Rockton board approves deal with teachers

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ROCKTON — The Rockton School Board unanimously approved a three-year contract with the Rockton Teachers’ Association on Wednesday night.

RTA members approved the contract last week by a vote of 67-13. Teachers will receive no pay raises in the first or second year of the contract and a 1 percent raise in the third year, said Board President Jim Meason.

Dan Baumgartner, union spokesman, said in the last contract the teachers were set to receive a $667 step increase, which didn’t occur until the second semester last year. A step increase is based on the number of years an educator has been teaching. This will be the first full year teachers have seen the step increase.

The 1 percent base salary increase teachers will see in the third year of the contract is about a $330 increase for every teacher, Baumgartner said.

In the second and third year of the contract, teachers will receive a 4 percent base pay step increase and a 5 percent base pay lane increase, Meason said. Lane increases are given based upon the education achievement of the teacher.

“The RTA made a major compensation move that allowed the parties to reach this agreement, cutting from its proposal roughly $400,000 in pay increases over the three-year contract,” Meason said.

Baumgartner said the 4 percent base step increase is taken from the base salary of the district which is about $33,333 for a teacher with a bachelors degree and no previous experience. Meaning with each year of additional teaching experience teachers will receive about a $1,333 increase.

The contract also added an additional step for teachers. In the previous contract teachers without a masters degree and 16 years of experience or more capped out on step increases. The added step allows teachers to get an additional raise when they reach 17 years of teaching experience.

“The RTA believes the three-year contract maintains the financial health of the school district while giving teachers a modest increase,” Baumgartner said.

In a joint press release between the RTA and school district both sides said they would look to “study ways to deliver teacher benefits in a more cost-effective way.”

“The Rockton Teachers’ Association and the Rockton School Board believe that the recently ratified three year agreement will allow the Rockton School District to maintain a healthy financial outlook during the term of the contract despite unpredictable funding from the state and economic uncertainty,” the release said.

The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 23 after months of negotiations, which began last summer. The teachers’ contract expired at the beginning of the school year, and in October a federal mediator was brought in to facilitate negotiations.

In October, the RTA proposed a two-year deal that would increase teacher pay by 0.5 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second year.

In November, the union approved filing a notice to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, but didn’t file the notice. At the time the RTA said it wouldn’t file the notice as long as negotiations continued to progress.

In December, both sides swapped financial data, and analysts for the union and school district met in early February but no progress was made. Both sides met again on Feb. 16 without the mediator, and made some progress on increase in pay for teachers who participated in extracurricular activities such as overnight field trips and athletic events.

An agreement was finally reached on Feb. 23.

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