Several school districts in the Brainerd lakes area have only 11 days to settle contract negotiations with teachers or face a loss of state revenue or possibly a teacher's strike.
The Pine River-Backus School Board and its teachers have reached an impasse in salary negotiations for the 1999-2001 school years. The district sent letters home with students today explaining the latest on the negotiations between the district and the Pine River-Backus Education Association.
Brad Winn, a Pine River Elementary teacher and a PREA negotiator, said that the association's 90 teachers will meet Wednesday to discuss the latest offering by the district. They have not submitted an intent to strike with the state.
"(A strike) hasn't been talked about whatsoever," said Winn. "We have done nothing in that regard. We're still hopeful that the negotiating process can continue."
The letter released by the Pine River-Backus School District said the school board's last proposal included a 7 percent total package increase, or a total cost increase to the district of $316,810. This includes insurance and step increases and wage increases of 2 percent in 1999-news and a 2.5 percent wage increase in news-2001. The district also accepted the PREA's proposal of a $315 contribution to group health and life insurance costs.
The district's proposal also added 1.5 hours per week of additional teacher duty time to address professional duties, staff development and training. Pine River-Backus teachers now have one of the shortest duty days at 6.8 hours, which includes one hour of preparation time, when compared to the 19 other comparison school districts both side agreed to use during negotiations. This additional time would help avoid sending students home following lunchtime for early dismissals as a result of staff development and training.
Pine River-Backus teacher's proposal included two options: a 10.8 percent total package increase, or a $491,380 total cost increase to the district, with no additional teacher duty time or a 13.1 percent total package increase, a $601,728 total cost increase, with 10 minutes per day of additional duty time. The first option includes a 4.5 percent wage increase in 1999-news and a 4 percent wage increase in news-2001. The second option includes a 5.5 percent wage increase in 1999-news and a 5.5 percent wage increase in news-2001.
Superintendent Randal Eckart said salaries for new and senior Pine River-Backus teachers currently range from $26,319 to $46,001. The average salaries for teachers in 19 similar schools is $25,245-$43,509.
If an agreement isn't reached by Jan. 15, the district stands to lose $36,000 in state aid.
Aitkin, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, Crosby-Ironton and Little Falls school districts have yet to submit a settlement to the state, but it is likely these districts will make the Jan. 15 deadline.
Crosby-Ironton Superintendent Bill Makinen said the district is still in the process of arbitration. Both parties agreed on Dec. 30 to use a state arbitrator. By Jan. 14, both the district and teachers will submit their final proposals to the arbitrator who has 60 days to decide which proposal will be used. The issues that have yet to be settled involve salaries, insurance and coaches' salaries. Since they agreed to arbitration, teachers lost their right to strike and the district will suffer no loss of state revenue.
Aitkin Superintendent Ed Anderson said today that the district and teachers have reached a tentative agreement. Teachers will be voting on that proposed wage package on Jan. 10. The school board plans to also meet Jan. 10 to ratify that settlement if it is reached.
Little Falls School District has settled but the agreement has yet to be signed. Wording still needs to be worked out on a portion of the settlement, said a school representative.
W-H-A Superintendent Boyd McLarty said the district is close to settling with its teachers, but waited until after the Christmas break to resume negotiations.
The Brainerd, Pequot Lakes, Pillager and Staples-Motley school districts have all settled with their teachers.
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