Chambersburg area teachers, board approve contract

Written by Ashley Brooks/Public Opinion | Dec 13, 2017 9:36 AM
Chambersburg teachers.JPG

Members of Chambersburg Area Education Association, a teacher's union, carry signs outside the Chambersburg Area School District meeting on Tuesday evening, September 26, 2017. CAEA, currently without a contract, held the rally prior to the CASD meeting.(Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

CHAMBERSBURG - After several months of negotiations and three potential strike dates, teachers in the Chambersburg Area School District now have a new contract.

On Tuesday, the Chambersburg Area Education Association's membership approved the tentative agreement during a vote after school. The Chambersburg Area school board then held a vote later that evening at its regular meeting, during which time seven members voted to approve the contract, one voted against it and one abstained because his wife is a teacher and a union member.

The board and the union, which represents more than 500 teachers, have been negotiating a new contract since March. The previous contract expired at the end of June.

The new contract will begin during the 2017-18 school year and run through the 2020-21 school year, ending on June 30, 2021, according to a news release from the district.

Throughout negotiations, salary was an issue for both sides.

Within the new contract, a new teacher with a bachelor's degree will earn a salary of $48,418, the release states. Teachers will also get salary increases, which includes a three percent increase for the first year (which will be about a 1.5 percent increase, because it is not retroactive and will not take effect until the 14th pay in February), a 3.35 percent increase for the second year, a 3.4 percent increase for the third year and a three percent increase for the fourth year.

On average, teachers in the district make about $60,825 a year, the district said, which is on par with the statewide average of $60,186 for the 2016-17 school year, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Health care was also a sticking point.

Under the previous contract, teachers used a preferred provider plan and didn't pay anything toward their health insurance premiums - something which cost the district $18,000 a year for each family plan, and $6,800 a year for each single plan.

Teachers will move to a qualified high deductible health plan under the new agreement effective July 1, 2018, the release states. The district originally wanted to change the union to this plan, because all other employee groups (such as administrators and support staff) have done or are in the process of doing this.

Deductibles will be set at $1,500 for an individual plan and $3,000 for a family plan, with members also beginning to share some of the premium costs. According to the release, during the first year teachers will pay two percent of the costs beginning on the 14th pay in February, during the second year they will pay three percent and during the third and fourth years they will pay four percent.

The district will also contribute to a health savings account for members participating in the high deductible plan. For the first year, it will not make any contributions, but for the second and third years it will contribute 40 percent of the deductible, and for the fourth year it will contribute 37.5 percent of the deductible.

The new contract also means that there will be no strike from the teachers' union. The union had originally planned to strike on Nov. 13 if a tentative agreement was not reached, but productive negotiations led the organization to push it back to Nov. 29. As negotiations continued, the strike was later postponed to Dec. 8 and then once again to Jan. 8.

Co-president of the union, Cindy Bowen, said that both sides worked hard to come up with an agreement that was as fair as possible.

"This involved a whole lot of time and work from all parties involved in negotiating the new contract," she said in a text message.

She added that she hopes further negotiations will continue to be productive, and "handled amicably in the future, as well."

The district also thanked the association for "good faith bargaining and for making changes that mutually benefit teachers, the district, the community and taxpayers," it said in the release.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and Chambersburg Public Opinion. 

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