Union, district approve teacher contract

Union, district approve teacher contract

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign School board voted 5-0 Tuesday evening to approve a teacher contract, shortly after the teachers union also voted for the agreement.

Under the new three-year contract, teachers will receive average annual raises of 3.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.5 percent.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, when the old three-year contract expired.

After prospects of a strike loomed for nearly four months, the Champaign Federation of Teachers voted 293-63 to accept it, union President Greg Novak said.

The union represents about 800 district teachers.

"A lot of the people who were happy about the contract didn't vote," Novak said.

Assistant Superintendent Beth Shepperd said individual salaries that take into account education level and experience will be worked out later in cooperation with the teachers union.

Novak said the union was comfortable with the increases, which will also include a more generous district contribution for health insurance premiums.

The board met briefly and voted unanimously with little comment, with board members Nathaniel Banks and Reginald J. Alston absent.

"They're both teaching tonight," noted Superintendent Arthur Culver, who praised teachers for their patience.

Culver and school board president Scott Anderson said recent legislation had made the negotiations more difficult, leading to bargaining that went on to 3:30 a.m. one session.

State legislators decided this spring to strike down 20 percent last year raises used as incentive for early retirement. They put a 6 percent cap on state funding for "end-of-career" pay raises for certified personnel.

Shepperd said that, since this was the first negotiation under the new rules, the district struggled to come up with cost estimates.

Novak agreed retirement questions were the main stumbling block.

"There's an ambiguity in the new retirement rules," Anderson agreed.

He said he was happy with the three-year term, saying it allowed the district to budget into the future.

Shepperd said the board has told the administration to balance the budget by the beginning of the 2007 school year, and those budget projections also played a role in negotiations.

The unaudited budget for the last school year shows the district underspent its projections by $500,000, the assistant superintendent said.

Champaign teachers have voted to strike three times, most recently in 1986. A strike had been scheduled if bargaining had failed.

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