Tens of thousands of Anchorage students will return to school on Monday and, for the second year in a row, their teachers will return to classrooms without an agreed-upon contract.
The Anchorage School District and Anchorage Education Association teachers union held contract negotiations throughout the summer but have so far failed to come to an agreement. They're at odds over a list of issues, including salaries, health benefits, the implementation of new programs, compensation for changing workloads and more.
The union wants the community to know teachers still don't have a contract, so it organized a "walk-in" for the first day of school to spread the message, said Tom Klaameyer, union president. Teachers will meet outside their schools Monday morning before students arrive. They'll hold signs with messages including, "No contract still working." Then they'll walk into school together, according to Klaameyer.
"We're making a statement that we're definitely here for our students but we're here without a contract," he said.
For now, teachers will continue to operate under their most recent contract — a one-year deal that expired June 30. Negotiations for that contract dragged into last school year as teachers packed School Board meetings to air frustrations.
Todd Hess, the district's chief human resource officer, said he felt confident the union and district would come to an agreement on a contract. He added, though, that when it comes to salaries, the union has asked for raises that the district can't afford.
"There's some give-and-take that needs to occur so we can reach a resolution," he said.
He added: "We've got a tremendous amount of great educators out there working hard for the children of this community, so I'm very positive that we'll be able to reach a resolution."
The district and union are continuing contract negotiations.