After about two years of negotiations, the Anchorage School District and the local teachers union have reached a tentative one-year contract agreement, the groups announced Wednesday.
The Anchorage School Board and the teachers themselves still must ratify the agreement before it takes effect.
If approved, the agreement would give the 3,300 members of the Anchorage Education Association teachers union two more personal days this year, bringing the total to five. It would also increase the district's monthly contribution to members' health insurance premiums by $65, bringing that total to $1,645 per person per month.
The union members wanted both of those increases. They also wanted a 3 percent salary increase, but that was not included in the tentative agreement.
"Three percent on this scale was unaffordable in our state at this time," Superintendent Deena Bishop told reporters Wednesday during an afternoon press conference.
Under the proposed contract, teachers would still have their pay increased based on changes in their experience and education.
For instance, an Anchorage teacher with no experience and a bachelor's degree who earned a base salary of $48,886 last school year would earn $50,213 this year — their second year teaching in the district.
Jim Anderson, district chief financial officer, said the contract, if approved, would cost the district an additional $6.5 million this school year.
Tom Klaameyer, president of the teachers union, said while the one-year contract didn't include everything the union wanted, it would allow teachers to keep their focus on their classrooms. Plus, he said, it would give the union and district time to focus on the upcoming legislative session.
"We should be on the same side instead of beating each other up, fighting over crumbs," he said. "We need to address the larger issue of the current unsustainable fiscal climate at the state level."
Teachers are currently working under the terms of their old contract, which expired June 30 of this year. Hundreds of educators crowded school board meetings this fall to air frustrations, including about the absence of an up-to-date contract as negotiations dragged on.
If approved, the tentative one-year contract would expire June 30, 2018. Its provisions would take effect retroactively to July 1 of this year, district officials said.
Klaameyer said the union and district would likely start negotiating in April for the next contract agreement, which would begin July 1 of next year.
Bishop said the district would prefer the groups agree to longer-term contracts. However, she said, that was difficult because of the uncertainty of state funding for schools year to year.
She said she was pleased to announce Wednesday that the district and union had reached a tentative accord for now.
"During negotiations, sometimes we focus on the other side of the business rather than what's good for kids and how we teach kids every day, and so I'm thrilled that our teachers can focus on student learning and know that a contract is coming," she said.
The teachers union will vote on the one-year contract proposal at the end of November. The school board is scheduled to vote on it Dec. 18.