TAAAC / Board FY16 Tentative Settlement / FAQ's

Please find enclosed the FAQ’s as promised. Some questions have been grouped together for reasons that will be obvious upon reading. With rare exception, questions were copied and pasted in the form received.

WILL TAAAC RELEASE A STATEMENT OF THEIR POSITION ON THE TENTATIVE SETTLEMENT?

Answer #1)
The Tentative Agreement (TA) currently before Unit I employees needs to be put in perspective before any position can be articulated. Up until County Executive Steve Schuh presented his budget, TAAAC and the Board had a TA on a step increase. TAAAC was holding out for a modest COLA applied only to the top steps on each column. The County Executive’s operating budget chopped the COLA and funded on a 1% across the board increase for all school system employees. The County Council moved some funding from the major funding category of “fixed charges” to appropriate categories from which the equivalent of a half-step for all school employees could be allocated. Since we do not have half-steps in our salary matrices, the Board used the funding to provide a 1.25% increase, reconciled its budget accordingly, and offered the 1.25% to all four represented bargaining units.

TAAAC rejected the 1.25% and continued to argue in favor of a much needed step increase until it became clear that an impasse existed on salary and a few other items. It is likely that the single most important item had nothing to do with FY15. (Among the Board’s last and best offers was a proposal to eliminate from the Agreement standing language that provides an annual step. If that proposal survived the impasse process, the Board would no longer have any obligation to even request funding for a step, much less to provide one.) The requisite forms were jointly prepared and submitted to the Public School Labor Relations Board (PSLRB) and the impasse was declared. Mediation, mandatory by law, was the next step.

After the equivalent of three days of mediation with a professional mediator, the parties continued to get closer in their positions. As the process moved along it became clear to the TAAAC team that a step increase was not likely, even if we chose to roll the dice with the PSLRB. However, the team did manage to retain the language requiring an annual step, improve to salary offer by 60% (from 1.25 % to 2.00%), and keep the money lost from the challenge school stipends in the pockets of Unit I educators.

The TAAAC team is confident that it made the most out of what was available. Our position (that is, the position of the TAAAC Negotiating Team) is that educators should vote “yes.” For reasons you will see below, rejecting this TA is likely to be more detriment than benefit.

If we vote to ratify, we are agreeing to a 2 percent increase in lieu of an actual step for the following fiscal year (so, a couple hundred bucks vs. a couple thousand)? Instead of the 72k I would be making if we kept negotiating for steps, I will be agreeing to 64k?

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR WORK ON OUR BEHALF. I WAS WONDERING IF WE’RE GETTING A “STEP” OR JUST AN INCREASE IN SALARY FOR EITHER THIS YEAR OR NEXT. I AM A BIT CONFUSED ABOUT THAT.

Answer #2)
We reached a mutual agreement of a 2% increase because based on the budget figures presented by both parties (TAAAC paid for analysis of its own) we could not prevail in the argument of affordability. We did manage to increase the Board’s expenditure on the salary scales by approximately $4 million, still not sufficient to pay for a step. In that 19 of the 25 steps on our teachers’ scales are 2% apart, most of our members will receive the dollar-amount equivalent of a step.

THE ONLINE BALLOT IS A STRAW BALLOT CORRECT?

Answer #3)
That is correct. The Association Representative Council is TAAAC’s governing body and its ratifying authority.

I HAVE 12 YEARS OF TEACHING EXPERIENCE AND I AM NOWHERE NEAR THAT IN STEPS. IT IS DISHEARTENING THAT EVEN AS THE ECONOMY BEGINS TO GET BETTER, TEACHER PAY CONTINUES TO BE AT AN ALL-TIME LOW.

Answer #4)
We no longer have an economic problem in Anne Arundel County. We have a political problem. Mr. Schuh has run a campaign based on cost cutting. He’s chosen to cut the tax rate and pledged to cut a tax or a fee in each year of his first term. Personnel costs are well over 80% of the AACPS operating budget. Costing cutting at this level of priority has impacted and will continue to impact our terms and conditions of employment.

