U-46 board approves one-year extension of teachers' contract
Even as negotiations continue on a multiyear teachers contract, classes for students attending the state's second-largest school district will not be disrupted this fall, officials said.
The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board voted 5-2 Monday night approving a one-year contract extension calling for a less than 1 percent base salary increase and a roughly 3 percent step increase on average.
The Elgin Teachers Association, the union representing 2,448 teachers in U-46, last week ratified the agreement, which extends the current contract through the 2017-18 school year. The extension expires Aug. 10, 2018.
A step increase refers to a teacher's years of experience, while a lane increase refers to a teacher's level of education. The agreement calls for a base salary increase of 0.94 percent with a step increase of 3.1 percent on average. No changes were made to health insurance premiums, which remain at 10 percent for the employees' share, or retirement benefits.
Jeff King, U-46 chief operations officer, estimated the cost of those step and lane increases to be between $5 million and $6 million.
School board members Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward voted against the contract extension.
Holt said he does not support the step and lane increases. "It still unsustainably grows the cost of government," he said. "I would like to see us move toward a more performance-based contract, one that would make us more competitive."
Board member Phil Costello agreed with Holt, yet voted for the contract extension until a longer-term contract could be hashed out.
"In terms of adopting a posture of trying to get the most out of the best staff and making sure that they are recognized and compensated accordingly is my overall goal, but I don't think we can do it this year," Costello said.
Suzanne Johnson, U-46 assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said officials need more time to research and work with union representatives on addressing major issues, such as teacher workload, safety, special education, and compensation for a multiyear contract.
Officials also are reviewing the potential impact of the new federal education law -- Every Student Succeeds Act -- and how fiscal uncertainty at the state level could impact school funding, she added.
Districtwide implementation of full-day kindergarten this year and the requirements of monitoring and measuring the performance of roughly 2,700 students in that program, as well as the identification and placement of special education students increases teacher workload, Johnson said.
Johnson said addressing the safety of students and staff also is a priority to ensure proper procedures and protocols are in place.
ETA President Richard Johnson called the contract extension "fair and reasonable."
"The most important part about this whole thing is kids will be back in school in August ... there will not be a disruption with their learning," he said.
For details of the agreement, visit theeta.org.