What's in the new Ann Arbor teacher contract?
The one-year contract gives all teachers a small pay bump, and the union and the district agree that teachers have now gotten most of the back pay they were promised when they took previous wage cuts.
The school district says the new contract also officially puts the district in compliance with recent state laws, which say that the union can’t bargain over certain “prohibited” subjects, including:
- Teacher placement (where a teacher is assigned)
- Teacher discipline and dismissal
- Teacher evaluations (what the content of those evaluations will be, and how those evaluations will impact a teacher)
The district says these laws don’t mean that these issues can’t be discussed between teachers and administrators – just that they can’t be part of collective bargaining agreements.
The board has also adopted general policies on all of those “prohibited” subjects.
For English and theater teacher Quinn Strassel, just having this contract means they’re breathing a sigh of relief.
“There was a sense of dread about going into the school year with an unclear contract situation,” he says. Having a contract allows us to focus on the stuff that we love to do, which is to teach and interact with the kids.”
And sure, he says, the small pay increase is nice.
“A lot of us have been used to taking pay cuts. So to get any increase feels like a positive,” says Strassel. “Obviously we hope for more in the long run. But right now I think teachers are feeling good that at least it’s a move upward, as incremental as it might be.”
Teacher frustration defined these contract negotiations
Teachers and their union reps say they were thrown totally off guard in the spring, when they say the district informed them it considered their contract to be up.
That frustration echoed around town, with yard signs reading “Support Ann Arbor Teachers” and emotional, angry crowds at some school board meetings.
In May, the teachers union filed unfair labor practice charges against the district, which then filed its own charges against the union.
The two sides entered mediation this summer.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says this contract shows the dedication of both sides.
“Both of our teams … invested time over the summer to lay out a plan by which we could move forward,” says Swift.
“And the agreement gives all of us a firm foundation from which we can move forward this year. All of us are reaching out to our teachers, and community, to ask that we move forward together into this next great school year.”
Swift points out that the new contract also restores the compensation teachers can earn for academic advancements, like getting a masters’ degree. Previously, teachers were only paid 50% for those advancements.