District 189 will pay more for teachers insurance, but educators get no raise

News-DemocratApril 11, 2014 

— After two years of working without a raise, East St. Louis District 189 teachers will get a slight increase in what the district pays toward their health insurance premiums, but no salary increases.

The Financial Oversight Panel on Thursday approved a contract that runs through the end of the 2013-14 school year. It also agreed to send layoff notices to 37 district staff members effective at the end of the current school year. It was not immediately clear how many are teachers.

The contract covers last school year and the present year, and teachers will need to return to the bargaining table soon to begin working on a contract for next year.

The teachers will receive no step raises or general raises, but the district agreed to pay 3 percent more of teachers' insurance premiums. In addition, classroom sizes will remain the same; the district had pushed to increase class sizes.

Superintendent Arthur Culver said both the district and Union Local 1220 "are in a much better place because we spent a lot of time at the table and so much ground has been laid."

"We've been negotiating for two years. They really made some sacrifices for the kids in the district. They clearly understood our circumstances." And, he said district officials also had to make some concessions.

Class sizes will remain at 25 at the elementary level, 30 at the middle schools and 32 at the high school, Culver said. He said the district pushed for larger classroom sizes because of its financial plight.

While there will be no step or general raises, the district will allow increases for "lane movement," which means for advancing education.

"Anyone who advances his education will be eligible for an increase in pay for higher education," Culver said.

An important issue on the table was the teacher's insurance plan. Culver said district officials wanted to make sure the members of Local 1220 didn't have any decreases in their insurance benefits.

"They conceded step and general raises. We conceded some things as well. We wanted to make changes in the insurance, increase class sizes and hire a few less teachers. So, neither side got everything they wanted. But, both sides reached an agreement they could live with," Culver said.

There are 342 teachers in Local 1220 and a total membership of 428. All but five of the teachers are full-time. The union is comprised of teachers, teachers aides, attendance workers, nurses, clerks and secretaries.

The total contract is roughly $7.5 million to $8 million a year. With the 3 percent increase for insurance, the district will pay out an additional $240,000 a year.

Beth Shepperd, assistant superintendent for Human Resources, said the percentage cost increase in the insurance premiums for 2012-13 was zero and in 2013-14 it was 3 percent, averaging 1 1/2 percent a year.

This is the second year that there has not been any changes in salaries for teachers and the fourth year that administrators have not received raises, Shepperd said.

Meanwhile, the 37 layoff notices were sent out Friday.

Public school districts are required by law to notify teachers 45 days prior to the end of the school year whether they will not be coming back to work in the district. It is a common practice in Illinois to send out layoff notices this time of year, then hire some or all of the staff members back later, once districts finalize their staffing needs.

The panel also voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding that will pay non-certified teachers, such as teachers aides at the high school, additional money for working an extended day. That money will come from a School Improvement Grant.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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