Madison Teachers, Incorporated (MTI) ratified a new contract Wednesday night, which would carry their collective bargaining rights into 2015.
MTI president John Matthews said if Madison's board of education approves it as well, it would be the only teachers union in the state to secure a contract through the next school year.
The contract provides a 0.75 percent raise for all five units of MTI membership, including teachers, educational assistants, and clerical and technical staff, to name a few.
Pending board of education approval, the new terms would run from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.
"We actually were attempting to get contracts through 2018," Matthews explained, "and the school board didn't see it our way on that particular issue."
Matthews pointed to Act 10, specifically the state's attempt to appeal a judge's decision ruling parts of the law unconstitutional, as the reason for the earlier bargaining.
"We were trying to be sure that folks we represent have the employment security and economic security, the working conditions that we have agreed on with this district, and developed over the last 50 years," Matthews said.
Madison Board of Education president Ed Hughes said the process usually begins later in the year, but with the current ruling still in place, the board decided to continue on with negotiations.
"We are operating under that particular order, and it doesn't apply statewide, so our situation is a little different from other school districts," Hughes said.
Hughes said the decision to come to the table sooner than usual was a sign of increased cooperation between the district and its staff.
"As long as that collaboration takes place, you know, whether it takes place under the framework of a collective bargaining agreement or a handbook I really think is secondary," Hughes explained. "The key point is that we're working together well here, and we want to see that continue."
Both leaders said even if Act 10 is reinstated in its entirety, this bargaining is not a lost cause.
"I don't think it's at all meaningless or an exercise in futility for us to undertake the negotiations now because I think, as I said, it really does establish a sense of stability," Hughes said.
Hughes mentioned the board plans to vote on the contracts at a meeting Monday. He said he saw no reason why they would not be ratified as approved by MTI.
District superintendent Jennifer Cheatham released a joint statement with Matthews Wednesday night, saying in part:
"We decided to enter negotiations not just to protect the status quo, but to create an environment that helps carry out positive change. Working together we have come to an agreement that continues to provide employees with the stability they need to focus on the day-to-day work of teaching and providing a quality learning environment."
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