C-A teachers ratify 3-year contract with huge concessions

FLINT TWP. — A pay cut and freeze and larger class sizes are among more than $2.5 million in concessions from the Carman-Ainsworth teachers union in a three-year-contract ratified last week.

The tentative agreement was approved with relief and praise from the Carman-Ainsworth Board of Trustees at their May 21 meeting.

“Honestly this is the epitome of putting oneself behind what is necessary for the good of the district,” said Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff. “The teachers could have said we did not create this problem and we are not going to help be a significant part of the solution.”

Declining enrollment, property taxes and state-aid have nearly depleted C-A’s general fund balance and led to a sig- nificant budget deficit.

Concessions totaling $2,556,807 million are “going to impact every one of our teachers significantly in their pocketbook so it should not be taken lightly,” Tunnicliff said.

The biggest cut – about $1.36 million, will come from a 5..56 percent regular salary reduction and frozen step/lane increases for the duration of the contract. Additional 10 percent reductions for extra-duty pay (such as coaching and sponsoring clubs) total nearly $60,000.

Tunnicliff noted contract provisions that call for paying teachers a one-time stipend if the district’s audited unassigned fund balance exceeds 3 percent in the 2013-14 school year, 4 percent in 2014-15 and 5 percent in $2015-16.

This is a good-faith provision to limit cuts to what is absolutely necessary.

“If we do have money left over we will pay it back because our people deserve it,” Tunnicliff said. “We are not trying to fix our financial problems on the backs of our employees.”

Another big cut – $436,429 – will come from increasing class sizes by two. Class sizes differ by grade level and also by subject at the high school, but all were increased, Tunnicliff said. For example, the kindergarten class size maximum will go from 25 to 27; 5th grade from 30 to 32; and high school English from 29-31.

“We have always taken pride in holding our class sizes far below the average across the county and we believe we will still maintain relatively small class sizes even with the contractual increase,” Tunnicliff said in a statement.

Elimination of class overload stipends in the new contract also wll save the district $83,334. Current practice has been to pay an overload stipend to teachers when the class size maximums were exceeded. Tunnicliff said. The net result bigger classes will eliminate overload stipends at the elementary level and a reduce a few teaching positions at the secondary level, he said.

Among other concessions, teachers have agreed to reduce sick bank payouts to 80 percent, a $$31,958 savings; reduce sick leave days from 12 to 10 days, a $!0,160 savings; eliminate a mileage stipend, saving $10,507, eliminate a Parent-Teacher stipend, saving $102,626 and eliminate a $75 teacher supply stipend, saving $10,000.

Teachers also agreed to changing to an insurance plan with lower premiums but members will continue to pay 20 percent of costs, as required by law, for a $256,301 savings. They also can elect to keep the old plan if they pay the additional cost.

Tunnicliff credited the teacher’s union leadership with helping to reach the agreement.

Frank Burger, president of the Carman Ainsworth Education Association, who was present at the meeting and has worked at C-A for 16 years, called it a historic agreement.

“Of the 252 members that I represent, we truly want to see the district stay solvent,” he sad.

He conceded that the pay cuts are “going to be tough” but one positive result is that members have become politically energized.

“This situation was created by the elected officials in Lansing for not supporting public education the way it needs to be funded,” Burger said.

Burger and C-A teachers were roundly praised by school board members, including applause.

“I would like to thank the association,” said board trustee Recco Richardson. “This is not Monopoly money. This is real money that people will not have in their paychecks.”

Adding her thanks, board president Patrice Hatcher said: “I am going to get emotional. This means a lot to our community that we were able to come to an agreement without having to go into fact-finding and mediation.”

Trustee Peggy Anderson said she was pleased to be able to move forward. There are other contracts still to be negotiated but it is a good feeling not to have teacher’s contract negotiations “hanging over our heads,” she said.

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