After 10 months of negotiations, the Anoka-Hennepin teachers union and District 11 came to a tentative agreement in mediation March 31.
Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota will recommend that the strike authorization vote scheduled for April 17 be called off. Instead, teachers will vote whether to ratify a 2013-2015 contract that week.
Negotiators from both sides met for the 18th time March 31, and after seven hours came to compromises on their chief disagreements.
The two major disputes pertained to health insurance and changes to the salary schedule that would affect less-experienced teachers.
The district wanted to cap its contribution to health insurance and add another step at the lower end of the salary schedule.
“We were able to keep out that divisive extra step for newer, younger teachers,” AHEM President Julie Blaha said.
The union’s bargaining team agreed to a cap on insurance if the district agreed to provide 100 percent single coverage both years for the less expensive of two district health insurance plans, which it did.
Teachers on the higher end of the salary schedule haven’t seen pay increases in four years.
“After years of freezes, this contract really does help us turn the corner,” Blaha said.
All teachers will receive a boost of $1,000 – one-time money – in the first year of the contract.
On the salary schedule, more experienced teachers – about 60 percent of AHEM’s membership – will receive a bump of 1.5 percent in the first year and an additional 2 percent the year after.
Newer teachers will see their salaries increase 1.5 percent in the second year. New teachers will start on the second step.
That means in the next two years, teachers’ salaries will increase from $37,231 to $38,845 at the lowest end of the pay scale. On the highest end, teachers with the most experience will see their salary jump from $79,958 to $82,781.
“We are very pleased to be able to announce an agreement that we believe fairly compensates our teachers within the financial resources available to the school district,” School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said in a press release from the district. “We achieved our goal of providing a reasonable salary and benefits package for teachers while remaining fiscally responsible and good stewards of tax dollars.”
The presence of Heidemann and other school board members the last two mediation sessions “directly contributed to getting our settlement,” Blaha said. In the past, board members have not attended negotiations. “I hope that this experience has shown that [it’s] a process that should continue.”
If the teachers ratify the contract, it will likely go before the school board for approval at its April 28 meeting.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org