Teacher, support staff unions vote to ratify contract

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to show that the tentative agreement reached by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Kenai Peninsula Educational Association and the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association will provide members of both associations with a $750 stipend.

The associations for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s teachers and support staff have voted to ratify a proposed tentative agreement on their contracts.

The approximately 1,174 members of the two associations — the Kenai Peninsula Educational Association and the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association — voted over the course of the last three weeks on whether to ratify the tentative contract reached Sept. 7, the result of nearly 18 months of collective bargaining and an arbitration process. The leaders of the two associations delivered the results to the school district administration Monday morning, said David Brighton, the president of KPEA.

“Both groups voted to ratify the tentative contract,” Brighton said.

Now all that’s left is for the Board of Education to vote to approve the contracts at the Nov. 7 meeting before the contract will become final. He said he thought the board would likely ratify it at the meeting.

School district spokeswoman Pegge Erkeneff said the district did receive the information from the associations Monday and would schedule the vote for approval of the contracts for the Nov. 7 Board of Education meeting.

Brighton said he and KPESA President Patti Sirois have been visiting as many schools as they could to discuss the tentative contract with association members and answer their questions. Health care was one of the major concerns members had, he said.

“The number one question was about the new high deductible plan, and just trying to get more information about what that would look like for them,” he said.

KPEA and KPESA have been engaged in collective bargaining over the contract since February 2015. The main contention arose over the health care benefits in the district’s original offer, consisting of a traditional plan and a high-deductible plan and a per-employee, per-month cap on health care expenditures.

The district and the associations hired Oregon-based arbitrator David Axon to help them reach an agreement. After the report came out with his suggestions, the three negotiating teams arrived at the compromise of keeping the per-employee, per-month cap but allowing employees to opt out of the health care plan as soon as the tentative agreement is ratified rather than waiting until Jan. 1, 2017, and providing members of both associations with $750 stipends, according to previous Clarion reporting.

The contracts are only effective for three years. If the Board of Education votes to approve the contracts, they will be good until the end of the 2017–2018 school year. Collective bargaining would begin again in January 2018.

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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