Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 22, 2013

TCAPS contract talks continue

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools educators picketed outside the district’s main office building in a display of opposition to TCAPS administrators’ proposed collective bargaining contract.

Dozens of TCAPS employees marched in circles around the Boardman Avenue building Monday afternoon. Some carried signs that sought support for the staffers’ cause, and some spoke against a lack of raises and the elimination of salary step increases in the district’s proposed 10-month contract.

”Taking away steps?” East Middle School teacher Jody Mackey said. “That’s how people eventually earn their living in this profession.”

TCAPS’ proposed contract suggests some sort of a performance-based salary schedule, though it does not provide details about how a such a system might work.

TCAPS Human Resources Executive Director Christine Davis said district officials want to discuss possible performance-based step increases with union representatives as negotiations progress.

“We’re not saying it’s 100 percent based (on performance), but it’s a factor,” Davis said.

TCAPS officials also are considering offering a number of benefit options in the contract, and offer employees a chance to choose how much they want to pay out-of-pocket for insurance.

TCAPS faces a $1.3-million budget deficit this year. Davis said an increase in the state School Aid funding would help reduce the strain of that budget gap and free up funds for employee compensation.

Mary McGee-Cullen, president of the Traverse City Education Association, which represents roughly 550 teachers, nurses, social workers and counselors, said educators are hurting under their current contract, which expires at the end of August.

TCEA members have seen 12 to 15 percent salary losses since 2009, McGee-Cullen said.

“We have people with master’s degrees working two-plus jobs,” she said.

McGee-Cullen worried student achievement might suffer if teachers do not receive more compensation, and said the current contract negotiations what the district deems important.

“The bottom line is priorities,” she said. “Where are the priorities? The district has spent $1 million in the last two years on new programming.”

The TCEA’s proposed three-year contract maintains current insurance benefit costs for union members — about $218 per month — and includes annual 2.25 percent wage increases.

Both proposals, which are available online at www.tcaps.net, eliminate clauses that outline the mandatory payment of union fees or dues.

Such clauses are now illegal in public sector employee contracts, based on Michigan’s controversial right-to-work law that Republicans pushed through the legislative process during last year’s lame-duck session.