The Anchorage School District and the Anchorage teachers union said Friday that they have tentatively accepted a one-year contract agreement that includes a salary increase for all educators and a boost to employer health contributions for union members.
The proposed contract is subject to a vote by members of the Anchorage Education Association and then needs to be approved by the Anchorage School Board. If ratified and approved, it would run from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2025.
The contract affects more than 3,000 teachers and other district employees, according to a statement from the district and union. It includes a 3% pay increase for all teachers.
The agreement represented the largest single-year wage and health benefits increase for educators in more than a decade, Anchorage School District superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said in a written statement.
The increase in health benefit contributions was meant to offset rising health care costs in Anchorage and nationwide, said Corey Aist, head of the teachers union.
“I think this is a step in the right direction to help recruit, and more importantly, retain the educators that we currently have,” Aist said.
The district has lost more than 1,000 educators in the last three years, according to Aist.
He said he was hopeful that the new contract would help encourage more teachers to come to Anchorage, but that more resources were needed to be truly competitive with other school districts in the Lower 48 that are offering even higher starting salaries for teachers.
“Staffing is a big concern,” he said. “I hear that every day, and the team was trying to work hard with the limited resources that the state has been giving us to find common ground with the Anchorage School District.”
Under the new contract, new teachers with a bachelor’s degree would see a starting annual salary of $56,823 — up from $55,168 under the current contract. Aist said other school districts across the country offer starting wages that are nearly $10,000 higher, causing many would-be Anchorage teachers to leave the state.
“Those school districts are having a much less challenging time recruiting staff because they have the resources to pay them,” he said.
“I really believe that this is the start and not the finish,” Aist said of the overall contract.
In a joint statement Friday, both the district and the union called on the state Legislature and the governor to agree to a long-term education funding increase. Education advocates say the state’s Base Student Allocation — the formula used to calculate school funding — for years has not kept up with inflation, straining school district budgets across the state.
“Given the structural deficit faced by ASD and other districts around Alaska, it’s in the best interest of both ASD and AEA to enter into a one-year agreement, in the hope that the Legislature and Governor will work together this coming legislative session to appropriately fund education,” Bryantt said in the statement.
Union members will vote on whether to ratify the contract later this month, Aist said.
The school board will vote on the contract at its Dec. 5 meeting.