Monday, August 10, 2015

Little Rock School District releases proposed agreement with teachers union

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 at 4:25 PM

click to enlarge NEW DEAL: Superintendent Baker Kurrus releases outline of streamlined agreement between Little Rock School District and Little Rock Education Association.
  • NEW DEAL: Superintendent Baker Kurrus releases outline of streamlined agreement between Little Rock School District and Little Rock Education Association.
As Benji Hardy reported last night, the Little Rock School District, now under state control, intends to scrap the former school board's past extensive contract deals with the Little Rock Education Association and propose instead to recognize the union primarily for purposes of talking about pay and other economic benefits.

Non-money issues will be decided by district leadership, meaning Superintendent Baker Kurrus, who reports to state Education Commissioner Johnny Key.

Union members will consider a new agreement at a meeting Tuesday night. Several are already unhappy about the matter, both about receiving late notice that the deal was in the works as well as the deal itself. They have little room to maneuver. When the state took over the Pulaski County Special School District, the teachers union there sued over the state's nullification of their contract, particularly non-money issues, but the state Supreme Court upheld the decision.

Mindful of that, the Little Rock union had been willing to renegotiate many terms of the existing contract, but the state wasn't interested. Orders are believed to be coming from the top, Gov. Asa Hutchinson. So union leadership has decided to recommend the limited new agreement, which is still more than the Pulaski teachers ended up with.

Kurrus issued this statement:

The Little Rock School District has a contract with the Little Rock Education Association (LREA) that runs through October 31, 2015. I am in the process of negotiating with the Little Rock Education Association with respect to the period which extends beyond that contract. I appreciate, value and respect my LREA colleagues at LRSD. We are working cooperatively at this time to further the best interests of our students and our school district. Our teachers and other support personnel are critical to the success of our students. I will be negotiating with the leadership of LREA. I will not be negotiating by or through blog posts or other social media.

Our district faces a number of challenges which will require major changes in almost every facet of LRSD operations. I believe these changes will improve student outcomes while strengthening the district in the long run.

My goals for LRSD will be to continue to offer great opportunities for students while also allowing professional educators and staff to have fulfilling, rewarding careers.

One potential change that could further unsettle teachers down the line: Little Rock has lagged in improving beginning teacher pay while treating veteran teachers fairly well on the pay scalel. If Little Rock improves beginning pay to help recruiting, it inevitably will have some fallout on the upper end of the scale.

Here's a draft copy of the proposed agreement. It applies only to "economic conditions" and will apply "so long as it is 'deemed by the Board of Education to be in the best interest of the employees and the District.' ”  A pay level for 2015-16 is referenced, but not attached. Health insurance contributions and leave (sick and personal) are also subject to negotiations, though it will remain to be seen how influential the union can be.

The agreement doesn't send any disagreements to mediation, a provision in the old contracts. The agreement also binds the union not to take work actions, such as strikes, against the district.

Reserved to management:

... certain management rights, including but not limited to the right to hire, direct, assign, suspend, demote and promote all employees, the right to determine qualifications for all employees, the right to establish work schedules for all employees, and the right to establish policy

The board does agree to negotiate in "good faith" on educational matters of mutual concern, a requirement of law. The new draft agreement is five pages long. The current contract is 93 pages long.

BENJI ADDS: I'd like to note, again, that this is only a draft. The final language of the agreement might change, although it's not clear how much room the LREA has to propose substantive modifications to what the state has offered. I'm guessing that will be a lively topic of debate at the LREA meeting tomorrow night.

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