About 30 teachers and teachers’ assistants stood outside Horlick High School Monday afternoon calling for fair wages that keeps up with inflation for all teachers and teaching assistants in the Racine Unified School District.

Members of the Racine Education Association (REA) will present its compensation proposal to the Racine Unified School District on Wednesday and the Racine Education Assistants Association (REAA) will be presenting their proposal a few days later, said Aaron Eick, vice president of the REA.

The joint union represents 1,690 teachers and teachers’ assistants: 855 of them would receive a 1.62 percent adjustment, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index, while the remaining 835 who haven’t maxed out on their pay schedule will receive a 2.5 percent increase.

The rate of inflation was 7.1 percent in 2014, 6.3 percent in 2013, 4.8 percent in 2012, 3 percent in 2011, and 0 for 2010.

“We have to value the professional educators that work in this district,” Eick said. “We need the board to do the right thing and not hide behind Walker’s leadership and Act 10.”

The teachers’ proposal includes: Keeping the salary schedule intact and moving all educators on that schedule to their next step; providing the same average increases as other educators to those at the top of their pay schedule; and calls on the district to pay all Racine Unified educational employees a 1.62 percent cost of living adjustment.

Racine Education Association executive director Naomi Baden said the 2015-16 preliminary budget “woefully under funds employee compensation.”

“It is difficult to believe how the District could have put so little funding into the compensation lines for all employees,” she said. 

But district administrators say the district base wage proposal includes the maximum amount allowed under state law, which comes in the form of step increases based on years of service and level increases based on the amount of advanced education attainment.

“In addition to the District’s base wage proposal, the administration is prepared to propose that the Board approve additional funds to provide a 1.62 percent supplemental increase for teachers at the top of the salary schedule,” according to a prepared statement by the Racine Unified School District. “This will ensure every RUSD teacher receives salary increase.”

But supplemental pay is not part of the base wage package, said chief operations officer David Hazen.

“By state law, it cannot be negotiated,” Hazen said. “The RUSD leadership team is committed to doing everything we can to support our teachers in this effort, including taking this extra step. When you look across the state, our proposal is competitive with other districts.”

Baden pointed out that the district will receive $3.128 million from the state after Gov. Scott Walker restored some of the funding to proposed cuts because the state will pay $150 per pupil enrolled in the 2014-2015 school year and $250 in the 2015-16 school year.

Still, Racine Unified communications director Stacy Tapp said the increased revenue didn’t fill the hole created by increased expenses. Additionally, if enrollment increases as expected, the district will actually lose aid designated for Unified because it had been identified as a declining enrollment district.

“Because enrollment is calculated on a three-year average, we won’t receive funding for additional pupils for three years,” she added. “We’re really excited (about the increased enrollment), but if it exceeds the enrollment for last year, we could actually lose funds.”

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.