Q&A: Carmel Clay Schools addresses contract dispute with teachers

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Compiled by Audrey Bailey

Carmel Clay Schools associate superintendent of business affairs Roger McMichael answered questions from Current about the contract dispute between the school district and teachers union.

Talk a little bit about the hearing this past Friday, along with the topics that were discussed.

Earlier this year, Carmel Clay Schools worked with the Carmel Clay Education Association through a collective bargaining process to create a mutually-agreed upon teacher contract. A tentative agreement was reached, but when the time came to ratify the contract, the CCEA failed to ratify the agreement.

As a result, Indiana law required both parties to submit their Last Best Offer and, ultimately, participate in a Fact Finding Hearing.

A fact finder and financial consultant, who were appointed by the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, conducted the Fact Finding Hearing. The fact finder reviews both parties’ LBOs and selects one as the contract for the current year.

During the hearing, the fact finder considers a number of components, with two primary considerations being whether or not a party’s LBO results in deficit spending (which refers to spending more than current year revenue) and which LBO best serves the public interest.

Both parties were able to share their LBOs and reflect on how funds would be used to pay for teacher contracts and raises. During the bargaining process, CCS had offered to spend both current year revenue and some of its cash balance to pay for salary increases. If the district chooses, cash balances can be used for this purpose. However, when the tentative agreement was not ratified and the Fact Finding process was begun, the law eliminated the ability for CCS to use its cash balance to pay for salary or benefit increases in its LBO. While CCS wanted to use its cash balance to provide more compensation for teachers, they were required by law to decrease their offer.

While the offer is called a “last best offer,” it is actually an offer of less money to teachers because CCS can only use current year revenue to pay for the offer. This is why the failure of the CCEA to ratify the tentative agreement is so disheartening to Carmel Clay Schools, who would have liked to provide more compensation to teachers.

During the CCEA’s presentation of their LBO, it became clear they wanted to spend $941,000 more than is permitted by law, which would result in deficit financing.

The Fact Finding Hearing also brought to light areas in the CCEA’s LBO that do not serve the public interest as they would negatively impact CCS students, their educations and the CCS community.  Examples include:

The CCEA’s LBO would require all new hires be paid at the lowest salary level, regardless of the individual’s prior experience or whether the opening is in a high needs, hard-to-fill area. This would greatly hinder Carmel Clay Schools’ ability to fill open positions with the best teachers available.

This provision of the CCEA’s LBO also would force CCS to reduce the salary of more than 50 teachers who were hired this year and who are being paid more than the CCEA-required lowest level on the salary schedule.  Some would lose more than 20 percent of their pay. The district does not support this as it would hurt morale and could cause teachers to leave the district.

The CCEA’s LBO would also eliminate a long-standing provision that requires a retiring teacher to give 60 days notice. This provision was thoughtfully designed to ensure the district has time to recruit and hire the best teacher available to replace the retiring teacher.

Carmel Clay Schools wants to ensure students continue to be put first and that the teacher contract allows CCS to hire the best teacher for the job, while continuing to support current teachers in the district.

According to a document produced by CCEA, 17+ year teachers are being offered a -1.36 percent raise. Why is this happening? And will you be requesting money back from teachers?

Under the district’s LBO, all teachers would receive a salary increase.  Those at the top of the salary schedule would receive a 0.5 percent salary increase. Everyone else would receive on average a 4.2 percent increase.  Because every teacher is receiving an increase in salary under the district’s LBO, there is not a need for any teacher to refund any money or reduce his/her salary.

The document referred to in this question is from the CCEA’s LBO. The CCEA’s description about what would happen to teachers at the top of the salary schedule is inaccurate. Last year, teachers on the top step of the salary schedule received both an increase to their salary and a one-time, non-recurring stipend of 1.25 percent.  The CCEA agreed to the one-time 1.25 percent stipend in last year’s contract and knows it is not a recurring increase to base salary. At the Fact Finding hearing, the CCEA treated the one-time stipend as if it were a recurring increase to the salary schedule.  This is inaccurate and misleading.

What is the process of budgeting teacher salaries? What all has to be considered when coming to a decision?

The budgeting process considers the estimated cost for teachers, including the cost of additional teachers, as well as any assumed salary increases. The amount budgeted becomes irrelevant in Fact Finding because only funds received in the current year are available. It is illegal in Fact Finding to use any of the district’s cash balance. Thus, when the CCEA failed to ratify the tentative agreement, the district was required to lower its raise for teachers.

How long have these fact finding hearings been taking place? What has been the public response to these meetings? 

This is the third time in four years CCS has had to go through Fact Finding.  The first year, the CCEA would not agree to an offer. The last two times, the CCEA tentatively agreed to an offer, but then failed to ratify the contract. It is very unusual for a tentative agreement not to be ratified.

This is truly unfortunate for CCS teachers because each time the district has been forced into Fact Finding, it has had to reduce the amount previously offered in bargaining to comply with the legal prohibition against deficit financing. In the two prior Fact Findings, the neutral, third party IEERB-appointed fact finder chose Carmel Clay Schools’ LBO, and each time her decision was upheld on appeal. Each of these times, teachers received less than they would have received if the CCEA had accepted a contract before Fact Finding.

Is there anything you’d like to say to Carmel Clay teachers regarding salary concerns?

There are legal constraints on what a school district can and cannot say to teachers during this process. Therefore, we are answering this question for the Carmel community. We would like our community to know that Carmel Clay Schools truly values and appreciates the hard work and dedication of all the amazing teachers in our district. They provide outstanding educations to our students and are vital to both student academic and extra-curricular successes. We are disappointed we were once again forced into Fact Finding because the CCEA failed to ratify a contract that had been mutually agreed upon in the collective bargaining process. This failure forced the district to reduce the salary increase to comply with Fact Finding laws. This is particularly frustrating to the district because only 29 percent of our teachers have chosen to be CCEA members. The CCEA only lets members vote at a ratification meeting, therefore 71 percent of our teachers did not have the opportunity to accept the higher salary increases the district offered in the tentative agreement. Still, Carmel Clay Schools is committed to working together with our teachers, but we cannot do so unilaterally and need the agreement of the CCEA.


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