New Ann Arbor teachers contract calls for pay freeze
Faced with a projected budget deficit, Ann Arbor teachers are considering a contract with wage freezes for the first time in history.
The tentative contract is now awaiting a ratification vote from the 1,100 union members.
There's no pay raises this school year, although teachers will continue to get step increases for years of service.
And the contract has no details on wage adjustments for the 2010-11 school year. Instead, there's a clause in the contract that allows it to be negotiated in the future.
"It's a reality-based contract," said Brit Satchwell, who was recently elected as the teachers' union president. "The district can't see ahead very far when it comes to the budget. The union can't see ahead very far when it comes to the budget.
"The only thing we can predict is a projected budget deficit."
Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts agreed.
"We have no idea what the state is going to do (this) school year, much less (the 2010-11) school year," he said. "This gives us flexibility in addressing wages. We didn't want to lock ourselves in."
The 80-plus-page agreement also details other changes for teachers.
Prescription drug co-pays will be going up. But the amount of money the district contributes for teachers' health care also will go up. Teachers can choose how they want to spend that money. If they opt for the most-expensive plan offered, they'll have to pay out part of the cost. If they choose the lower-priced HMO, they'll get money back from the district.
Both sides said that when they sat down this summer to negotiate a new contract, a multi-year deal was an attractive option to bring some financial planning stability to the district and helps parents and staff plans schedules.
The district's projected finances are still in flux. The state hasn't yet determined how much per-pupil funding (the district's main source of revenue) Ann Arbor will receive this or next school year.
And a countywide enhancement millage is headed to voters Nov. 3. If it passes, Ann Arbor could get more than $11 million a year from it.
If it fails, and district projections hold true, Ann Arbor could be facing a $15 million hole in the 2010-11 budget.
In addition to pay and benefits, the agreement - which is scheduled to be voted on by union members Sept. 16 and 17 - sets the calendar for the next two years.
Several parents have noted that calendar, especially the district's midwinter break, doesn't align with calendars for the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.
A state-mandated start date of the Tuesday after Labor Day - a week later than normal - impacted the schedule, officials said, as well as a new countywide calendar for K-12 schools.
The contract also opens up the potential for other changes in the way the district does business, especially in the areas of how teachers are evaluated and merit pay.
"We felt like it's important to look at option that might exists (for merit pay)," Roberts said. "It warrants a collaborative discussion about that as we move forward."
Satchwell isn't shrinking from that discussion.
"This is public education," he said. "The public dictates the agenda. Our job is to engage that conversation as fully as possible and with as much information as possible. I think teachers have all sorts of merit. It's time for that debate. Everything is on the table."
Both committees are scheduled to report back by the end of this school year.
David Jesse covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.