Meridian declares impasse, ends negotiations

The Meridian School District on Monday declared an impasse in negotiations with the local teachers’ union.

This move ends negotiations for 2013-14 — and it means, on Monday, the state’s largest school district issued contracts based on its last best offer to the Meridian Education Association.

Contracts will include a $1,000 bonus for veteran teachers who are maxed out on the salary schedule, and some pay raises tied to work experience and credits earned.

“There have been several difficult years for educators,” School Board Chairman Mike Vuittonet said in a news release. “While I wish we could afford to do more, at least for the first time since 2008, we are able to do something positive for our teachers.”

The timing of the impasse announcement is interesting, however.

School districts were required to issue contracts Monday — with or without a master agreement in place.

However, districts were not required to declare an impasse. According to a recent opinion from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office, this declaration allows districts to impose their last best offer. The Meridian board declared an impasse despite a Friday evening bargaining session that saw the district and the union narrow its bargaining gap from about $12 million to about $4 million. The two sides remained split over salaries (the union wanted more money put into the salary grid, based on teacher experience) and the calendar (the union wanted a 186-day contract, while the district offered 185).

By contrast, the Nampa School District issued contracts Monday but has not declared an impasse, even after a tense bargaining session Friday. Talks are scheduled to resume July 18.

Here is the Meridian School District’s news release:

Joint School District No. 2 will issue teacher contracts today in order to meet the July 1 deadline set forth in Idaho code.  The contracts will include a one-year increase in pay based on work experience, increases for additional credits earned, a one-time $ 1,000 bonus for the district’s most veteran teachers, and the school district will also cover the increased cost in health care premiums for next year.  Teachers will also receive an additional day of pay for curriculum training and a differentiated pay “bonus” based on their school’s academic performance.

“Our highest priority is our teaching staff.  They are the heart of our business,” says Board Chairman Mike Vuittonet.   “There have been several difficult years for educators.  While I wish we could afford to do more, at least for the first time since 2008, we are able to do something positive for our teachers.”

During negotiations, the Meridian Education Association’s initial request included a four percent increase in pay for all teachers, increases for three year’s teaching experience, and a $1500 bonus for veteran teachers.

Per an opinion issued by the State Attorney General, the school district’s offer ends this year’s negotiations.   Under this opinion, a school district that has negotiated in good faith and been unable to reach an agreement by July 1 deadline may declare an impasse and issue individual teacher contracts based the school district’s last collective bargaining offer.  School district representatives and members of the Meridian Education Association met to discuss next year’s contract as recently as Friday, July 28 from 5 PM until 7 PM.  The negotiators met a total of eight times starting in February. 

Teachers in Joint School District No. 2 will be the only staff receiving a pay increase this year.  This year’s state education appropriation did not include new revenue to fund increases for classified (non-teaching) or administrative staff.

The school district has been managing decreasing resources starting in the 2009-2010 school year.  To find out more about next year’s budget, go to

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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