In regard to the new agreement, does this mean we are only get a 2% COLA and not a step increase? Everyone is wondering this as it does not clearly state it.

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR WORK ON OUR BEHALF. I WAS WONDERING, ARE WE GETTING A “STEP” OR JUST AN INCREASE IN SALARY FOR EITHER THIS YEAR OR NEXT? I AM A BIT CONFUSED ABOUT THAT.

Answer #5)
That is correct. There is a 2% COLA but no step. It is explicitly stated halfway down the front page of the settlement summary. I should make it a point to acknowledge the frustration with less than satisfactory settlements. The members of the negotiating team struggle with it as well.

I THINK OUR TEACHERS DESERVE A STEP INCREASE! ANYTHING LESS IS AN INSULT TO THE DEDICATION HARD WORK WE PUT IN. THIS SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN SENT OUT TO VOTE. SHOULD BE STEP OR NOTHING!

Answer #6)
When it comes to teachers deserving a step increase, we are in complete agreement. There is no single person on TAAAC’s team that would dispute the fairness or the need. It is unlikely that anyone on the team would agree that the TA should not have been put out to a vote. When negotiating teams reach what they believe to be the best available settlement, they are obliged to ensure members get opportunity review it, then accept or reject it. This TA does not have everything in it that we wanted, but it is an improvement over FY15 and an even more significant improvement over the Board’s best and last offer for FY16. Yes, educators deserve much more than they’ve been getting, but TAAAC is not one that withholds from them. If TAAAC behaved as you suggest, it would be doing exactly that.

Is it true that if we don’t ratify the contract then the BOE sets the terms of the contract? If it is there’s no wonder the BOE fights us every step of the way. It’s a win-win for them and lose-lose for teachers. Please let me know.

Could you be sure to include the consequences of a NO vote? I spoke with many teachers over the weekend and there seems to be a lot of confusion on that topic. My understanding was that if teachers did not ratify the tentative agreement, then the matter would be sent to the State Labor Relations Board. They would then choose one of three options: the BOE’s best-and-final offer, TAAAC’s best-and-final offer, or the agreement created by the mediator. If that is correct, is there any reason TAAAC members should not be allowed to see both the BOE and TAAAC’s BAFOs?

What happens if teachers don’t “accept” the negotiated agreement? How many — or what percent of — teacher votes causes it not to “be accepted”. Who is the “other side”, and when will we know if they accept it.

IN THE EVENT OF A “NO” VOTE, WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS IN THE PROCESS?

Answer #7)
We will know it TAAAC accepts or rejects to the TA by the close of its October 7 Association Representative Council. If TAAAC’s ARC rejects this TA, the Board (other party to the TA) will have no reason to act on it, provided it has not done so before October 7th. If TAAAC rejects the TA, one of two outcomes is likely:

The Board could continue the FY15 terms and conditions of employment as modified on this past June 17. Or, the Board could impose its last and best offer that was submitted to the PSLRB. The latter would reduce the COLA to 1.25%. There would still be no step, and the language providing the automatic annual step would be stripped from the contract.

There might be some recourse with the PSLRB but it is not explicit in the statute that created it. The three choices referenced in the question above were apparently developed with an assumption that the PSLRB would make one of those choices when mediation failed and the mediator had to write a report, but without anticipation that a mediated agreement might be rejected by constituencies. The statute does not speak to our situation; where when a mediated agreement results, therefore there is no mediator’s report, and a Tentative Agreement might face rejection.

Guidance from our attorney indicates that there may be able to get the PSLRB in the absence of explicit language in statute, but it is doubtful that recourse would come quickly, and more doubtful that the economic package would be improved since determination would be based it on the same budget figures used in mediation. The PSLRB is still bound to Section 6-408(14) which would require any decision of the PSLRB to conform to other portions of the Education Article that concern the fiscal relationship between the Board and the Council.

DOES THE SETTLEMENT MEAN THAT THOSE OF US WORKING IN TITLE I SCHOOLS WILL RECEIVE NO EXTRA COMPENSATION FOR WORKING IN THESE VERY DIFFICULT SITUATIONS?

The settlement summary explains that challenge schools will no longer receive a stipend. A 2% increase in my salary does not equal the amount of the stipend so I will be making less money this year. I expected better negotiating from TAAC and I’m extremely disappointed in my union!

Answer #8)
Yes, the stipends are gone at least until/unless some other incentive is negotiated. The stipends took much discussion time from both parties. It appeared clear that they were going to be terminated or at least modified. The Board wanted the available funds for other priorities. TAAAC’s effort was to keep the money in the area of compensation and would agree only if recovered funds were put on the salary scales. There, it would benefit everyone in the unit and be captured in the calculation of retirement benefits.

WE ALREADY RECEIVED 1%. THIS IS A SLAP ON THE FACE. MY SCHOOL WILL REJECT IT!

Answer #9)
Unit I employees haven’t actually received anything yet. We had a tentative agreement on a step increase early in negotiations. The Board added enough to the Superintendent’s proposed budget to fund it. When the budget got to County Executive Schuh, he cut it in its entirety. With help from the County Council, enough funding was added to the appropriate categories (primarily Instructional Salaries and Wages) to fund the equivalent of a half-step. That half-step became a 1.25% increase that the Board put in its final budget in June, and offered it to all four unions. TAAAC rejected the offer and eventually went to impasse. The 1.25% has not yet been applied to paychecks, and this TA increases it to 2.0% – a 60% improvement. The Board has been continuing FY15 terms and conditions of employment. Dependent upon ratification a 2% will be applied retroactively to the beginning of the fiscal year.

I AM VERY SURE YOU WOULD MAKE MORE WITH A STEP INCREASE THAN THE 2%.

Answer #10)
Of the 25 steps on our salary scale, 19 of them are 2% apart. In dollar amounts, most of our members are receiving the equivalent of a step.

WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE TO EDIT THE SURVEY MONKEY FOR PEOPLE TO MENTION WHAT, SPECIFICALLY, THEY DISAGREE WITH IN THE TENTATIVE AGREEMENT? THIS WOULD HELP DIRECT NEGOTIATORS’ ACTIONS MORE APPROPRIATELY FOR THE PEOPLE THEY REPRESENT AND HOPEFULLY CREATE A MORE CONTENT WORKFORCE IN THE LONG RUN.

Answer #11)
I believe I am hearing from people now. Rather than modify the Survey Monkey, let me use this FAQ to invite every TAAAC member reading to send me recommendations, suggestions, etc., for use in the FY17 negotiations directly to me.

NO STEPS AGAIN? NONE SCHEDULED TO MAKE UP FROM PAST YEARS? HAVE STEPS BEEN ELIMINATED FROM AACPS BUDGETS? IF I’M READING IT CORRECTLY, THERE IS NO STEP INCREASE, CORRECT? IS THE RUMOR THAT STEPS ARE GOING TO BE GOING AWAY TRUE?

Answer #12)
You are correct in that there is no step increase with the TA. However, there is no provision in this TA that takes away steps permanently. The proposal that might have led to that was in the Board’s last and best offer to the PSLRB. It would have eliminated the language that provides an automatic step. That proposal did not survive the mediation.

GOOD AFTERNOON, THE TENTATIVE AGREEMENT MENTIONED THAT NEW HIRES WILL HAVE 2 YEARS OF OUT OF COUNTY EXPERIENCE TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM INSTEAD OF THREE. WILL THIS BE RETROACTIVE FOR CURRENT EMPLOYEES WHO HAD 3 YEARS OF OUT OF COUNTY EXPERIENCE TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM (MEANING THEY WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR A STEP INCREASE)?

Answer #13)
Sadly, it is not retroactive for the relatively new employees hired within the past five years. Nor is it retroactive for the educators who have been in the AACPS for any number of years and who lost steps in FY10, FY11, FY12, and FY13.

DO THEY REALIZE WHAT THEY’RE COMMUNICATING TO US WHEN THEY DENY US A STEP INCREASE? IT FEELS VERY DISRESPECTFUL WHEN THEY SEEM NOT TO VALUE THE GOOD WORK WE HAVE DONE. FINALLY, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT WE CAN DO AS TEACHERS? CAN WE STILL “WORK TO RULE” IF WE ACCEPT THIS AGREEMENT?

Answer #14)
What teachers and the other educators can do more is to take part in your unionism . TAAAC leadership regularly asks members to come out for hearings on the budget, to give some testimony as to their own challenges in the classroom or office, to participate in post card drives, make a telephone contact to a councilman, and other similar activities. These are relatively easy things that members can do that will serve to remind in public office that it’s more than just Bill Jones, Richard Benfer, and a few volunteers that they do business with. It is 5,800 well educated and conscientious professionals. The word “collective” is conspicuous in the term “collective bargaining.” When you select a lawful exclusive bargaining organization and join that bargaining organization, you’re not simply contracting for a couple of spokespersons. The influence of the organization does not lie with those spokespersons. It lies in the size of its membership and the willingness of that membership to act when asked.

And yes, we can work to rule with or without a TA. Working to rule simply means that we’ll be working in accordance with the terms and conditions of employment that both parties have agreed upon. TAAAC leadership has not requested a work to rule. The anticipation was that mediation would be successful.

WHY IS IT THAT THE 2016 NUMBER AND THE FIRST NUMBER ON THE SUBSEQUENT STEP MATCH AT SOME LEVELS BUT NOT AT OTHERS?

Answer #15)
The steps are 2% apart on 19 of the 25 steps. So, a 2% across the Board increase will generate the same salary increase as a step. The pattern is not exactly consistent because it is skewed on the steps that that are farther than 2% apart.

PER THE EMAIL I RECEIVED THIS AFTERNOON FOR THE VOTE FOR TENTATIVE AGREEMENT, IT STATES THAT IT IS FY16; DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE SALARY INCREASE WILL NOT GO INTO EFFECT UNTIL NEXT SCHOOL YEAR OR IN JANUARY OF 2016?

Answer #16)
Fiscal year 2016 began on July 1, 2015. The TA including its salary increase will be retroactive back to July 1. Twelve month educators will begin the new salary from their first payday in July. Ten-month educators will begin their new salary rate from their first pay day in September.

COULD YOU PLEASE PROVIDE EXPLANATION OF THE JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE FOR SALARY INEQUITIES? IF THE LANGUAGE IS CHANGING FOR REDUCING THE REDUCTION OF YEARS FROM NEW HIRES, COULD IT BE DEDUCED THAT OUR SALARIES WILL RETURN TO BEING BASED ON EXPERIENCE INCREMENTALLY OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS?

Answer #17)
Both parties to the Agreement knew that when the scales were restructured and initial placements were made by salary there would be some inequity in the results. In some instances there are educators with five, six, or more years of experience than colleagues on the same salary step. Both parties also knew that is was unavoidable if we were to restructure the scale. Both parties also knew that the restructuring was necessary, because a step increase on the old scale had become unaffordable. TAAAC’s interest then and now is to locate and address the most serious inequities. The Joint Committee was formed to accomplish that objective. We have found that there is not much agreement between the parties as to what constitutes a serious inequity. We are going to make another attempt in FY17.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE STEPS AND A 2%?

Answer #16)
In total cost, an approximate one-and-a-half million.

I HAVE 18 YEARS OF TEACHING, BUT I KNOW THAT I AM NOT AT THAT STEP. HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT STEP/SCALE TO LOOK AT?

Answer #17)
If you are full time and working a full year, look at your biweekly gross pay and multiply it by 26. The result should be a salary amount that you will be able to locate on the salary exhibits in one of the appropriate FY15 columns.

JUST TO CLARIFY, WE ARE TO RATIFY THIS CONTRACT IF WE ARE IN FAVOR OF THE INCREASE IN SALARY. IS THIS CORRECT?

Answer #18)
If you vote “yes”, you are voting to keep a number of improvements that appear the settlement summary including the 2% COLA. If you vote “yes” would also be voting against a lesser increase and against the prospect of having the long-standing provision requiring an annual step increase eliminated from the Negotiated Agreement.