The teachers in the Chelsea Public Schools system have been working without a contract since June 30, 2014. Negotiations for a new contract began in the spring and continued throughout the spring and summer. However, the Chelsea Education Association (CEA) and the school board were unable to come to an agreement. As a next step, the CEA has requested a fact-finding process:
[T]he Chelsea Education Association requested that a third-party fact-finder be brought into the union’s negotiations with the Chelsea Board of Education. The school board is complying with the request.
Teachers have been working without a new contract since the school year started. Instead, the terms of an expired 2-year contract, which expired on June 30th, will apply until the two parties can reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
The teachers’ union and the school board have been negotiating in closed sessions, and the union brought in a state mediator. However, these efforts have not yet lead to an agreement.
A fact-finder can be brought in, when other efforts fail, to formulate a non-binding opinion for both parties to consider during negotiations.
The way it works is that the Michigan Employment Relations Commission will suggest three possible choices of fact-finders. Then the school board and CEA will negotiate which one they want. If the parties cannot agree, then each party can eliminate one fact-finder – as confirmed with Supt. Andrew Ingall
They have never done a fact-finding process before, according to both Ingall and school board president Steve Olsen. So, they are not sure exactly how long it will take.
The CEA has set up the community forum tonight to engage members of the Chelsea Community and to let them know all of the positive things that teachers are doing for students, even though they are working without a contract. The goal of the event is to bring together members of the Chelsea Schools community – including community members – for a discussion about the current state of our school district. There will be time allowed for public input and discussion. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. The event, they hope, will give the community an opportunity to be better informed and to give them the chance to offer their own comments.
The event will take place tonight, Wednesday Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the McKune Public Library, 221 S. Main St., Chelsea, Michigan.
“A lot of the recent discussions about the Chelsea schools, and the relationship between its leadership and its teachers, have focused on the few areas of tension and disagreements,” Rick Catherman, president of the Chelsea teachers’ union stated. “We’re interested in sharing out the information and stories that demonstrate how great the Chelsea School District is, too.”
The Chelsea Public School board released this statement about the ongoing contract negotiations:
The Chelsea Board of Education is negotiating with the Chelsea Education Association in a good faith manner. The Board of Education is adamant that negotiations with the Chelsea Education Association should take place at the bargaining table and not in the media. The Board of Education has proposed terms of an agreement that it believes are fair and in the best long-term interest of its students, staff and community. Given the uncertainty of school funding over the last several years, the Board of Education will not commit to increasing fixed costs (such as teacher salary and benefits) when it does not feel reasonably confident that it will have sufficient future funding to maintain those levels of expenditures. A balanced budget relies on sufficient income to cover anticipated expenses. In these uncertain financial times, the Board of Education wants to be sure it has sufficient reserves to maintain its current staffing and programming for students, even in the event of a limited increase or perhaps a decrease in state aid — both realities that have occurred in recent years. The District will continue to follow the terms and conditions of employment contained in the expired contract until the fact-finding process has been completed.
This is the reality of education in Michigan right now. Because our state leaders and lawmakers have slashed money going to the classrooms, teachers are expected to work without raises and to absorb cuts to their benefits. Teachers should be held in high regard in our society and rewarded for the critical role they play. Instead, they are considered a cost and something to be cut when times are hard. It’s our state’s biggest embarrassment.