Bonneville Joint School District officials and their teachers ratified this year’s master agreement after nearly five months of negotiations.
The two sides began negotiating in April, but reached an impasse and called in a mediator who helped strike a tentative deal last week.
Even though the two sides in Bonneville – the state’s fifth largest district – were unable to reach an agreement before the fiscal year began July 1, they were able to come to terms before the school year began.
Classes will begin on Tuesday in Bonneville, a district that serves about 11,000 students in parts of Idaho Falls and the city’s surrounding communities.
Terms of the deal include:
- Restoring elements of the salary grid the Legislature froze during budget cuts.
- Providing one-time longevity bonuses for experienced teachers. Teachers with 15-19 years of experience will receive $750, teachers with 20-29 years of experience will get $1,000 and teachers with 30-plus years of service will receive $1,250.
- Continuing a policy that has the district pay the health insurance premiums for full-time teachers. Health care costs were estimated to increase 12 percent this year, but the district will not pass those costs along to teachers.
- Adding 200 minutes of planning time into each five-day week for elementary teachers.
Deputy Superintendent Marjean McConnell said restoring cuts to the salary grid moves teachers back to what they should have earned without the freeze that affected two years of experience on the salary grid.
“Most everybody will get something,” McConnell said.
Keith Leppert of the Bonneville Education Association said teachers had sought to include provisions relating to reductions in force within the master agreement, but were unable to do so.
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a law that says seniority cannot be the only factor in reduction in force decisions.
“The root of all this comes from bad legislation really trickling down and having an influence on what goes on in schools,” Leppert said. “We made it clear we wanted some things put back in the master agreements that we had for 40 years prior.”
Both McConnell and Leppert said the debate over what labor and bargaining provisions belong in master agreements versus what belongs in policy was a major factor in extending negotiations.
Although the reduction in force issue did not make its way into the master agreement, McConnell said a professional council group made up of Superintendent Charles Shackett and Bonneville Education Association members meets monthly to discuss such issues.
“We do try be proactive,” McConnell said. “The policy is not a closed process, it’s an open process.”
Leppert is a high school math and algebra teacher who coaches football and has worked in the district since 1990. He said teachers were able to make progress with grievance procedure issues they were concerned about and believe they have an avenue for discussing reduction in force issues going forward.
But he said the lengthy negotiations process was “strained” at times.
“We think an experienced teacher is something a school should want that might be critical,” Leppert said. “We would like it to be part of the consideration in (reduction in force) decisions, but the state obviously feels otherwise.”