Kenai Peninsula teachers union sets strike for Tuesday - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, December 16, 2019
HomePoliticsKenai Peninsula teachers union sets strike for Tuesday

Kenai Peninsula teachers union sets strike for Tuesday

Teachers and staff of two public employee unions in the Kenai Peninsula School District have set a strike date for Tuesday. They have been without a contract for more than 400 days and are operating under the previous contract, which ended in 2018.

Their latest proposal to the school district would cost $27,076 per year for each employee who is in the district’s health care program. The district has offered to pay $24,068 for each employee’s Aetna health care plan.

The difference of $3,008 per year, per employee, would cost the district an additional $3.2 million this year, money that the district says it does not have.

The Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association voted on Friday to strike starting at 7 am on Sept. 17.

The statement posted on the KPEA Facebook page advised:

“The failure of the KPBSD to adequately address the Association’s primary concern of affordable healthcare premiums for public school employees continues to hinder an acceptable agreement. In May, 75% of teachers and education support staff voted to strike if the District could not come to the table with an offer that would lower healthcare premium costs to a level commensurate to comparable districts in Alaska. The District has not met that demand.

“On Thursday, September 12, the Association’s bargaining team presented the District with an offer that would have given up a previously agreed to raise of 2% for all employees in FY21, pending the outcome of Alaska Legislative Council v. Dunleavy, if the District would agree to the most recent healthcare proposal offered by the Associations. This proposal was designed to acknowledge the District’s concerns regarding the uncertainty around one-time state funding while respecting the Association’s desire to prioritize affordable healthcare.”

“We have said since May that we don’t want to strike, but we will. We have been bargaining for 575 days, and the District still doesn’t seem to understand how incredibly important healthcare is to our members. If they won’t listen to us at the table, we’ll take our message to the community. Until the District is willing to accept our reasonable proposal, we will exercise our legal right to strike,” said KPEA President David Brighton.

Ann McCabe, KPESA president, added, “We understand the short-term impact a strike will have on students and families, but the long-term impacts of growing class sizes and shrinking communities because no one can afford to work here are far more serious. The district can end this strike before it even begins if they decide to value our public school employees and offer them a fair contract.”

[Read: Tense meetings, threats, strike date nigh, another day in Kenai]

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Would it be rude to suggest “Teachers and staff of two public employee unions in the Kenai Peninsula School District” take a hike and let their unions support them for a good, long while?

    • I dislike strikes that occur just before school begins or within first six weeks of a new school year because of impact on students as they settle in for the new year.

      That said, if this strike helped improve quality of education and staff interaction guiding students, especially at the high school level, I would say, ‘bring it on!’

      With four grandchildren attending and graduating from schools in Soldotna-Kenai-Sterling I am sad at how poorly staff worked with the majority of students……the schools had small groups of ‘entitled’ students who received 90% of staff attention. My examples were students with 3.1 to 4.0+ gpa, no school infractions and were participants in various sports, music, drama, community service. What were they lacking? They didn’t strive to be in faculty cliches……didn’t drive new vehicles…..very middle class……..parents not putting pressure on faculty. Their Soldotna high school let them down.

      I honestly question paying a mostly indifferent and mediocre staff more money. Maybe there needs to be an end of the year written survey by students and guardians/parents rating their school year experience. Do pay increases by performance and ratings. Just saying…….

  • The district says it doesn’t have the $3.2 million, but the itemized FY2019 audit paints a different picture. As does the fact that they’ve been funded to the cap by the borough. They were funded $2 million more in FY2019 than in FY2018. The employees also did their part, saving the district health care plan $2 million when many switched to a high deductible plan (taking on increased individual risk). Watch the bargaining sessions posted online for further insight. Make sure you get information and opinions from both sides before forming your opinion. KPBSD teachers pay nearly double the monthly premiums as those in comparable districts and have some of the smallest take home pays the state. As their health care costs rise, their net take home pay has continued to decrease. All while facilitating some of the best results in the state. A bit of research will reveal the relationship between pupil performance and teacher compensation/esteem. Without a respectable and fair contract, the KPBSD is going to struggle to recruit and retain quality educators. If you listen to some of the board meetings, students have already attested to this, as their best and favorite educators flee the state for greener pastures. As an aside, if you really want to have a direct, immediate, and positive impact on the education of the youth in your community, please find opportunities to volunteer at a local public school. You might be surprised with what you learn about the quality of educators and the challenges they face.

