The Madison School District has reissued next year’s teacher contracts along with a letter outlining expected pay increases for education and experience, but the union says its related dispute remains unresolved because the raises are still missing from the document members must sign by June 15.
Madison Teachers Inc., which has called for reissued contracts that include the dollar amount increases in a legally binding document, said the district sent the new contracts along with letters Monday in a move that was not agreed upon by the district and the union.
According to the union, the new contracts do not resolve the conflict and the district did not notify MTI or staff that the contracts were going to be sent out.
“Now teachers are holding two contracts, with slightly different language both which violate the employee handbook and Wisconsin Statutes,” MTI spokesperson Michelle Michalak said in a statement. “First, the deadline for a school district to issue renewals for the upcoming school year was May 15. Second, the (district) is asking teachers who have already signed and returned the ones issued before May 15 to sign and return this one too? What if they don’t — will the district honor the contracts previously signed?”
The union is instructing teachers to hold onto both contracts until at least June 15 while it attempts to resolve the conflict.
The latest disagreement arose after MTI asserted the district had been in breach of contract in years past for issuing the legally binding documents that listed salaries with the increases before the yearly budget was approved by the Madison School Board.
The district determined the union was correct: The administration did not have the authority to include expected salary increases in staff contracts prior to budget approval, district spokesperson Tim LeMonds said in a statement.
Court battle threatened
MTI president Michael Jones asked the School Board in May to tell administration to either reissue updated contracts that include the increases or employ the services of a federal mediator to resolve the dispute and to avoid future conflicts regarding employment relations issues.
“We cannot set up a system that builds up even more uncertainty when we’re trying to do the exact opposite of that, which is why if this cannot be resolved through the board or through an agreed-upon mediator, we will do our best to address our collective concerns through the courts,” Jones said.
MTI filed a complaint against the district in early May for sending out employee contracts that didn’t include the raises, a change from what had been a decadeslong practice.
According to Michalak, contracts sent Monday by the district reflect the 2020-21 school year salary, and defer salary increases until after the Board of Education has voted on the 2021-22 budget.
If the district’s 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.
The board is expected to vote on the preliminary budget at the end of June. The final budget will be voted on by the board in October.