On Tuesday and Friday, we met with the School Board Negotiation team for more than nine hours, and on its face this statement may appear promising. You might be hopeful this extensive amount of time was spent grappling with the challenging questions of how will our compensation system adjust to the legislative changes placed on us, in what ways will the evaluation system impact our earnings, and how will we remain competitive in attracting and retaining top talent. Well…unfortunately…none of these topics were at hand. You might then shift to think about other pertinent topics like maintaining insurance benefits when rates continue to rise, refining the process that supports teachers when they find themselves in unplanned, catastrophic health situations, or the maintenance of basic rights like being informed of who has alleged you have done something they believe to be inappropriate or access to your personnel file. Well…unfortunately…none of these topics were at hand either. Like us, you are probably scratching your head wondering what then was the focus of such lengthy and likely in-depth focus…? Well…the question posed to us at the open of these meetings was… “Is the Association willing to bargain a contract that complies with guidance from the Department of Education (DOE), the State Board of Accounts, and the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB)?”
The obvious answer would seem to be…yes. However, there is no easy answer here. After volumes of documents have been provided and reviewed (including those provided by the School Board), it appears the School Board would prefer for us to have not read these documents carefully. Say what? Each of the documents is clearly marked, “The following is for informational purposes only. Neither the Indiana Department of Education (“IDOE”) nor any IDOE employee can act as your attorney or provide legal advice. The following information does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any member of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (“IEERB”) and is not precedent for any decision of the IEERB or agent of the IEERB. It is recommended that you consult with your attorney prior to making any decisions based upon the information contained in this document.” (CBA Guidance, May 24, 2012 http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/legal/cba-guidance5-24-12cpg.pdf)
IDOE has also provided answers to frequently asked questions regarding the bargaining process. It notes, “The following information is for informational purposes only. Neither the IDOE nor any IDOE employee can act as your attorney or offer legal advice. It is recommended that you consult with your attorney prior to making any decisions based on the information contained in this document.” (Collective Bargaining FAQ, August 23, 2012 http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/legal/faq8-23-12cpg.pdf)
In fact, the first copies of these documents provided by the Board had these qualifying statements omitted. When we immediately noticed the omission, an apology was offered and revised copies were provided.
The Department of Education clearly has stated to consult with our attorney and to use its information as just that…information and not legal advice. They even point out that their information may not reflect the opinions of IEERB.
It is our belief that in representing your interests, it is too important to accept the Board’s premise, especially when the three agencies are continually revising their advice or even providing conflicting advice. Take these as quick examples…
From the Indiana Department of Education… “14. How do districts set days and hours?
Hours are now discussable only. Days are set by the administration. Language regarding hours or days should not appear in a collective bargaining agreement entered into on or after July 1, 2011.” (Collective Bargaining FAQ, August 23, 2012 http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/legal/faq8-23-12cpg.pdf)
From the Indiana State Board of Accounts… “Contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2011: May not contain the following terms or subjects: Any item of discussion, including Curriculum development and revision, Textbook selection, Teaching methods, Hiring, evaluation, promotion, demotion, transfer, assignment, and retention of certificated employees, Student discipline, Expulsion or supervision of students, Pupil/teacher ratio, Class size or budget appropriations, Safety issues for students and employees and Hours. (The words “hour” and “hours” should not appear in the contract unless their inclusion is necessary to list an hourly wage such as $15 per hour, $20 per hour, etc.)”
You also have instances where the School Board would rather not follow the guidance of DOE, such as… “48. I am negotiating a CBA for the 2012-13 school year. What do I pay my teachers, while the new CBA is being negotiated?
*IC 20-29-6-16 provides that until a new CBA is ratified, the parties shall continue the terms of the current CBA that is in effect. The only parts of the CBA that must continue are those items listed in IC 20-29-6-4. Upon the expiration of the current CBA, the school employer shall continue under the terms of the current CBA with no increase or increment in salary, wages, or benefits for any bargaining unit employee until a new CBA is executed, unless continuation of the current/expired CBA places a school corporation in deficit financing” (Collective Bargaining FAQ, August 23, 2012 http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/legal/faq8-23-12cpg.pdf)
“3. What if my contract is not settled by July 1, 2011?
*In the short term, the salary and wage related fringe benefits may carry forward for the 2011-2012 school year. Teachers may receive their regular increments. To have the compensation piece in your new contract, your corporation must develop a performance based compensation system compliant with the new law (SEA 1) prior to December 31, 2011. Given the tight timeline, IDOE anticipates publishing a model salary schedule well in advance of the January 31, 2012 statutory deadline.
4. What do I pay my teachers if I do not settle before July 1, 2011?
*You may pay your teachers the regular increment as prescribed in your current contract (see #3). Teachers may receive their regular increment as long as doing so does not result in deficit financing.” (Collective Bargaining FAQ, July 12, 2011 http://www.in.gov/ieerb/files/DOE_School-Leaders-FAQ.pdf)
To that end, we have chosen the path that best represents our teachers’ interests. We have sought and followed the best professional advice available. We spent the nine hours (or more) repeatedly requesting for the Board to work with us in focusing on the contract’s 22 articles that directly relate to compensation (salary, wages, and wage-related fringe benefits). We offered to consider other options in regards to the other 5 articles that appear to have conflict with statute, if given firm commitments from the School Board that they will move these sections to official Board policy or other administrative records (like handbooks, etc.)…to no avail.
With the deadline for mediation set for October 1, the School Board, unbelievably, is willing to only set aside one last meeting for next week. They are willing to offer additional time only on the condition the Association abandons its positions on virtually EVERYTHING.
Yet, we will again meet in bargaining on Wednesday night with hopes we can focus on the matters of substance…how we provide the best for teachers that deliver the best.
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CCEA Negotiations Team
John Dux, Candy Ganzel, Dawn Laumeyer, Kim Lenzo, Brian Lyday, Molly Maher
Past Negotiations >