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Utica teachers taking big cuts in new contract

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Teachers in Michigan’s second-largest school district are taking big cuts in their new contract.

The two-year contract approved this week includes wage and benefit concessions from Utica teachers of more than $9 million.   

The agreement includes:

·         Five furlough days

·         Benefit change to high deductible health insurance

·         Dental insurance carrier change

·         Step freeze for the first year of the agreement (2017-2018)

·         Half-step freeze for the second year of the agreement (2018-2019)

While the school board and teachers union disagree on some issues, both point to the state for being a large part of the district’s financial issues.

“It is now time for the state of Michigan to address the second side of the equation – revenues,” Utica Community School Board of Education President Gene Klida said in a written statement. “Our state lawmakers must realize that the current school funding system is broken and needs to be replaced.”

Klida’s statement cited several issues for the district, including failure of the state of Michigan to reimburse more than $18 million of special education costs, which had to come out of the district general fund budget and school districts with comparable teacher pay had higher per-pupil funding.

Governor Snyder has recommended an increase in per-pupil funding in next year’s budget.

The Utica school district has been struggling with budget issues for years.  

Utica’s teachers are not happy with the new contract.

“Reducing teacher salaries is a short-term fix, but Utica teachers did what was necessary for the good of the school district,” says Utica Education Association President Liza Parkinson. “Now the district must begin the process of making major changes that will provide a long-term solution to these budget difficulties.”

Parkinson says contracts like this will make it hard to recruit new teachers.

“Fifteen percent of my members self-reported that they have second jobs to make ends meet,” says Parkinson. “That’s not how we attract people.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.