    • How many administrators does Kenai have? Not the ones that actually work in the schools like secretaries, but all those that work off-campus in a giant building, never to be seen, but some how are responsible for budget, test scores, etc. In Anchorage, over 60% of our public school budget is for “administrators”, not teachers or classrooms. I have no issue with teachers receiving decent pay and benefits. I do take issue with the administrators. Per the state, the average administrator starting wage is way above wage of a senior teacher. This seems, to me, a sever problem. Coupled with the fact the we have such poor school tests, what exactly does all those administrators do every day? Kenai’s schools aren’t in any better shape than Anchorage based on test schools. They’re doing a very poor job.
      .
      The State Department of Labor and Workforce Development has an awful lot of information. http://live.laborstats.alaska.gov/wage/
      .
      I agree that it will be difficult to recruit good teachers. However, there are a multitude of reasons why, and wages are not the only issue. My neighbor and great friend for many years, sums it up nicely. She points out that between the federal DOE, State DOE, unions, and school board members, there is very little “real” teaching going on anymore. She spends more time on meetings, continually having to change her curriculum every time the feds or state changes it (like when the feds pushed Common Core and Everyday Math that’s been a disaster ever since), and having no authority whatsoever to discipline a student who is seriously acting out and continually disrupting class.
      .
      Personally, the greatest thing I ever did was pull my son out of middle school. I tried to put him in kindergarten at a public school, but after the teacher told me to quit teaching him to read, I put him in Montessori for several years. He wanted to play hockey, so I tried again putting him in public school. He was so bored. He spent more time in detention and I spent a lot of time in the principal office asking why he is a supposed trouble maker when he was actually just bored to tears. I homeschooled him for a couple years, and when he turned 16, he spent two years in Japan. He came back, aced his GED first time, and now he is in college out-of-state. I was fortunate to have the money and free time to spend with him (and we are not religious people, BTW, so don’t accuse us of that).
      .
      So yes, I think that I am a very well informed parent about the quality of education in Anchorage and the challenges they face. More money won’t solve all those problems, either. I would rather my property and business taxes be spent on vouchers and expanding charter schools than more public schools, but that’s just my opinion. We will never have decent public schools until we end the federal DOE, the NEA, and all those mystery administrators.

  • Perhaps the Teachers who pay dues to this union would be better off not paying the dues ( Janus decision by SCOTUS ) and use the funds to help
    pay for their healthcare. They no longer need the union. Unions once had their place. Not so much anymore. It is a workers market now days.
    I hope the school district holds the line. Average teachers salary and benefits on the Peninsula is very high. And that is for approx only 9 months of work.

    • The amount paid in union dues would maybe cover a month or three of average health insurance. Not all employees can qualify to opt out, either. If average teacher salary on the Peninsula is so high, why is it lower than all the other comparable districts in the state? And why are so many district employees having to moonlight at a second job and/or work through the summer? Not to mention that the days of tier 1 retirement is long gone. Tier 3 retirement for the state is pretty terrible, so large portions of that salary needs to go towards retirement savings. It’s definitely a convoluted issue.

