Anchorage teachers’ union rejects contract proposal
Teachers at the Anchorage School District’s union have rejected a tentative one-year contract agreement reached earlier this month, after it went to a vote by members this week.
The Anchorage Education Association announced the outcome of the vote late Thursday morning. The decision scraps an agreement which had been negotiated with ASD on Nov. 15.
Tom Klaameyer, AEA’s president, said in a statement that members of the association “intend to return to the bargaining table in good faith” to work out an agreement. Neither the turnout nor the margins of the vote were announced, in accordance with AEA policy.
“The Anchorage Education Association is a democratic organization that respects and follows the will of the majority,” Klaameyer said. “Our members have spoken and we will honor the outcome of this vote to go back to the table and seek a contract that will enhance our ability to educate students.”
The agreement had included step salary increases for which three-quarters of ASD teachers are eligible, under an agreement set to expire on June 30 next year, with members in return not receiving a cost-of-living adjustment for the year. Teachers would have received an additional $65 a month in health-care benefits, more personal leave days, and an $800,000 contribution to a District Health Reserve Account used by AEA members.
Corey Aist, an Anchorage teacher speaking on behalf of the association Thursday, said teachers were "concerned" during the recent talks.
"They're concerned about their students, they're being asked to do a lot in their classroom," Aist said. "I've been to every board meeting, I've listened to all their stories and they just want to be heard."
Although AEA and the district have worked well together during the past decade on contracts, Aist said "this is a very unusual time."
"Teachers are stressed, students are stressed," Aist said. "There's a lot going on in the classroom, and we think that may be where the issues are; we're gonna go and check."
Todd Hess, the district’s chief human-resources officer, said Thursday that ASD “respects the feelings of our teachers,” despite their decision to reject the provisions made in the tentative agreement.
“All of those things we felt were beneficial for our employees,” Hess said. “Yet there just wasn’t enough to provide an additional salary increase over and above the step movement – that was almost 2 percent – that they’ve already been provided this school year.”
Asked about ASD's current compensation, Hess said he thought it was "quite competitive with other districts around."
"I also believe that we have exceeded the cost of living substantially for our teachers over the last ten years," Hess said. "I believe we have been very successful in recognizing the value of our teachers, and i would encourage anyone to take a look at the information and the data so they have a complete picture."
The district, Hess said, is "committed to sitting down and continuing the bargaining process with our teachers."
Voting on the proposal occurred Monday through Wednesday.
Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.