Labor, Teachers — March 21, 2013 at 7:13 am

Grosse Pointe teachers sign union contract that ties pay to school financial health, will pay for their own subs


Wait, is that a “pregnancy tax”???

Grosse Pointe teachers signed a new four-year contract with their school district that continues a unique twist: It ties teachers’ pay to the school district’s fund equity (basically what the district owns minus what it owes). In exchange, they put off the effects of Michigan’s new right to work law for four years and, thanks to modifications in the previous contract’s provisions, avoided pay cuts of up to 9%. In this case, it appears that the school district was able to use the threat of the impending right to work law to get quick ratification of the new contract.

When teachers signed the original contract three years ago, none of them believed the district’s fund equity would fall below the 10% threshold required to trigger pay cuts. However, in 2011 it did:

Chart from a Powerpoint presentation presented to Grosse Pointe school teachers

This triggered pay cuts that nobody was expecting.

The new contract features some rather bizarre new components. For example, sick time has been eliminated for teachers and replaced by an “individual leave bank” of up to 10-12 days. Teachers that exhaust these banked days will be compelled to pay the school district $120/day for the costs of a substitute teacher. They can appeal to the school board for an exemption in the case of catastrophic illness. This is being characterized by some as a “pregnancy tax” since most pregnancy leaves would exceed the banked allowance.

The new contract does soften the blow of the impact on wage cuts but wage cuts will continue based on the Grosse Pointe School District’s fund equity at this time. It also requires that the use of personal days, which have been reduced from three to two, be approved by the Human Resources department. You can see more on the contract’s provisions HERE.

The tying of teacher pay to the fund equity was groundbreaking when it was put into the last contract. One of the big criticisms of it is that it contains no virtually incentives for the school board to rein in spending in other areas to avoid the pay cuts. There are some now, in fact, who accuse the board of being on a careless “spending spree” that contributed to the fund equity dropping below 10% in 2011 and forcing teacher pay cuts. This most recent contract was hurried along somewhat by the fact that the new Right to Work law goes into effect next Thursday and that, without modification of the teachers’ pay provisions, teachers would have faced even deeper pay cuts than those required by the new contract.

It’s just one more example of how we are starving our schools of resources across the state and the ones who pay the price are the very people that we task with teaching our kids and preparing them to take their place in society.

You would think, given that profoundly important role they play in society, that we would value them just a little bit more.