SLPS contract
11:11 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

SLPS teachers to get raises for the first time in three years

St. Louis Public Schools employees will get raises for the first time since the 2008-2009 school year under a contract approved Tuesday night by the state-appointed Special Administrative Board that oversees the district.

Members of the American Federation of Teachers Local 420 voted overwhelmingly earlier in the week to approve the new three-year deal, which takes effect immediately.

The union and district officials reached a sticking point about six weeks ago over language that required the district to continue covering all health insurance benefits. But Dr. Kelvin Adams, the SLPS superintendent, praised the union for agreeing to continue working toward a deal with the help of a federal mediator.

"We were at a point of disagreement, but we’ve made a commitment to work in the best interests of young people in this city, and that overrides our personal beliefs about anything that happens in this district," Adams said.

Union president Mary Armstrong called those full benefits, which became part of the final deal, the most important thing she secured for her members.

"One of the things we hold holy, if I can use that word, is not having to pay the portion of the benefits because our salaries are not commensurate with those in the surrounding school districts," Armstrong said.

In addition to the raises and the full coverage of health care, the new deal avoids furloughs. Teachers and other district employees worked seven days without salaries over the last two years to avoid layoffs.

All the provisions are expected to cost the district about $9 million this year, though salaries and benefits are renegotiable in the last two years. Adams calls it a sign of a financially stable district, which had a balanced budget this year for the first time in nine years.