MTI members

MTI members packed the auditorium at the Doyle administration building downtown calling for higher base wages next school year. 

Members of Madison Teachers, Inc. packed Monday’s Madison School Board meeting calling for a 2.13 percent base wage increase to keep pace with the rising cost of living in the city.

Several MTI members spoke in support of the wage, with dozens of others waving their hands in the audience, dressed in red for solidarity. The Madison Metropolitan School District’s draft preliminary budget included a basic compensation allowance for the 2018-2019 school year of 2.5 percent; that number includes a “step,” or seniority, increase of 1.9 percent; a base wage increase of 0.5 percent; and a “lane,” or continuing education, increase of 0.1 percent.

MTI president Andy Waity said staff wages have not kept pace with the cost of living over the years, and urged board members to dedicate more financial resources.

“Our working conditions are our students' learning conditions," he said. "Now is the time to show how respected and valued your educators are."

MTI said that the cost of living increase should be reflected in the base wage so employees across the board can receive it. Since the 2011-2012 school year, MTI argued that the cost of living has increased over 11 percent, while base-wages have only grown 2.6 percent. MTI also said employees are taking home less money because of increased retirement and insurance costs.

MTI executive director Doug Keillor said MTI has been advising the district and the School Board about compensation since February, with the formal bargaining process to begin on Wednesday.

At Monday’s regular meeting, Keillor reminded the Madison School Board and district administrators that MTI has been patient over the years about the budget process, but the tide may turn.

“Does anyone remember the last time we came here about wage increase?” Keillor asked the board. “You probably don’t.”

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Keillor highlighted the 54 teachers from across the district who resigned in March and pointed to compensation as a contributing factor.

“Raises isn't the only thing, but it's one thing and it's an important one,” he said.

Judy Ferwerda, president of the Education Support Employees Association, a component of MTI that represents staff like special education assistants and security guards, advocated for higher pay for the district’s lowest-paid employees.

“We deserve to get an increase," she said. "Please, don’t give us crumbs.”

The Madison School Board is expected to approve the preliminary budget in June, with formal adoption of the 2018-2019 budget in October.