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Sioux City school teachers seek 3.5 percent raises | Education

 


SIOUX CITY — The union representing Sioux City public school teachers asked for a 3.5 percent pay raise Monday as contract negotiations opened with district administrators.

The Sioux City Education Association, which represents roughly 900 teachers, proposed raising annual teacher base salaries to $37,012 for the 2019-20 school year. That would amount to an increase of $1,252, or 3.5 percent, said Brenda Zahner, director of the Siouxland UniServ group of the Iowa State Education Association.

Zahner represented the bargaining unit at Monday’s session. The current base salary in the school district is $35,760.

The local UniServ unit represents seven area union groups of teachers and other education workers.

The Sioux City Educational Support Personnel Association, which represents paraprofessional associates, secretaries and bus assistants, also on Monday asked for raises of $1.50 per hour. The support personnel are paid a widely varying range of pay.

The contract proposals will be presented to the Sioux City School Board at its next board meeting on Feb. 11, and district negotiators plan to make a counter offer on Feb. 18.

Under state law, the initial exchange of proposals between a bargaining unit and a governmental body are open to the public. In subsequent negotiations, the two sides can meet in private. 

In recent years, Sioux City district officials have lamented small amounts of new revenues for K-12 districts from the Legislature, in order to pay teachers and fund programs. Supplemental state aid has been approved at 1.1 and 1 percent in the last two years.

There is likely a doubling of funding coming for 2019-20, as Republican statehouse leaders on Monday said they reached an agreement with Gov. Kim Reynolds on a 2.1 percent boost in general funding for K-12 districts.

School district Superintendent Paul Gausman said it is “disappointing” that recent years of funding have led to the point that 2 percent growth is seen as a good development for Iowa schools.

Wages are the only element to be negotiated for the 2019-20 year contract, Zahner said, as the unions are already locked into a three-year agreement on language pieces that run through 2020-21. The so-called permissive language issue includes such topics as leaves of absence, employee hours, work year and grievance procedures.

It is more difficult now than in past years to compare by percentage the packages proposed by union groups in Iowa. The package of 2017-18 benefits for the SCEA teachers was set at 3.5 percent, but retirement and health insurance amount are no longer added into those packages, because of the collective bargaining changes that were first negotiated in 2018.

In 2017, Republican lawmakers approved a major overhaul of the state’s 40-year-old collective bargaining law, which now limits mandatory items of negotiations to base salaries for most public employees. The new law carved out an exception for public safety unions, which are allowed to negotiate for both wages and benefits.

When the SCEA and district reached the most recent deal in May 2018, Zahner said the package amounted to a 0.55 percent increase in pay for instructors. Zahner categorized it as the smallest single-year raise for district teachers in at least 20 years.

District leaders pushed back on that figure, pointing out it included the elimination of $4,792 in annual pay for nearly 300 middle and high school teachers, beginning with the 2018-19 year. The extra pay was meant to compensate those teachers for covering an additional period in an eight-period schedule spread over two days.

The district said a better summary showed the base salary for teachers would rise by $196 annually and an increase in longevity pay was set at $300. Excluding the reductions in the 6-period pay, average teacher pay would rise by 2.2 percent, or $1,401, according to the district.

Iowa school districts must set their budgets by April 15.

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