The good, the bad, and the ugly of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law-Part II

Second installment in Randy Richardson‘s look at how Iowa’s new collective bargaining law is affecting teachers across the state. Part 1 is here. Richardson is a former teacher and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association. -promoted by desmoinesdem

II. What impact has this new law had on Iowa teachers?

Those local educations associations that settled prior to the change in the law usually managed to keep most of the language in their existing collective bargaining agreements. That means that they still have language that was mandatory under Chapter 20. However, those local associations still faced some major issues.

In most cases school districts realized that they had local associations “over a barrel.” Local leaders wanted to get contracts extended/settled, but they had a limited amount of time to get this done. In order to get a settlement, and protect their existing contract, most local associations agreed to a much smaller salary increase than they might normally have received.

Approximately 80 school districts agreed to extend/settle their collective bargaining agreements prior to the change in the law. All of the urban school districts, with the exception of Dubuque and Waterloo were among this group. Thirty-four school districts provided information that showed the percentage increase in salary for teachers. Of those districts, 22 agreed to give teachers a total package increase (salary and benefits) of two percent or less. One district, St. Ansgar, reached an agreement that froze all pay for teachers for one year. In almost all cases teachers were able to protect their contract language and insurance benefits.

While salary changes in schools that settled contracts prior to the change in the law were lower than normal, the information for schools that settled after the law went into effect is downright depressing. Information was available for 74 school districts/local associations that settled contracts after the change in the law.

From that group, ten districts agreed to keep items that are now considered “permissive” in the contract. Those districts are LeMars, East Buchanan, Grinnell Newburg, South Winneshiek, West Delaware, Williamsburg, Fremont-Mills, Lewis Central, Missouri Valley, and Treynor. A few others agreed to keep some of the permissive language in the contract.

Unfortunately, nearly three times as many (30) school districts decided it was appropriate to gut the collective bargaining agreement and remove all permissive items of bargaining. The remaining districts provided no details on how language items were handled.

Salary increases for teachers in the schools that settled after the change in the bargaining law were minimal (with a few exceptions). While it is impossible, given the information available, to come up with average salary increases, I can point out a few examples:

-Teachers in Harlan agreed to a three year contract with the district that increased teacher salaries by $50 for 2017-18.

-The Greene County Schools in Jefferson reached an agreement with teachers that will increase salaries by .72 percent in 2017-18 and by .56 percent in 2018-19.

-The teachers in the Lewis Central school district in southwest Iowa agreed to no increase in the base pay for next year in order to protect their insurance benefits and to keep permissive language in the contract.

-Hartley Melvin Sanborn teachers in northwest Iowa agreed to a freeze on salaries for next year.

There were some outliers who chose to increase pay for teachers as a way to be more competitive. The Treynor school district in southwest Iowa agreed to increase teacher salaries by 4.7 percent for each of the next two years. The district also agreed to keep most of the permissive language in the contract and even expanded sick leave for teachers.

Unfortunately, these types of settlements, which would be considered normal in most years, are few and far between.

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