Negotiations continue in LuverneLUVERNE — Luverne Public School District and its local teachers union, Luverne Education Association, are still negotiating after failing to meet the state’s Jan. 15 deadline for contract settlement.
LUVERNE — Luverne Public School District and its local teachers union, Luverne Education Association, are still negotiating after failing to meet the state’s Jan. 15 deadline for contract settlement.
The district now faces a state penalty of $25 per student — or about $34,000 total, and Superintendent Gary Fisher said Tuesday that amount might enter in negotiations. In other words, both parties may end up footing the bill.
During discussion of the negotiations at Thursday’s school board meeting, board members responded to the late penalty by voting unanimously to retract the district’s prior offer of a 5.45 percent increase during a two-year period.
“We’ve had that offer on the table for a long time,” Fisher said, saying that since the offer was rescinded, no more negotiation dates have been set. “We’re hoping to get back to the table and try to get the contract settled,” he added.
According to a document describing the offer provided to the Daily Globe, educators would receive their standard increase based on years of service during year one, and teachers at step 16, or teachers who have taught 16 years in the district, would receive $200 if they have their bachelor’s degree and $300 if they hold a master’s degree.
In year two, educators would again receive an increase based on years of service, and all would receive an additional $670.
The average increase per teacher is listed as $3,533 during a two-year period; though actual increases will range from $970 to $6,099. In all, the district would pay its educators $320,457.
The chief negotiator for the union, who asked not to be identified by name, said the union was requesting a 1 percent salary schedule increase during each year of the two-year contract.
The total dollar increase being offered by the district doesn’t meet that requirement, the negotiator said, and actually amounts to an estimated 0.75 percent increase during the two years.
“They’re trying to do it with a dollar amount and we’re trying to do it with a percentage amount,” he said. “What the district is offering is not an overall improvement on the salary schedule.”
The union contends distributing the same amount, $670 for example, to each educator is not an equitable way to determine pay.
The negotiator said the district’s 5.45 percentage increase encompasses Teacher Retirement Accounts, FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), and a steps and lanes system based on education and length of type in the district — and includes little increase in actual pay.
“They’re trying to encompass everything into one percentage amount and that’s not a fair comparison,” he said.
Further, the union had sought a 1 percent increase in the district’s contribution to its health insurance. The district has not offered an increase in that area.
“Insurance costs have gone up. We have people that are going to see less money with what (the district) is putting on the table right now,” he said.
The negotiator said the union’s requests are reasonable, especially because the district has a historically high fund balance.
Statewide, salary increases for teachers averaged just 0.75 percent in the first year, and 0.95 percent in the second year. Both are historic lows. Luverne was one of 25 districts in the state that failed to settle its two-year contracts by the deadline.