Juneau School Board members had to walk through a picket line to get to their meeting Tuesday night.
Teachers waived signs and sang union songs to show their solidarity for a new contract with the school district.
The Juneau Education Association and school district are in the 11th month of negotiations; frustrated teachers have grown louder at each school board meeting.
Smaller groups gathered at the driveway entrance to Juneau-Douglas High School, while many more assembled at the front doors.
Physical education teacher Dirk Miller is JEA vice president.
We’re here to greet the school board members. Let them know that we have solidarity, we are united.
Then teachers filed into the meeting, carrying signs with such slogans as “I’d rather educate than negotiate.”
They are working for the second year on a one-year contract that did not include raises.
Amy Jo Meiners was the first to speak. She’s been teaching in the Juneau School District since 1989 and reminded board members that they drastically reduced the travel budget for this year to save money.
“I’m not sure if travel expenditures are just so buried that you don’t see them, but I would like to suggest that the amount of travel for this past year alone could have paid for more than a 2 percent COLA,” Meiners said.
JEA is asking for a three-year contract with a 2 percent salary increase this year, 3 percent in the second and 2 percent in the third year.
It’s statements like Meiners’ that will be addressed in a work meeting this afternoon with negotiators from both sides.
Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said the union thinks it has found pots of money in the budget that can be used for raises, but that’s not the case.
“Whomever is doing the budget analysis for JEA has suggested that there’s four million dollars out there for salaries. And what we want to do is to take them back into the budget, clarify what those budget categories are for, so we can be talking apples to apples and making sure that we are understanding the facts in the same way,” Gelbrich said.
District officials say the teachers’ proposal would cost more than $10 million.
JEA’s Miller said the union doesn’t agree with the district’s numbers.
“I’m trying to think of what numbers we do agree with, and I don’t know,” Miller said. “So that’s what this meeting is going to be about. To really talk about the numbers, settle some of the differences, I hope. We’re very positive.”
But Gelbrich told the board there’s not much positive about the amount of state revenue expected to flow to the district next year. Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing another year of flat funding for Alaska schools.
“So the base student allocation we had last year would be the base student allocation we have this year and he’s proposing it will be the base student allocations next year and fiscal year 16, so the following year,” Gelbrich said.
The Base Student Allocation is the amount of money per student each district gets from the state to operate schools. The legislature could increase it, but the last two years lawmakers have stuck to the governor’s proposal.
Meanwhile, JEA and the district await an arbitrator’s advisory opinion, due in mid-January. Post-arbitration briefs, submitted earlier this month, show just how far apart the two sides are.