SPFT Teachers, Educational Assistants and School and Community Service Professionals Mediation Topics: At a Glance

  • Revised: Feb. 7, 2018

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    Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) wishes to clarify several topics related to mediation with the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) union. This page provides factual information so you can be informed about the discussions happening in the community.


     

    40 Hour Work Week

    Through mediation, SPPS has withdrawn its proposal, Time for Learning, Access and Opportunity For Teachers, which was intended to define a teacher’s work week as 40 hours on-site.


     

    Applying for Q-Comp

    The Superintendent and Board announced on Feb. 5, that SPPS would withdraw a requirement for a signed Q-Comp application. This was first requested in the District’s Statement of Intent that agreed to collaborate with the Union on seeking additional support from corporations, healthcare and higher education entities. SPPS resolved to create a joint education partnership council with representatives from the District, the Union, businesses, non-profit organizations, the City of Saint Paul, and other bargaining groups. Though SPFT’s initial proposal requested a referendum on the 2018 ballot, Vice Chair Marchese noted that any referendum must be a community conversation to determine support.  

    Union leadership for SPFT has consistently rejected the opportunity to apply for Q-Comp.

    The Q-Comp program has been funded annually by the legislature since 2005. Estimates show that since Q-Comp was implemented, the district has missed out on $100 million. SPPS is the only large district in the state unable to get union support in creating an agreement.

    Q-Comp funds would have allowed district and union leadership to create shared beliefs and goals for teacher career progression, professional development, teacher evaluation and salaries.

    Q-Comp does not affect automatic pay increases for educators, known as steps and lanes.


     

    Class Size

    During contract negotiations on Thursday, Nov. 9, SPFT proposed strict limits on the number of students in a classroom. The proposal, estimated to cost an initial $91 million in salaries alone, could have unintended impacts on students and families. This cost projection does not include construction costs for more classroom space or recurring costs related to salaries and benefits.

    SPPS responded with a counter proposal on Nov. 30. The District’s class size proposal:

    • Maintains the small class sizes the Union negotiated in its last contract
    • Requests additional flexibility in order to grow enrollment in the schools that have additional capacity

    The District is looking forward to working with the Union on a compromise.

    The Center for Public Education has reviewed class size research and found that “a class size of no more than 18 students per teacher is required to produce the greatest benefits,” especially for grades K-3. SPPS agrees that small classes are an admirable goal, but the current union proposal is not sustainable for the district.

    Setting strict limits on class size as proposed by SPFT would:

    • Require an additional 17 teachers for elementary grade levels (+25 for higher poverty schools, -8 for lower poverty schools)
      • Varying class schedules and graduation requirements prevent an accurate estimate for secondary grade levels
    • Present long-term effects on schools that are trying to grow enrollment
    • Eliminate flexibility to allow students into high demand schools and programs
    • Reduce funds for other programs in order to pay for new salaries
    • Limit the ability to hire extra classroom and support staff (teaching assistants, counselors, etc.)
    • Increase need for classroom space leading to new construction costs (in millions of dollars)

    If a classroom reached the limit as proposed by SPFT, a student and their family may be asked to choose another school if room is available. Additional funding would also be required to:

    • Hire an additional teacher or support staff and keep the students in one classroom, or
    • Split the class into two classrooms, if space is available, and hire a new teacher

    Both parties agreed to lower class sizes in 2014. Here’s an overview on how class size currently works.


     

    Funds for Negotiating a New SPFT Contract

    Throughout mediation SPPS has continued to educate SPFT leadership on how budgeting works in a large, urban school district. The team explained that most fund balances have restrictions and specific spending requirements. Here are some frequently asked questions. The Chief Finance Officer reinforced this information during sessions held the week of Feb. 5.

    Additionally, the Board has allocated one percent of current salary budgets per fiscal year – or $3.2 million of taxpayer funds – to negotiate all unsettled union contracts. This amount is distributed equitably across all employee groups and equates to $2,069,000 per fiscal year for SPFT. Though the district agrees with and wants to support many union proposals, we simply do not have enough resources to agree to all of them. The SPPS negotiations team has asked SPFT to prioritize its proposals, all of which would cost nearly $200 million.

    This information was shared with all union groups in October 2017. SPPS negotiates with 16 employee unions and 12 trades groups.


     

    Guiding Values for Negotiations

    The Guiding Values for Negotiations with Employee Labor Groups is a three-year plan for negotiating contracts. The four guiding values include:

    • Listening to and communicating with all our employees
    • Creating a school system that every family, staff and community member can be proud of
    • Working within our budget while meeting financial obligations
    • Promoting a culture that is focused on students, their growth and achievement

    This plan helps ensure overspending does not occur on any one employee labor group, as has been the case in previous contract cycles. By looking at the whole of the services we provide, the District can continue to meet its financial obligations, protect schools and students from deeper budget cuts, and ensure that all employee groups can receive an equitable share of funds in negotiations. Read about the Guiding Values here.


