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District 300, union make a stand

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CARPENSTERSVILLE – The District 300 teachers union this week submitted its final proposal to a state labor board, and the school board has done the same, as both sides say recent bargaining sessions have produced little movement toward a deal.

The union and the board are at odds largely over teacher pay and class sizes.

“The language issues, we are not very far” apart, said board member Joe Stevens, a lead district negotiator. “On the financial issues, I think we have significant differences.”

The two sides are scheduled to meet Sunday and Tuesday in what has become more than six months of negotiations.

The union’s 1,300 members can picket in a few weeks – 28 days after declaring a formal impasse in negotiations last week.

The widest gap between the district board and union is teacher pay, a review of both final proposals shows. LEAD 300 has proposed base salary increases of more than 2 percent in each of the next three years – 2.25 percent in 2013; 2.45 percent in 2014; and 2.70 percent in 2015. The increases are on top of the 2 percent annual raises for “step,” or classroom experience.

Union leaders have said the proposal would cost the district $6.4 million over three years and projects savings from teacher retirements.

The board has proposed a 1.25 percent base salary increase stretched over three years, on top of 2 percent annual increases for classroom experience.

The proposal would cost the district about the same amount as the union proposal.

Stevens said the union’s projections don’t factor in new hires in the next three years.

LEAD 300 has proposed hiring 35 teachers. Among them are 15 to smooth out uneven class sizes in high school and 12 elementary teachers to get classes below agreed-upon caps – 28 students from first to second grade and 31 students from third to fifth grade.

The school board has proposed hiring roughly 27 elementary teachers.

Stevens said the board has talked about adding at least 10 high school teachers, but hasn’t agreed to it. He said the union will have to scale back its salary demands to pay for more teachers.

He said the union’s salary proposal is “still unacceptably high” and that the board is “pretty resolute” on its salary demands.

LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho said the salary proposal is meant to help teachers make up for lost time. The board, with the union’s blessing, froze salaries in spring 2011.

Hanetho blamed the district for creating the class-size issue when, in 2010, the district released 117 teachers to shed costs. She said that led to more-crowded classrooms and increased workloads for teachers – two issues that both sides have said they want to fix.

“We are being asked to pay for their managerial error from 2010, and it is going to cost us the ability to pay for quality teachers,” Hanetho said.

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