Despite the passage of a new levy in March, the Westerville teachers union is considering a strike less than a month before the first day of school.
This past March, Westerville voters agreed to a new $16.5 million levy costing each Westerville taxpayer $211 per $100,000 of home value. In the run up to the levy vote, a concession package offered by teachers union during negotiations were made public. The union used current Ohio collective bargaining laws to keep the details of the offer private but NBC4 was able to acquire an email that provide some of the details:
- Teachers would extend their give back of .875 percent of their bargained raise.
- Increase what singles pay on health care premiums from 5 percent to 10 percent.
- Waiver from the current contract for one year to allow class sizes to increase by 1-2 students.
These type of concessions, however, would do very little to help the district cut costs.
Under the current contract (scheduled to expire on August 31) teachers saw base salary increase from $37,659 to $38,318 in the last school year. The base salary increase is a raise independent of the scheduled raises most teachers receive every year.
Teacher salaries are calculated using a salary index, which provides a rate that increases when a teacher gains a year of service, so an increase in base pay means an even greater automatic annual raise for most teachers. Even a base freeze would not prevent teacher salaries from rising.
- A Westerville teacher with a Bachelors degree and ten years of service time was scheduled to make the base rate multiplied by 1.5162 for an approximate salary of $57,098 in the 2010-2011 school year.
- Under the current contract, the same teacher would have received a $60,569 salary in the 2011-2012 school year.
- Even if teachers had agreed to freeze base salary at 2010 levels, this hypothetical teacher would receive a 2011-2012 salary of $59,527.
- Under the current contract, a teacher with a Bachelors degree would receive a 4.25% raise every year for their first eleven years of service, even with a base freeze in place.
The proposed concessions would also decrease the taxpayer contribution for single medical insurance premiums from 95% to 90%. Note, however, this far above the average contribution made by private sector employees. It appears the 80% expected taxpayer contribution to family medical insurance premiums, which is also above the average contribution expected of private sector employers, would remain untouched. Under the current contract, taxpayers also contribute 50% of the deductible to Health Savings Accounts. In addition to the medical insurance provided, teachers also receive a $50,000 life insurance policy, dental insurance, and vision insurance.
While the Westerville teachers union considers a strike, the Westerville Educational Support Staff Association struck a deal with the Board:
“Under the agreement, members of the educational support staff association will see no increases in their pay, as both step increases and base salary increases were frozen for the two-year period.
Also under the agreement, the district will halve its contribution to employees’ health-savings accounts, effective Jan. 1. The contributions will be eliminated entirely as of Jan. 1, 2014.”
WESSA should be applauded for breaking with the teachers union and agreeing to pay and benefit concessions. The concessions agreed upon by WESSA should help to slow the rise of education costs.
Without comprehensive collective bargaining reform, this cycle is going to continue; with more tax levies proposed by school boards and more paltry “public” concession packages from the unions. A system of automatic pay increases and generous benefits packages will continue to drive the cost of education not educational quality. What will taxpayers and students continue to get under the existing system?
Higher taxes and continued emotional blackmail with little leverage to change the system.