      • Many employees that work in the private sector have to moonlight a second or even third job, too. If you’re that concerned, why aren’t you asking why the union is protecting and ensuring poor teachers who have been fired because of showing up drunk or child porn but yet are still receiving paychecks and/or pensions? Why aren’t you asking why all those administrators are getting paid more than teachers yet never set foot in a school? Why aren’t you asking why states that have excellent charter schools but manage to receive a fraction of their public school funds and have better outcomes?
        .
        It seems to me that the NEA is part of the problems that you continually mention. I have no love for the public schools (see my post above regarding my experiences), nor do I feel bad about Kenai’s (or any other public school’s) teachers. If I lived there, I’d be just as furious as I am in Anchorage.
        .
        Charter schools and vouchers are the way to go. Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, every other state that has allowed great charter schools have, for the most part, exceled and cost much less. Florida’s Republican Governor had an awful lot of minorities voting for him in their election specifically because he promised to expand those so more kids didn’t have to suffer in public schools, and he did. I would vote and heavily donate to any politician, regardless of party, if they promised to create that here. https://reason.com/video/stossel-let-charter-schools-teach/

        • Do those moonlighting in the private sector all have BAs and Masters degrees? Do they work high pressure jobs with high turnover? Do they come in for an extra 4-8 hours every weekend for no pay? Or stay late without overtime pay? Or take coaching positions that translate to extra cents on the hour worked? These are already incredibly hard working individuals. You say you have nothing against teachers themselves, but it certainly doesn’t seem that you’re supportive of the profession.
          .
          Teachers who get DUI’s on the way to school get fired. Teachers convicted of child porn get fired. They lose their licences. Their health insurance only lasts for so much longer, like it would for most jobs after termination (e.g. cobra). Even convicted felons still qualify for social security. KPBSD teachers don’t pay in, so their “pension” is all they have. You should read into the tier 3 retirement system in our state. It is far from a juicy pension. A good portion of my take home pay must be diverted into separate retirement savings if I am ever going to retire.
          .
          I am thankful that when a good educator is accused by a parent, student, or administrator of something they didn’t do, there are union representatives that will help defend them. Cherry picking the minority terrible people that the union has defended is like admonishing our due process system because even clearly guilty people are guaranteed a defense and trial. It is terrible when the union protects bad educators, but those are incredibly isolated instances. I could cherry pick instances in which home school parents were sexually or physically abusing their children, but that doesn’t mean I want to abolish home schooling or that they should be deprived a fair defense, however disgusted I am in their actions.
          .
          Administrative pay IS and issue to teachers. The last time the KPBSD was in bargaining and teachers accepted the district’s/board’s stance that they didn’t have the money to improve certified/classified contracts, they turned around and months later gave substantial raises to site and central administrators. That’s one of the reasons teachers in the KPBSD feel like they have to strike. Mind you, this was internally driven by educators. Union leadership did not want us to strike. So stop behaving like there is some dark evil pulling the strings and realize this is grass roots. NEA might be part of the problem in this twisted and struggling system. But right now, after almost 2 years of failed bargaining, what other direct recourse do you see these educators have?
          .
          The KPBSD has some great school choice and charter schooling. Aurora Borealis, Soldotna Montessori, Kaleidoscope, and Fireweed Academy to name a few. Not to mention other great alternatives like River City Academy and Connections Home School programming. A majority of educators at those schools chose to strike as well.
          .
          I think it would be amazing if more parents gave quality home schooling to their children. The same parents who are involved (and financially capable) enough get their kids into a school of their choice or to home school them are the same parents whose children usually find success in the KPBSD. We’re graduating some who have their Associates Degrees completed at age 17/18! And there are many students from less involved or educationally supportive homes that find success in the same public schools. We also service students who are abused, hungry, have inadequate housing, are homeless, or experience trauma. Servicing kids on all sides of the socioeconomic or experiential spectrum in public schools is crucial for the success of our communities and society as a whole. Just because parts of the system are broken or bad doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater.
          .
          And please don’t suggest that by decreasing spending on public schools these disadvantaged families would get enough of a financial windfall to be able to afford private or home schooling. Even if they did see a large enough difference in their finances, some would continue to not educate their child. Just like they never read to them when they were toddlers or pre-k. Teachers and public schools aren’t miracle workers. I see phenomenal growth from some of my remedial math students. Starting the year in the 18th%ile and then climbing to the 45%ile under my instruction. But they might never be proficient on the state PEAKS test. Did I fail that student? Did the system fail them? Or are we basing success on a single measure? That’s probably the same square peg / round hole way of thinking that made you remove your child from public schooling. While it might not work for all, it is certainly doing a lot of good. By all means, throw your support behind charter schools and choice. But don’t demonize the life saving and changing work being done with countless children within public school.

