School board OK’s new teacher contract

Agreement covers the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

Now it’s official.

After seeing teachers ratify a two-year contract proposal on May 24 with 80 percent in favor, the Forest Lake School Board voted 6-0 with one member absent to ratify the contract covering the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. The ratification vote came during the board’s regular meeting on Thursday, May 31.

The new contract is a total package increase in pay and benefits of 5.95 percent over the two years. The settlement fell within contract parameters established by the school board, said Superintendent Linda Madsen.

The new contract is back loaded to provide members of the Forest Lake Education Association with more dollars in the second year.

The contract provides for 1.25 percent of new money in the first year and 3.4 percent in the second year. Insurance benefits covered by the school district will increase by 1.3 percent in the second year of the new deal.

The Settlement

Teachers will see new dollars in the form of compensation plus additional district contribution for family health coverage.

In the first year of the agreement, teachers will be granted lanes and step increases, but the steps including longevity are retroactive to the mid-point of the school year. Teachers currently on step 12 will receive a lump sum $500 payment.

More changes are made in the second year.

Steps and lanes remain active, but with a change. The new contract eliminates step one and creates a new step 13 by adding $1000 to the amount listed on the current step 12. The change means a 12-step schedule will be maintained.

The new deal also adds $750 to longevity year 14. The payment is for teachers who have worked in the district for 14 years or longer.

Health care increases include $75 added to family coverage in the second year due to an expected increase in the premium rates. In the first year, however, there is no increase due to no increase in premium cost to the district.

The proposed agreement involves 467 FLEA members and addresses 429 full-time equivalents who fill teaching roles.

The new contract rolls in two other labor groups who have previously been outside FLEA’s representation. The new contract includes Early Childhood Family Education teachers and teachers in the Adult Basic Education program.

The two groups include 25 to 30 teachers, according to FLEA President Tony Harris.

In the prior two-year contract, FLEA and the district approved a memorandum of understanding that would allow the two groups to become part of FLEA in the new contract period.

In the contract that expired on June 30, 2011, staff members received no salary schedule improvement. Teacher salaries were frozen in the 2009-2010 school year and staff members did not receive step and lane gains.

Teachers did get step and lane advancements in the 2010-2011 year and medical insurance increases over the contract to match premium increases.

Budget Impact

According to budget data submitted to the school board this week, the cost for regular instruction in the 2011-12 school year will be $26,893,080. That compares to the $28,639,981 spent in the 2010-2011 school year.

For the 2012-2013 school year, the cost of regular instruction is expected to increase by 4.33 percent to $28,058,195.

The total cost of regular instruction for the 2012-2013 school year is nearly $1.8 million lower than the cost of regular instruction in the 2007-2008 school year. That year saw total spending for regular instruction of $29.8 million. In 2008-2009, to provide additional historical context, the total cost of regular instruction was $29.2 million.

The decrease in overall expenditures for basic instruction is a reflection of retirements and the early retirement incentive offered to veteran teachers last year. It is also a reflection of decreases in the teaching staff due to enrollment declines.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2011.

The contract retains a memorandum of understanding that the district and FLEA will continue to work toward average compensation for teachers utilizing comparison districts Centennial, South Washington County, Hastings, Stillwater, White Bear Lake, Roseville and Mounds View.