Teacher debates result in impasse

Teacher contract negotiations in three school districts across the state have resulted in impasse, while other districts have settled or are just beginning negotiations, said Jane Rupprecht, research director for the North Dakota Education Association.

Rupprecht said negotiations in Dickinson, Wishek and Turtle Lake-Mercer are at impasse. In the case of impasse, the North Dakota Facfinding Commission holds a hearing to help resolve the dispute.

“Right now the settlements are all over the place,” said Rupprecht, and issues in each district tend to vary.

The Minot Education Association and the Minot Public School Board are still negotiating next year’s contract. Their next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday in the Minot Pulic School District Administration Building. The MEA’s last proposal called for a a $3,900 increase on the base salary for a beginning teacher with no experience for the 2013-2014 school year, bringing the starting salary to $37,700.

The Minot school board proposes a two-year contract, with a $2,000 increase to the base salary in 2013-2014, bringing it to $35,800 and a $1,000 increase to the base salary in 2014-2015, bringing it to $36,800. The board would pay the 2 percent increase in contributions to the Teachers Fund For Retirement and teachers would also pay a 2 percent increase in 2014-2015. In addition, the board proposes that it would pay health insurance increases for teachers in both years of the contract, estimated at 6.3 percent for 2013-2014 and 7 percent for 2014-2015. The board also suggested some changes to the salary index for first and second-year teachers, increasing their pay. Roger Kluck, vice president of the board and a board negotiator, told teachers that he does not want to raise property taxes for local residents.

In some parts of the state, particularly in the west, Rupprecht said some school boards seem to be taking into account the rising cost of living and the need to attract and retain teachers. Others seem to be less inclined to offer greater salary increases.

Rupprecht, who taught in Velva for 28 years before taking the job at the NDEA in Fargo about a decade ago, said school districts will need to attract new teachers to fill positions left vacant by retiring veterans.

“The younger teachers seem to be a lot more mobile than my generation was,” she said.

Business managers across the state will also have to apply the new school funding formula adopted by the 2013 Legislature to the budget for the next school year. The funding formula includes property tax cuts and shifts more of the school funding burden to the state. It also increased beginning teacher’s pay, as well as the amount of combined state and local monies paid per student.