     

    SPPS Response to SPFT Proposal #1 (demanding funds from corporations)

    SPFT’s Proposal 1 seeks a referendum on the Nov. 2018 ballot that would fund the union’s priorities. The proposal also calls for demanding contributions from healthcare companies and higher education entities.

    The district has offered to work with SPFT leadership to respectfully engage our community partners in increasing support for our schools. SPPS continues to be proud of its longstanding partnerships with our community partners who have provided volunteers in our schools, made available many in-kind services, and donated millions of dollars over the years.

    As a measure of good faith, the SPPS negotiations team provided a Statement of Intent to collaborate with union leadership on seeking additional support from corporations, healthcare and higher education entities. The District resolved to create a joint education partnership council with representatives from the District, the Union, other bargaining groups, businesses, non-profit organizations, and the City of Saint Paul. The District’s Statement of Intent also requests that the Union sign an application for Q-Comp, but on Feb. 5 the Superintendent and Board announced it would withdraw a requirement for a signed Q-Comp application.  The voluntary Q-Comp program would have provided additional funding for SPPS and SPFT to create shared beliefs and goals for:

    • Teacher career progression
    • Professional development
    • Teacher evaluation
    • Salary schedules

    Q-Comp does not affect automatic pay increases for educators, known as steps and lanes.


     

    Wage Proposal

    During mediation on Thursday, Jan. 25, SPPS offered SPFT a wage proposal that includes a one percent cost of living increase per fiscal year. The projected annual increases for automatic pay raises (known as steps and lanes) are already included in the district’s budget and are independent of the funds available for SPFT negotiations. The District’s offer is based on the $2,069,000 budget available per fiscal year that was first shared with all union leads in Oct. 2017. SPFT can choose to negotiate a cost of living increase or choose to fund other priorities within the established budget. The one percent offer per fiscal year would decrease if SPFT chooses to identify other priorities that have an associated cost.


     

    What are Steps and Lanes (Automatic Pay Raises Each Year)?

    Most staff receive an automatic pay raise every year based on their union contract. This is known as Steps.

    Steps

    The following example shows that a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree is guaranteed at least $44,759 per year. This is based on a 10-month salary schedule with a typical work week. Each year, the salary automatically advances to the next Step, resulting in a pay raise at the percentage and salary shown below. The Steps in this example will continue through Year 10, with the same rates for Years 11-15 and another increase on Year 16. This applies until the teacher gains additional college credits or degrees resulting in an additional salary increase. On average, a teacher will receive an automatic pay raise of four percent each year through Steps.

    steps

    Lanes

    Advancing one’s education through classes, credits and degrees is also used to increase an individual’s salary. This is known as a Lane Adjustment or a Lane Change. This is a benefit that is unique for educators and is not seen in the private sector.

    For example, a teacher with five years of experience and a bachelor’s degree with 45 credit hours will make $54,010 per year. In the example below, if the teacher gains a master’s degree they could see a large salary increase worth 11.91% next school year. On average, a teacher will receive a salary increase of three percent for gaining educational experience. Additionally, on average, a teacher could receive a seven percent pay raise through both Steps and Lanes.

    lanes

    The projected increases of Steps and Lanes, estimated at $8,000,000 per fiscal year, are already included in the district’s budget and are independent of the funds available for SPFT negotiations. SPFT can choose to negotiate a cost of living increase or choose to fund other priorities within the established budget.


     

    What is Mediation?

    The state’s Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) provides mediation of collective bargaining disputes. Mediators have no ability to require either side to accept proposals from the other side. They do not judge whether a proposal is good or bad or how it affects either side. Their only job is to work to find a settlement between the parties.

    Negotiations begin between two parties, each with its own negotiating team, in an effort to reach agreement on a new contract. Mediation usually starts when negotiations between the parties become non-productive or cease altogether. One or both parties may petition for the services of a mediator. The mediator convenes a meeting to help the parties find a basis for resolving the dispute on terms that are acceptable to both parties. The schedule for mediation is based on the common availability of both parties and the mediators. Negotiations can only take place in scheduled mediation.

    Historically, a negotiations team of district leaders has negotiated labor contracts. The negotiations team collaborates with, and negotiates on behalf of, the Superintendent and the Board of Education. SPPS negotiates with 16 employee unions and 12 trades groups. Here’s detailed information on how mediation works.