Quiet negotiations season leads to a variety of teacher raises

(UPDATED, 10:12 a.m. June 22, with more details and comments from the Idaho Education Association.)

Facing a gap of about $1.4 million, district and union negotiators are scheduled to go back to the bargaining table Monday.

Idaho’s third-largest district has held nine negotiating sessions since March, and is trying to come to terms on salaries and the employee grievance process.

But the Nampa School District is an outlier this year. Across Idaho, most large districts have master agreements sewn up, well ahead of a new budget year, which begins July 1.

The relatively smooth process comes as the state rolls out the fourth year of the career ladder, a five-year, $250 million plan to boost teacher salaries. And it runs counter to a national backdrop of unrest, as teachers from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Arizona have gone on strike this year, demanding higher pay.

As executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association, Karen Echeverria has an inside track on the negotiations process, since trustees ultimately have to approve master agreements. “We definitely got less questions this year,” she said this week.

The Idaho Education Association says negotiations went more smoothly this year in two larger districts, West Ada and Coeur d’Alene. But the teachers’ union says it is watching some districts closely — especially those that are trying to use the framework of the career ladder law as their salary schedule, instead of negotiating their own salary plan and using the state’s increased funding to cover the costs.

Nampa isn’t the only district still at the bargaining table, working through salary issues. That’s also the case in New Plymouth — a community divided by a public dispute involving trustees, outgoing Superintendent Kevin Barker, the local teachers’ union and a prominent local business leader.

Meanwhile, negotiations in the Mountain View School District have turned testy, and talks are on hold until July, the Idaho County Free Press reported.

July 1 is not a negotiations drop-dead date. It’s not uncommon for districts to continue talks into the summer and even beyond, while educators remain on the job. Nampa has already sent out teacher contracts for 2018-19, and in most cases, the contracts simply reflect the 2017-18 salaries, district spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck said this week. When the district reaches a deal for 2018-19, teachers will receive new contracts reflecting their new salaries — and retroactive checks to cover raises that went into effect at the start of the contract year.

Here’s a roundup of agreements from around the state:

West Ada. The state’s largest school district settled on a contract that will fold an additional $6.1 million in state money into the career ladder. Teacher pay raises will average 6 percent, with raises ranging from 3 percent to 11.6 percent, district spokesman Eric Exline said.

Boise. Teachers will receive a 3.5 percent pay raise, and the district will continue to cover medical, dental, vision, life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance for eligible employees.

Pocatello. District and union negotiators reached an agreement in May. The agreement includes a 4 percent across-the-board teacher pay raise.

Bonneville. The 2018-19 agreement includes a 3.8 percent across-the-board increase in the salary schedule.

Idaho Falls. Teachers will receive at least a 3.2 percent pay increase in 2018-19, and raises will average 6.4 percent. Full-time teachers will also receive a one-time $500 bonus in November, and the district will restore a paid professional development day in August.

Coeur d’Alene. The 2018-19 agreement increases teacher salaries by 1.5 percent and classified salaries by 1.75 percent, while the district absorbs a 3.2 percent increase in health insurance premiums. The district also hopes to address a substitute teachers’ shortage by boosting daily pay and providing bonuses to substitutes who work more than 16 days a month.

Twin Falls. The career ladder’s salary schedule puts more money into the lower rungs of the pay scale, and Twin Falls’ agreement reflects the state’s policy. Increases in Twin Falls’ salary schedule range from 0.5 percent to 4.9 percent, with larger raises going to newer teachers working their way up the career ladder.

Caldwell. A year ago, it took most of the summer, and two sessions with a federal mediator, for district and union negotiators to cut a deal. This year, negotiators were finished by the end of May. Teacher salaries could increase by $1,600 to $3,200, based on experience and education, and veteran employees could receive longevity and loyalty stipends.

Vallivue. The 2018-19 agreement will help some employees move through the district’s salary schedule, Superintendent Pat Charlton said this week. During the recession, Vallivue froze salaries for two years. The district reversed one year of the freeze in 2017, and this year’s contract reverses the other year of the freeze.

Lewiston. The 2018-19 agreement includes a 3 percent base salary increase. The district will cover employees’ health insurance premiums, and at least 80 percent of the cost of premiums for dependents.

Cassia County. The proposed agreement would boost steps on the salary schedule anywhere from 1.2 percent to 4.6 percent. Teachers who also move up a step on the salary schedule would stand to see larger pay increases. Trustees are expected to vote on the proposal Thursday.

Blaine County. Teachers stand to get a 1.25 percent pay raise. The district eliminated the first two lanes of the pay schedule in order to start new teachers at a higher salary, Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes said. The district agreed to pay increases in health insurance premiums, while employees agreed to pick up a share of their contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho.

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]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday