The Portland School Board voted 4-3 to extend the district's current teacher contract for two years (through June 30, 2008), with a cost-of-living increase of 2.5 percent in each of those two years.
The agreement will allow the Portland Association of Teachers and the Portland Public Schools to focus their time and energies on strategies for improving student achievement, district officials said. The teachers union ratified the agreement on June 14.
"I'm delighted that we've reached a timely agreement with the union," said Board co-Chair David Wynde. "This agreement reflects the greatly improved relationship between the school district and our teachers and allows us to continue our positive collaboration focused on improving student achievement and managing health care costs."
The agreement is within the district's budget guidelines for 2006 and 2007, and within the range of cost-of-living increases made to other district employees. It maintains the district's overall mid-range ranking for salary and benefits compared to other school districts.
Since 2003, the district and the union have shared insurance premium expenses. As a result, the district's monthly contribution per teacher has decreased by 11 percent, from $930.42 to $829.52. At the same time, the teachers' contribution towards their health care benefits has increased.
Since they began contributing to their health care costs for the first time in 2004, teachers have increased their out-of-pocket contribution toward premiums by 36 percent — from $55.83 two years ago to $75.96 in 2006. Since 2004, the district has gone from having the highest health care costs per teacher among the 14 metro-area school districts to ranking seventh in teacher health care costs.
During the next two years, the district and the union will try to preserve the current premium contributions and to minimize future increases.
"We've come a long way since 2004 in reducing health care costs and making teachers' salaries more competitive, and I'm eager to keep moving forward," said board co-Chair Bobbie Regan, who, along with Directors Dan Ryan and Sonja Henning, voted against contract ratification.
"Today's vote reflects differing views on the pace of change and how much this contract should have achieved especially in terms of long term health care cost containment and bringing teacher health care costs in better alignment with what we provide for all other district employees," Regan said.
The school board and the union also agreed to create working committees on hiring, assignment and transfer issues and instructional time schedules.
Using such a working committee earlier this year, the union and the district agreed under the district reconfiguration plan that middle school teachers could fill sixth grade vacancies in new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools, helping teachers move with their students or allowing a sixth grade-certified teacher to fill a sixth grade teaching vacancy.
The district and the union have committed to implement all mutual agreements developed by the working committees before the contract expires in 2008.