Three months into the school year, the Anchorage teachers union and the school district remain locked over key terms of teachers’ contracts that were originally set to begin in summer.
Now, the two sides plan to engage a federal mediator to help resolve differences after an impasse was declared last week.
“We’ve been able to resolve quite a few issues, but at this time, both sides feel like a mediator would be a worthwhile endeavor,” said Corey Aist, president of the Anchorage Education Association.
The Anchorage Education Association represents more than 3,000 teachers and other personnel at the Anchorage School District.
“The primary remaining issue in the negotiation is the compensation package for educators, including health insurance,” MJ Thim, a spokesman for the district, said in an email.
Aist also said insurance benefits remain a sticking point, as well as classroom planning time, as the district faces a huge number of unfilled teaching positions and class-support positions.
The district has offered an increase to the teacher pay scale, but that remains unresolved as teachers grow increasingly concerned about inflation, Aist said.
Teachers have been working under three-year contracts that expired in June.
Many members of the teachers union remain eligible for salary increases under the expired contract, based on experience and educational attainment.
Under a three-year proposal, the district has offered terms that include “salary increases in each of the three years in addition to the structural step and lane increases already received by most educators,” according to the email from Thim.
The state of Alaska has not increased the district’s base student allocation since 2017, Thim said. Before that the district received a minimal increase of just over 0.8%.
Last month, hundreds of Anchorage educators rallied outside a school board meeting, calling on the district to offer more pay and finalize the contracts.
Also unresolved are contractual negotiations involving about 1,300 educational support staff represented by TOTEM Association of Educational Support Personnel.
Following an unsuccessful effort to resolve differences that involved a federal mediator, the two sides will enter advisory arbitration in January, said Sandy Thompson Wallace, president of TOTEM.