Anoka-Hennepin teachers resoundingly approved a tentative labor agreement with the state's largest school district after 10 tense months at the negotiating table. The new contract includes raises and a $1,000 one-time bonus.
Nearly 85 percent of the teachers who voted gave a thumbs-up to the contract that runs from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2015. The agreement now goes to the Anoka-Hennepin school board for final approval at its April 28 meeting.
"We are relieved to have our contract resolved," said Julie Blaha, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, the union that represents the district's 2,800 teachers. "Months of negotiations on an overdue contract have been an unwelcome distraction from our classrooms."
Negotiations were some of the most contentious in nearly a decade. It took 18 bargaining sessions and the prospect of a strike before a deal was struck around midnight on March 31.
Under the tentative deal:
• All teachers receive a $1,000 bonus.
• Senior teachers, who make up 60 percent of the faculty, would receive raises of 1.5 percent the first year and 2 percent the second year. That group hadn't seen raises in four years.
• Less-experienced teachers would receive no raise the first year and 1.5 percent the second. These teachers will still see wage increases as they move up "steps" on the seniority schedule.
• Both teachers and the district made concessions on health care.
• The pay raises are retroactive to the start of the contract.
Under the new accord, the salary range will be from $39,000 for new teachers to $83,000 for those with more than two decades of experience and advanced degrees. The average Anoka-Hennepin teacher salary in 2012-13 was $62,300, eighth-highest in the state.
According to Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, 83 percent of the 331 school districts it tracks have struck deals with teachers unions. The average salary increase for teachers this cycle was 1.7 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second.