Fairbanks teachers, district agree on contract; raises, more retirement included

May 13, 2019 | Fairbanks Daily Newsminer | Amanda Bohman

A tentative new contract for about 900 public school teachers provides a supplemental retirement account and a range of annual salary increases from 1% to 6.6% depending on teacher education level and longevity.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is reportedly the first school district in Alaska to agree to augment teacher retirement, which has been a top issue for the Alaska chapter of the National Education Association for years.

“I am very proud of our district. I can’t say that enough,” said Sandy Ryan, president of the Fairbanks Education Association.

Alaska is the only state without a defined benefit retirement program for teachers, who do not earn Social Security, after a decision by the Alaska Legislature to replace defined benefits with a 401(k)-style plan.

Under the supplemental retirement program, the school district will match teacher contributions up to 1% of the employee’s annual salary into a 403(b) supplemental retirement account.

Teachers will also be able to cash out personal leave to contribute the money to their supplemental retirement accounts, according to a news release from the school district.

The pending new three-year contract raises the cap on cashing out personal days from $300 per day to $350.

The negotiated salary increases are 1% for the first two years of the contract and 2% for the third year. Larger annual salary increases, known as step increases, are baked into the public employees’ salary schedule.

Step increases are based on education level and years of employment. Amounts vary. For example, a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree gets a 4.6% step increase for agreeing to stay another year, according to the salary schedule for the current school year.

A teacher with a master’s degree, special certification and 16 years with the school district gets a 2.3% step increase.

Ryan said about half of the FEA membership has maxed out on step increases, which end at seven years of service for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and 16 years for teachers with the highest education level.

The school district announced the new contract last week and made it public on its website at www.k12northstar.org/Page/8358, though the new salary schedule was not posted as of Monday morning.

“I am so proud of both teams and the positive approach they engaged in during these negotiations,” Superintendent Karen Gaborik said in a prepared statement. “They addressed important language issues, developed innovative solutions to the Tier III recruitment and retention challenges, and established financial stability for our teachers during a time of economic uncertainty in Alaska.”

Here are other new elements in the tentative agreement:

• Teachers shall have a representative present when they are subject to discipline.

• Tenured teachers can ask for “disparaging material” to be removed from personnel files kept by school building administrators after receiving a “meets standards” rating for three consecutive years.

• Teachers may write a response to discipline noted in their school district personnel file.

• The school district will protect teachers against financial loss in the event a claim is made against a teacher acting within the scope of his or her duties “inside or outside the school premises.”

• Teachers will be notified if a student is being placed in his or her classroom with a documented history of violent behavior.

Union members will meet and vote on the agreement Friday. The contract is also pending approval by the Board of Education on June 4. The new contract would run from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2022.

Read the full article on the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer here >>