April 21, 2024

Unsettled contracts at WCA leave teachers questioning their future

Joan Honzay, a first grade teacher at South Elementary School, shares her colleagues’ concerns before the school board.

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Jake Sias
Grant County Herald

During the latest West Central Area School District School Board meeting, teachers expressed their concerns over delayed contract updates for the current school year. In a rare turnout, 32 attendees, including teachers, students, and community members, gathered to voice their frustrations. The delay in contract negotiations at WCA reflects a broader state-wide trend, with only 233 of 408 districts having settled contracts as of March 6.

Teachers used the public comment period to convey the financial and emotional toll of the delayed contracts. The absence of updated contracts, failing to match inflation and cost of living increases, has left many educators feeling undervalued and financially strained. Comments read from anonymous teachers highlighted challenges such as rising daycare costs, insufficient salaries affecting future family planning, and the necessity of second jobs to make ends meet.

John Kreft, the union president, when asked about the speed of the negotiations, stated, “They were delayed for many circumstances, all legitimate reasons, and they are proceeding in a normal timeline. It’s just that the beginning of it got delayed.” Typically, teacher contract negotiations begin in November and conclude by early the following year. However, this cycle’s negotiations started much later, in late January. The last contract expired on June 30 of last year. 

Kreft continued, saying, “Our school board is doing the best they can. We are worried that, just looking at the calendar, it may be difficult to get a contract ratified by May 1. There is no magic deadline on May 1, but say we get a 3-4% increase on all those paychecks we got before. All that has to be figured out, and if that has to be figured out in the summer, it gets very difficult. And I think the district would agree with this, that it would be a very bad show if we didn’t have the retro-check in hand by the end of the school year.” 

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