Ann Arbor school board ratifies contracts with 3 unions that will save district $3.4M
The Ann Arbor Board of Education ratified contract agreements with three collective bargaining units Wednesday that will bring a total savings of $3.4 million to the district next fall.
The agreements with the Ann Arbor Education Association, the AAEA Paraeducators and the AAEA Office Professionals were negotiated throughout the past several weeks, as district officials look for ways to cut $17 million to $20 million from the budget for the 2013-14 academic year.
The unions and the school board approved the agreements ahead of Michigan's new right-to-work law that takes effect Thursday. The law says unions cannot mandate dues from employees they represent; however, contracts ratified before March 28 may still include language that requires workers to pay fees for the duration of the contract.
Board members around the table at Wednesday's regular meeting expressed their appreciation for these bargaining units' willingness to step up to the plate and help out.
"The units spoken of tonight have shown the great love and respect that they have not only for this district, but for the students under their charge," said school board President Deb Mexicotte. "They have recognized that we share ownership of these students and of our successes, and that we share ownership of our challenges. They have ratified tentative agreements that have brought them additional sacrifice in terms of salary, in terms of furlough days and in terms of other adjustments they've made to their compensation and to their workloads
Superintendent Patricia Green also expressed her gratitude, acknowledging these concessions are not easy and can be painful and emotional. She saluted all of the union leaders for "stepping it up and going out to their rank and file and saying, 'We all need to be in this together.'"
"All of these discussions are not things that, under normal circumstances, anyone would be asking anyone to do," Green said. " The fact that people are willing to recognize a need and say, 'How can I help? How can we do this?' is truly one of the most remarkable things about Ann Arbor."
District officials have said they are looking at pay cuts across the board this year to help balance the budget and are in the process of negotiating with the remaining district unions.
The agreement or memorandum of understanding for the teachers union contract includes the following:
- A 3-percent salary reduction for all teachers for the 2013-14 academic year. All teachers will continue to move up the salary scale on schedule.
- New MESSA insurance options for teachers that will coexist with the current health care offerings at no additional cost to the district. MESSA is a Michigan Education Association insurance provider.
- A slightly revised district calendar for 2013-14.
- Amendments to language in the "association rights" and "association security" sections of the union's master agreement that affirms the union has the right to collect membership dues and protects it from right-to-work legislation. This language is effective immediately, according to the agreement, and continues through June 30, 2016.
- The reinstatement of a curriculum council with teacher involvement. An administrative curriculum council was created this school year, but the memorandum states the parties agree, "Duplication of effort is counter-productive."
- The development of a science teacher and administration problem-solving group to address science class size issues and overfilled science labs.
In lieu of deciding to cut salaries by a certain percentage, the AAEA Office Professionals and Paraeducators unions agreed to take four and six additional furlough days without pay, respectively, for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
Both of these unions also bargained for new MESSA insurance options and added additional language pertaining to association rights and security, which, like the AAEA, is effective immediately and continues through June 30, 2016, as well.
The AAEA Elections Committee reported 91 percent of the teachers union's membership participated in the voting process last week. Union leaders decided not to publicly divulge the margin of votes, explaining to AAEA members in an email Wednesday, "These are challenging times."
Union President Linda Carter thanked all of her teachers during Wednesday’s board meeting for the support and concern they showed for the district. She said in her 25 years in union leadership, she cannot recall there ever being such a high voter turnout.
"The overwhelming numbers of members that participated in voting for the tentative agreement is evidence that Ann Arbor teachers care about the future of Ann Arbor Public Schools' community. Teachers want to have their voices heard and teachers want to be part of determining what is best for the students they teacher," Carter said in a statement to the board, prior to trustees ratifying the agreements.
" Spring is the time of awakening. Let's come back after spring break stronger than ever and ready to battle and overcome the challenges that are ahead. Together we can do this!"
Carter declined Wednesday to answer questions from members of the media. She did say that although the union had an ongoing contract and right-to-work rules are not supposed to affect existing contracts until after they expire, the union leadership did not want to "take the risk" and decided to bargain additional language ahead of the new law anyway.
The memorandum ratified by the school board Wednesday does not supersede or replace the agreement between the AAEA and AAPS dated June 14, 2010, in which AAPS is obligated to pay back $4.5 million owed to the teachers union for money the union saved the district in the 2010 budget cycle. This contract only can expire once the $4.5 million debt is repaid.
According to the agreement, if there is a decrease in the district's total general fund revenue from one year to the next, the pay scale for teachers remains the same. If there is an increase in revenue however, and the district's fund balance increases to at least 10 percent of the district's expenditures, then 75 percent of the general fund revenue increase must be allotted to employees in the form of health benefits or salary scale increases.