Anchorage Teachers Get Tiny Raise, Part-Timers Lose Benefits

AEA President Andy Holleman. Photo from the Anchorage Education Association.
AEA President Andy Holleman. Photo from the Anchorage Education Association.

Anchorage teachers have a new contract. It gives them a small raise that doesn’t keep up with the cost of living and eliminates benefits for part-time educators.

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The tentative contract with the district is so, so, says Andy Holleman, President of the Anchorage Education Association.

“There’s a 1 percent increase in the salary schedule this year and the next two years. That wouldn’t keep us paced with inflation.”

Holleman says any raise in the current economic climate is better than nothing. The starting salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelors degree is more than 47-thousand dollars and tops out at nearly 90-thousand with a doctorate and 20 plus years experience. Teachers will get a 15-hundred dollar bonus in the first and third years of the 3-year contract, to make up for the small raise. For several years now, the district has been wrestling with the rising cost of benefits. The AEA represents roughly 35-hundred teachers and certificated educators in Anchorage. The negotiations have been going for about six months. Holleman says one big compromise was benefits for part-time employees.

“We did what we considered a significant give that has a bad impact on a handful of our members. It used to be that if you were half time you could get full insurance benefits. You now have to be working at least three quarter time.”

That change will impact about 150 union members. Members voted on the agreement Wednesday. Margaret Gadsden is a guidance counselor at East High School and an AEA member. She says, overall, she’s pleased with the deal.

“In the climate that exists in our nation and in our state, we’re not getting frozen, we’re not getting rolled back. It could be a lot more dire for us. Especially when you’re looking at the Anchorage school district is looking at, again, another year of budget cuts that they’re gonna have to make. So to have something that’s at least attempting to give us a little bit more, is good.”

Russell Hood is a physics teacher at East High School. He and his wife, who is a doctor, have two kids. He teaches 60 percent of full-time, which equals three classes. The family depends on his benefits he says because his wife’s insurance would be inadequate and more expensive. He says he’ll likely add more hours in order to keep his benefits. But that comes at a cost.

“The reason I work point six is that my kids is that it allows me to et my kids to school – elementary start time is 9 o’clock and I want to do that for them. And financially, we don’t need that extra money. so it’s nice to have that family time, both seeing my kids before school and picking them up after school.”

The school board is likely to approve the agreement at their next scheduled board meeting September 9th.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.