          • Then they need to be in a real union. Hourly pay with so much going to benefits. Change the requirements. Do they really need a Masters or is it just to get more money? Most public employee unions are really just Collective Bargaining Units. I had to take continuing education to work HVAC. I also did not get paid if I could not bill out an hour. Don’t continue to feed a political machine, change it up. Also do away with brick and motor universities and go online. Less bricks, more clicks. Less student debt, campus assaults on drunk girls and less entitled athletes.

  • I make less than most of these teachers and guess what I don’t have health care insurance and I support four children. These union thugs disgust me and any teacher that walks off the job should be fired immediately. This is politically motivated and using our children as a bargaining tool but it should back fire on them if any of you have any common sense. IE. childcare costs when kids are not in school lost work… screw the union save the working class

  • My big take-away from all of this is, why is the insurance company being allowed to charge over $27,000.00 per year, per employee? This is an absurd amount, but I know that it is true because my wife is a teacher in another school district in Alaska, and the amount that her district is charged per employee is similar. Maybe someone should be looking into this?

  • “$27,076 per year for each employee who is in the district’s health care program”?
    .
    Yeah… take a hike, strikers, don’t come back, you priced yourselves out of the market!
    .
    $27,076 per year? Home school might just be cheaper… and better.

  • The problem with any pay increase not matter how much is the declining effectiveness of Alaska’s education system.
    What’s needed are more charter schools and support for homeschooling.
    More money is not the solution, the teachers need to figure this out, and either change the paradigms set by the NEA to reflect a priority for literacy, instead of feel good.
    It is time to instill competition and accountability.
    Literacy, not indoctrination.

    • Studies actually link higher teacher pay with better student performance. And recent Peaks scores showed improvement among students.
      .
      If you think that classrooms are teaching “feel good” instead of literacy, I suggest you volunteer at some of your local schools to gather experience and evidence on whether your opinions are validated. Imagine if all the people who complained about education and/or teachers volunteered an hour or two a week. That would probably cause a more positive, direct, and immediate impact on students/learning than elections/politicians/administration ever could.
      .
      The point of public education is to benefit communities and society as a whole. You think charter schooling and choice matters to hundreds of villages and small communities in the state? Their public schools are not just beacons of hope/security for their students but community centers as well. I also wonder how many parents would abuse financial assistance or tax breaks for home schooling without actually providing quality education to their kids. Or was there a different type of home schooling “support” you were suggesting?

  • There are many reasons Alaska is failing. Some are the borough’s fault. Money is wasted. Books are purchased for thousands of dollars, then not used. No recycling is done There are too many high paid positions that never see a student. K-12 schools are cheated out of music, PE classes. Cuts go to those schools first.
    Kids are having a hard time learning in combined classes. Especially when the combined class has 3 age groups. The amount of time spent on Math and English are not problems per se. The problem is that the children who are lost are just pushed along. The kids move along at paces that aren’t reasonable. If they don’t get percents ,for example, they still move along.
    If the child can’t read by second grade, their chance of success falls. By middle school without good reading skills kids give up. Sometimes they begin to act out because they feel “why try?
    Changing curriculum, tests and school times are expensive and lead to failure.
    I think, as a retired educator, that the lack of discipline in the classroom leads to failure,too.
    If it isn’t working why are we still doing it the same way?
    Stop listening to school boards,unions and others that only have money in the game. This is about kids and learning. Get real!!!!
    Stop failing our kids.

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