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Agreement nearing between Madison School District and Madison Teachers Inc. over contracts
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Agreement nearing between Madison School District and Madison Teachers Inc. over contracts

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Top takeaways from the Madison School District 2021-22 preliminary budget

The Madison School District proposed sending letters to teachers that would outline wage increases tied to experience and educational attainment, along with an apology to ease tensions between the administration and the local teachers union, an idea that found favor during a Madison School Board meeting Monday.

The proposal came after the union, Madison Teachers Inc., filed a complaint against the district in early May for sending out employee contracts without the wage increases, known as step and lane increases, a change from what had been a decades-long practice outlined in the district employee handbook.

Several board members said Monday they support sending the letters, but MTI does not appear receptive to anything less than the reissuing of individual teacher contracts to reflect step and lane increases.

“MTI continues to request the (Madison School District) reissue individual teaching contracts for the 2021-22 school year reflecting the annual step increase as required by the employee handbook,” union spokesperson Michelle Michalak said in a statement before the board meeting. “It is our hope that we can resolve this matter through the grievance procedure in the interest of both parties as required by Board of Education policy set forth in the (Madison School District) employee handbook.”

The departure from the decades-old procedure came after questions were raised by MTI that led the administration to determine that, contrary to previous practice, it may lack the authority to include expected salary increases in contracts prior to the School Board’s official budget vote, which will take place in the fall.

Union and district leaders have been discussing the grievance since May 7, when it was filed with the district. Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said the district would decide whether to reissue teacher contracts after MTI attorneys and district attorneys meet on Tuesday.

“Both MTI and the administration worked together in what’s going to be the best path forward,” Jenkins said. “To reissue the contracts is a very timely process, both sides know that.”

Teachers are required by law to sign and return their contracts by June 15, but MTI leadership has recommended staff wait to sign and return their contracts while the union works with legal counsel and district administration to remedy the problem before the deadline.

Roughly 150 teachers, union members and supporters marched around the Doyle Administration Building last week to protest the district’s lack of communication ahead of the change in teacher contracts which, union leaders said demonstrated a lack of respect and an unwillingness by the district to collaborate with the union.

“State funding for public education is anything but certain and we want to make sure, should anything happen, we have all of our options available,” board member Savion Castro said. “Our budget has always reflected step and lane increases and (cost of living adjustment) increases, and this is the year we have to show our full appreciation for teachers.”

If the 2021-22 preliminary budget draft is adopted as is, teachers would see an average salary increase of 3.23%, including a 1.23% cost-of-living base-wage raise plus automatic raises for length of service and educational attainment, a 2.5% increase in the current year’s budget.

The controversy surrounding teacher contracts is the latest dispute in the strained relationship between the district and the union after a year in which the two sides clashed publicly over changes to the layoff procedure and reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A priority for Dr. Jenkins is to de-escalate tensions with the union and set a new tone in working together, talking about what’s best for our students and to dismantle racist barriers for our students and we have to work better with our union in that effort,” Castro said. “All parties in the district need to take responsibility for the outcomes of our kids.”

“To reissue the contracts is a very timely process, both sides know that.”

Superintendent Carlton Jenkins


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