Marquette Area Public School teachers are still without a contract agreement.
For the second time in three weeks, teachers held a walk-in/walk-out day to raise public awareness about the issue. Educators across the district walked in together at their scheduled start time, rather than showing up early as they usually do, and left as soon as the day ended. A new agreement has not been reached, in part, because teachers object to the off-schedule raises that the district is offering.
“That’s not a raise. If you look at the rate of inflation, anyone who goes to the grocery store or goes to the gas pump knows prices are going up more than that, and teachers have been going backwards now for five or six years,” said Marquette Senior High School teacher Fred Cole.
“We’re looking for our contract from the past to be honored, things that we’ve bargained and negotiated for that are now being taken away from us, or with the stroke of a pen, gone, and we would like to move forwards, not backwards in our compensations that we’ve negotiated for in good faith,” Nancy Usitalo, a Third Grade teacher at Sandy Knoll Elementary School added.
“Every year, for the past four or five contracts that we have had, we’ve made great concessions in our insurance, in class size, so I’m not sure what is going on,” said Sandy Knoll Fourth Grade teacher Mindey Talus.
Teachers say the district has traditionally paid step raises in recognition of service throughout their careers, but they say the current offer eliminates those. The superintendent says that after recent budget cuts, difficult choices must be made to keep the district on solid financial ground.
“One of the biggest areas happens to be salaries,” MAPS superintendent Bill Saunders said. “Eighty-five, 86% of our budget goes to salaries. I’ve been on record to say, with board backing, that we don’t want to cut more teachers and increase our class size, and in looking at that, there’s not a whole lot else that forms your budget.”
A school board meeting is scheduled for Monday night, and many teachers will be attending to voice their concern.