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Board Statement Regarding Negotiations

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Community Update: GAEA Negotiations

The GA Board of Education and the GAEA have been engaged in negotiations for a new contract since April, 2018. The parties have met six (6) times since then and have made significant progress on bargaining wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. The parties came to a  “tentative agreement” about the current school year calendar on June 15, 2018.

Package Proposals. The GA Board has consistently made “package” proposals, meaning that the GAEA’s rejection of a package component results in a rejection of the package. Nonetheless, the parties have informally reached a “meeting of the minds” on almost all components of the Board’s package, which include many counterproposals made by the GAEA. But, until the entire package is accepted, the parties do not have a formal agreement.

Teacher Performance/Step Increases. A key component of the Board’s package proposal is to link teacher performance to annual step increases and lane changes. The GAEA, however, refuses to agree to this component, even though the Board has modified its proposal. The Board’s most recent bargaining proposal only provides that a teacher rated “ineffective” will not receive a step increase for that school year. The GAEA has rejected that proposal.

Salary Schedule. The current GAEA salary schedule has 20 steps, with the minimal increase being  $ 640.00 (between BA steps 1 and 2) and the maximum increase being $ 2,562 (between MA steps 11 and 12). Historically, teachers typically receive a step advance each year (unless bargained otherwise), regardless of performance. So, under the current system, a teacher who is rated “ineffective” receives a step increase just like a teacher who is rated “highly effective”. The Board’s proposal results in the ineffective teacher not receiving a step advancement.

School Code Requirements. Since 2010, the Michigan Revised School Code requires school districts to consider job performance as a “significant factor” in determining compensation and additional compensation for teachers and administrators. MCL 380.1250. Some districts use a complex merit system, whereby teachers must attain certain accomplishments, above and beyond the performance evaluation system, to receive a certain “bonus pay.” Other districts simply give teachers a small amount of cash or a gift card if they are rated effective or highly effective. 

The GA Board has proposed a wage-based approach linked to performance to meet the law rather than the bonus pay approach. First, as shown in several research studies, the bonus pay approach does not have an impact on raising student achievement. Second, rather than waste precious District resources on a small “bonus”, the Board prefers to include this bonus money in the teachers’ salary schedule, thereby raising teachers’ salaries over their lifetime of earnings. 

Not a Prohibited Bargaining Subject. Community members may have heard that the Board is negotiating a prohibited bargaining subject. The Board does not believe that to be true. While teacher evaluation is now a prohibited bargaining topic and is addressed through Board policy and not the GAEA contract, we are not bargaining about the process by which a teacher is evaluated.  Instead, we are looking at the manner in which a teacher earns his/her salary steps. Determining how a teacher earns steps or lane changes is a mandatory bargaining subject.

In fact, if the Board’s proposal was truly a prohibited subject, the Board could implement it unilaterally without the GAEA’s agreement. The Board does not believe that to be the case since the proposal addresses the mandatory subject of wages.

Is this a GA Issue? To be sure, the language proposed by the Board is not an idea that started in Galesburg-Augusta. Other school districts around the state and in Kalamazoo County have language in their contracts describing how a teacher obtains salary step advancement: 

The Vicksburg School District has the following language in its teacher contract: 

"C. PERFORMANCE EVALUATION. A teacher shall advance vertically to the next incremental step on the salary schedule or shall remain at the maximum level thereof so long as said teacher continues to receive an effective or highly effective evaluation. In the event said teacher recieves less than an "effective" evaluation, said teacher shall not be advanced vertically on the salary schedule until such time as an "effective" rating is received."

The Gull Lake Community Schools District has the following language in its teacher contract:

"A. A teacher will be eligible to advance to the next step on the salary schedule upon completion of two (2) consecutive semesters with a performance rating of "effective" (or higher) on the lower salary schedule step..."

The Climax-Scotts district has similar language:

"4.14  Salary Steps.  Subject to Schedule A**, a teacher shall advance to the next salart step automatically upon the satisfactory completion of each two (2) semesters of instruction. 

Salary step increases and eligibility for salary steps will require an effective or highly effective overall rating on the teacher's most recent evaluation." 

Bargaining Status of this Issue. The Board has listened to concerns raised by the GAEA and have responded with language changes over the course of the bargaining sessions. Our last proposal which is posted on our District’s website, states: a teacher who is rated “ineffective” on his/her most recent evaluation will not receive their salary step or lane change. 

Teacher Evaluation. Only a small percentage of a teacher’s evaluation is tied to student test results. It is statistically impossible for a teacher who is successful on our District’s teacher evaluation model (which is based on best instructional practice) to get an “ineffective rating” as a result of State testing data, even if that data portion is 20%, which it is currently slated to be. Section 1249 of the Revised School Code addresses the legal requirements for teacher evaluation and can be reviewed at this link.  http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-380-1249-amended

Teacher Effectiveness. Every Board member, as well as our superintendent and building administrators, share the goal to have highly effective teachers in every single classroom for every single child in our District.  Our children deserve nothing less. Today, all our teachers are rated effective or better. 

As required by law, a teacher rated ineffective will be placed on an improvement plan and will receive additional support and assistance to meet goals to become an effective teacher (and, to once again continue to advance a step on the salary schedule). It is our commitment to have nothing less for our students.

Each Board member wants to see our teaching professionals receive the proposed pay raises sooner rather than later.  Michigan law, however, prohibits retroactive payment to school employees for the raises they would have received if the new contract had been in place before the school year started. Each day that goes by is another day our effective and highly effective teachers are not earning these proposed wages. 

Links to the both team’s proposal as well as other items from the Board’s package proposal for which the negotiation teams have informally agreed upon can be found here:

Board Schedule A Proposal ~ Updated 9/27/18

Board Schedule A Proposal ~ 9/6/18

Board Schedule A Proposal ~ 8/17/18

Board Schedule A Proposal ~ 8/7/18

GAEA Proposal ~ Updated 9/27/18

GAEA Proposal ~  9/10/18

GAEA Proposal ~ 8/17/18

GAEA Proposal ~ 8/7/18

Other Items in the Package Proposal where agreement has been reached informally