Addison District 4 OKs 4-year contract with teachers: What the final terms are

Addison Elementary District 4 and its teachers union have signed off on a new four-year contract that will provide annual 4% salary increases and the same health insurance plan benefits.

The pact ends months of sometimes bitter negotiations between school board members who declared an impasse in talks and union members who inched closer to the district's first strike in nearly 30 years.

The Addison Teachers' Association ratified the agreement Monday and the board followed suit Wednesday night with its unanimous vote. The union represents 327 teachers, speech pathologists, media specialists, social workers and psychologists who work in seven elementary schools, an early learning center and a junior high.

The school board's last offer called for a five-year contract with annual raises of 3%. In its proposal submitted to the state's Educational Labor Relations Board, teachers sought raises of 5.25% for this school year, followed by annual increases of 5%, 4.75%, 4.25% and 4.25%.

Both sides mutually arrived at the 4% increases during an Oct. 23 meeting, according to Superintendent John Langton. Bargaining teams met on and off throughout the day, at first for what began as an informal discussion. But the talks yielded enough progress to come to an agreement the day after several hundred teachers and their supporters held a rally.

Teachers had been working under the terms of an expired contract since the end of June.

"The Addison teachers are pleased that we finally have a contract. The support we received from our community has been fantastic," association co-President Bob Wojtas said in a statement Thursday. "Our community knows we put our students first and it is because of this reason we did not want to stop pushing to negotiate a fair contract."

Union members employed by the school district before July 1 will receive the 4% salary increase this year and each year of the contract. New members' wages are based on a starting salary of $45,699 and then a 4% salary increase this year and each year of the agreement.

A first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree received a $44,803 starting salary under the previous contract. The new starting salaries will be $45,699 in the first year of the contract, $46,613 in the second, $47,545 in the third, and $48,496 in the fourth.

Teachers who earn their master's degree will receive an additional $2,250. The district also will award teachers $1,250 for every 15 semester hours they complete of approved, graduate-level coursework. Those amounts remain unchanged from the previous contract.

The district will provide the so-called educational advancement increase up to 30 semester hours past a master's degree.

As for health insurance, teachers enrolled in family PPO plans will pay 40% of premiums, while the district will cover 60%. The district will cover 85% of premiums for teachers signed up for the PPO plan as single members.

Teachers with families who choose an HMO plan will contribute 35% of the premium. For single coverage, teachers enrolled in an HMO will contribute 15%.

The contract adds a surcharge - starting at $250 in the second year, $375 in the third year and $500 in the fourth - to encourage teachers' spouses to use health insurance coverage available through their employers.

Over the course of negotiations, teachers drew attention to the district's substantial reserves and staff turnover, arguing that the district was losing good teachers to higher-paying jobs in nearby communities.

The 2019 Illinois Report Card, released Wednesday, shows the teacher retention rate in the district is 87.3%. One of the district's elementary schools - Fullerton - spent $9,890 on per-student costs, among the lowest of DuPage County schools.

Of the district's roughly $47 million budget surplus, Langton has said $35 million has been set aside to repair and renovate its schools over the next five years. Most of those buildings date to the 1970s or earlier. The fund balance, Langton said, will allow the district to make those improvements without asking taxpayers for more money.

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