INDIANAPOLIS — School districts in Indiana have until Nov. 15 to work out a deal with teacher unions on new collective bargaining agreements.
In the last month, contention around this topic has led to schools having to either use eLearning days or cancel classes all together for lack of staff.
That was the case in Anderson last week. Now, Anderson Community Schools and the Anderson Federation Teachers have announced they've reached a tentative agreement which still needs to be ratified and approved.
This situation is giving hope to other districts still in limbo. MSD of Pike Township is one of them.
Since last month, teachers and their supporters have held two rallies outside the MSD of Pike Township's administrative office building ahead of regularly scheduled board meetings.
Teachers spoke during public comment sessions in an attempt to persuade the board to give what teachers say is fair compensation.
As someone at the negotiating table, Mike Bankert said he worries some teachers may go looking for work in other districts if what they consider fair compensation isn't in the next contract.
"We want to make a deal that makes sense for both sides that keep teachers here because we've seen some two-year agreements very close to us that could take some of our teachers," Bankert said.
Bankert, treasurer for the Pike Classroom Teachers Association, said union leadership feels their proposals are fair because they're looking at the entire benefits package, not just paychecks.
"We've calculated the value of our insurance and benefits. We're using that as compensation because it is. We're basing our proposals off that," he said. "As we look at what's going on around us, we're trying to get closer to what those other schools are doing so teachers stay and our students have qualified candidates in the classroom. That's the biggest concern."
In an interview with WRTV in October, superintendent Flora Reichanadter said the district "must live within its means" and that they can't go into deficit spending. Reichanadter also said the current state of the economy, impacted by the pandemic, has made negotiations tougher noting those are things they can't control.
Education advocates tell WRTV, the current model of funding schools in Indiana is, in part, leading to tougher contract negotiations. The property tax cap is 1% for owner-occupied properties, 2% for "other residential properties and farmland" and 3% for all other properties, which includes commercial facilities.
These caps mean local schools get most of their funding from the state government. When that funding falls short, districts can ask voters to voluntarily increase property taxes through a referendum, giving the school access to more money for a set number of years.
At this time, Pike Township does not have a referendum. School leaders say they don't want to fund salaries through limited funding sources. That also includes the district's $34 million in federal coronavirus aid money.