Anchorage School District, educators association contract negotiations head to a federal mediator

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 9:20 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The contract negotiations between the Anchorage School District and the Anchorage Education Association are headed to a federal mediator in December after those negotiations reached a deadlock.

The district has proposed a three-year contract for the teachers that would begin July 1, 2021 and go through June 30, 2024.

“We’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to reach a deal with the district,” Anchorage Education Association president Corey Aist said on Monday. “And I think the district would like to reach a deal with its educators to keep everyone in our classrooms.”

The association represents 3,200 teachers and other staff at the school district and negotiates with the district on their behalf. Both sides are hopeful an agreement can be made through mediation.

“We are committed,” district spokesperson MJ Thim said in an email.

The school district and educators association began meeting in March and were unable to agree on a new contract after the teachers’ previous three-year contract expired last June.

The two big issues for educators in the proposed contract are compensation and working conditions, according to Aist. Educators feel the issue of compensation would help address staffing shortages and incentivize teachers to stay.

“There’s real concerns about staffing shortages, and sub shortages, and all the coverage that teachers are doing,” Aist said. “And quite a few distractions on our learning environment right now in regards to COVID and all the ramifications that have come out of this pandemic.”

The district’s website has a breakdown of the contract negotiations and points to the issues of health care and compensation as the remaining sticking points. The compensation package outlined from the district said educators would receive salary increases over the three years of the contract in addition to “structural step and lane increases” they already have, and educators could choose to remain on their current health insurance plan or join the district’s.

While the school district hopes to resolve its contract with educators through mediation, it’s headed to advisory arbitration in January with the TOTEM Association of Educational Support Personnel after they were unable to reach an agreement through mediation.

“You always are hopeful because, you know, you want to get this settled,” TOTEM president Sandra Thompson Wallace said. “... You always want to come to (an) agreement that you feel is equitable and offers your folks a living wage.”

TOTEM represents 1,350 district employees who support students, staff, administration, parents and community.

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