It’s official: Anchorage School District teachers have a new contract | By Tegan Hanlon

It’s official: The roughly 3,300 members of the Anchorage Education Association teachers union have a new three-year contract.

The Anchorage School Board sealed the deal at its meeting Monday night, marking the end of months of contentious contract negotiations. The board approved the contract in a 4-2 vote, but not before expressing several concerns. Board members Dave Donley and Mark Foster voted against the contract. Board member Elisa Snelling was absent.

“I want to thank everybody for how long and hard they worked on reaching this tentative agreement,” said board member Alisha Hilde, who voted for the contract. “I do have concerns on how it’s going to affect class sizes, and that’s something we have to address as a board.”

The contract takes effect retroactively to July 1, 2018 and expires June 30, 2021. Union members have already voted to approve it.

Here’s some of what the 73-page contract includes:

• Pay increases: Members of the teachers union are paid based on a combination of experience and how much college education they have. The union’s last contract expired June 30, 2018. Union members — including teachers, counselors and school nurses — kept working under its terms while negotiations for a new contract spilled into the current school year.

The salary schedule in the expired contract started at $48,886 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree. The new contract agreement adjusts the salary schedule in the current school year so union members receive an additional experience step, retroactive to July 1, 2018. That means the salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree will bump up to $50,213. Teachers who have topped out of the salary schedule will get a $1,300 “in lieu of step” this school year.

The school district will calculate the retroactive salary increase for each union member and average it out over the remaining pay periods of this school year, according to Todd Hess, the district’s chief human resource officer.

In the 2019-20 school year, the base pay of the salary schedule will increase by 2 percent, followed by another 2 percent increase the next year. So in 2020-21, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree will earn $52,242.

• District increases its contribution to health care costs: The district will contribute $1.9 million to the union’s health reserve account this school year to offset premium increases. Next school year, the district will increase its contribution to a union member’s health insurance premium by $50 per month, bringing it to $1,695 per member per month. There will be no change in 2020-21.

• Additions to “academic freedom” section: Union members “have a professional responsibility to meet student learning styles and differentiate instruction,” new contract language says. Members are only required to submit lesson plans if they’re on a growth or improvement plan, or if there’s a previously documented performance concern. They can provide students with additional time for physical activity “in keeping with school schedules and district expectations and state requirements.”

The new contract will cost an additional $22.6 million over its three years, the district’s chief financial officer has said.

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