The contract impasse between the Lawrence School District and the roughly 280-member Lawrence Teachers Association continues as the Board of Education unanimously rejected the fact-finder’s report and the LTA filed an improper practice charge against the BOE.
Since July 2011, the LTA has been working under the previous contract. There have been no discussions since Feb. 26, 2015. Since the city of Buffalo settled with its teachers in 2016 after 12 years, Lawrence is now the longest running contract negotiations in the state. The next step could be super conciliation — mediation. But it is not mandatory.
“To break the impasse, the board needs to be reflexible with its work-rule concession demands,” said LTA President Lori Skonberg. “They need to agree to some of our proposals, and they need to offer a wage increase.”
The fact-finder’s report was issued last July. Lisa Brogan, a labor and employment arbitrator and mediator, compiled an 18-page report and using comparable raises given three other unions — the Association of Lawrence Administrators, the Lawrence Facilities Management Association and the Lawrence Public Schools Association of Counselors — called for the district to come to terms with the LTA.
Brogan said “the report speaks for itself,” and wrote in her conclusion: “The primary goal of this report is to give them a goal as they look for ways to raise some of the funds needed to support the increases, but also encourages the district to use some of the funds which appear to be available to support its core mission of instruction for its student population.”
In the first year of a new contract that went into effect in the 2016-17 school year, ALA members received a 4 percent raise, and 1.25 percent increases in each of the next four years. LPSAC members got a 3.25 percent raise in 2015-16 and 1.25 percent increases for the succeeding three years. LFMA members received a 1 percent raise and a $5,000 bonus in 2015-16, and succeeding yearly increases of 1.5, 1.75 and 2 percent.
BOE President Murray Forman said that the board rejected the fact-finder’s report because the recommendations “represented an incomplete and unworkable solution” to the existing impasse. Forman said education is being delivered differently in the 21st century and changes need to be made.
“We tried a comprehensive approach way back when there were areas that would provide buckets of money we could access [for raises], but [the LTA] totally watered it down or rejected it,” he said.
Through the past six-plus years, there have been grievances and legal action. The district wanted to add a sixth period of instruction that teachers would not be paid for, and the district’s wanted to use non-union teachers for the universal pre-K program. Both issues were adjudicated. An arbitrator sided with the LTA on the sixth period. An appellate court ruled in favor of the district on pre-K.
Now another action has been filed with Public Employment Review Board. “It was about the negotiations,” Skonberg said, “they had the fact-finding report since July and never responded to the dates we offered to negotiate or tell us if they were going to accept or reject the report.” A hearing is set for Feb. 5.
Forman called the latest grievance a “frivolous waste of time” and said “we are always willing to talk” and will “convene a meeting at the drop of hat.” He denies saying “I negotiate contracts on my terms” and reiterated his previous statement that he “prefers no deal to a bad deal.