each year of experience without “maxing out” at the top of a schedule as teachers in many other area districts do. District-paid Wisconsin Retirement Systems (WRS) contributions, health, and dental insurance premium benefits are among the highest in the area. The post employment benefit is, by far, the highest in the area.

Monona Grove Board of Education

1 comment:

  1. Jessica

    Many of the clubs at the High School are in fact outside of the contract and are therefore cancelled for the year. Lots of students and parents are trying to work out ways for these clubs to go on without the teacher advisor. If interested in helping that effort, I encourage folks to contact Paul Brost to see where they can pitch in to help the activities that make high school great for so many kids can continue.