Van Keating is director of management services for the school boards group and says the difference is clear.
“We put out a monthly publication and in the past we’ve had no trouble getting the settlements in it. This year we’re actually running out of space” to record all the agreements.
The big change isn’t even just the number of unions signing contracts. It’s what they’re agreeing to.
In 2010, the school board association reported seven contracts that had no increase in base pay. This year, 13 unions agreed to no base pay increases for one year, and 30 for multiple years, according to the school boards association. The unions are also making concessions on benefits and step increases. And a lot of these contracts hadn’t even expired yet.
In Shaker Heights, for example, a new, three-year contract freezes base salaries for three years, eliminates step increases for fall 2011 and increases employees‚ share of health insurance premiums in 2012 and thereafter, among other changes. It also calls for the creation of a pilot performance pay program.
In Dayton, a new, one-year contract freezes the current salary scale, but allows step increases for the majority of teachers.
And in Toledo, a new two-year contract includes a 2.5 percent pay cut and increases employees‚ share of health insurance premiums.
If a referendum petition by the state’s teachers’ unions fails, and Senate Bill 5 does take effect, it will not affect existing contracts. Which is why so many unions have agreed to reopen their contracts to extend their deals a bit longer, even if that means giving in to some of those concessions.
Keating says the unions know what they’re doing. “They’re certainly smart enough to realize that there’s not a lot of gains at this point that they‚re going to get out of collective bargaining. So to the extent that they can extend the status quo for as long as they can, I think they view that as a victory.”
(Additional reporting from StateImpact reporter Molly Bloom.)