SIOUX CITY -- The unionized teachers in the Sioux City Education Association are voting on a tentative agreement for wages in the 2019-20 school year, and the contract could be settled in March.
Brenda Zahner, director of the Siouxland UniServ group of the Iowa State Education Association, said the estimated 900 SCEA members will vote through Monday to determine if they support the pay plan, which she would not financially pinpoint.
Zahner said if teachers ratify the tentative agreement, it would likely go to the school board at its next meeting on March 25. The move is being made sooner than last year's negotiations, so "the timing is good," she said.
"This was the best settlement that we were going to get...We have a lot of ground to make up from the loss of sixth-period pay (last year), with the insurance costs going up," Zahner said.
The pay plan approved last spring included the elimination of $4,792 in annual pay for nearly 300 Sioux City School District middle and high school teachers, beginning with the 2018-19 year. The extra pay was meant to compensate those teachers for covering an additional period in an eight-period schedule spread over two days.
When bargaining began in February, SCEA members asked for a 3.5 percent pay raise, which would raise annual teacher base salaries to $37,012 for the 2019-20 school year, up from current salary of $35,760.
Two weeks later, school district officials proposed a 1.5 percent pay raise to teachers.
School district spokeswoman Mandie Mayo confirmed a tentative agreement had been reached with SCEA on March 6, and that the school board could take action at the March 25 meeting.
Wages are the only element to be negotiated for the 2019-20 year contract, Zahner said, since the unions are already locked into a three-year agreement on language pieces that run through 2020-21. The so-called permissive language issue includes such topics as leaves of absence, employee hours, work year and grievance procedures.
Under state law, the initial exchange of proposals between a bargaining unit and a governmental body are open to the public. In subsequent negotiations, the two sides can meet in private.
Another union group of district workers, who include paraprofessional associates, secretaries and bus assistants in the Sioux City Educational Support Personnel Association, is also working on a contract. Zahner said the two sides aren't making progress, so a mediation session will be held Tuesday, as a step allowed in collective bargaining in Iowa.
"We can't reach an agreement, so we are bringing in an outside neutral (party) to attempt to come to an agreement," Zahner said.
Mayo confirmed the mediation step will be taken on Tuesday.
The district offered a $0.29 per hour increase, while SCESPA had asked for raises of $1.50 per hour. The support personnel receive a widely varying range of pay.
The district employs a combined 1,900 teachers and other staff.
In recent years, Sioux City district officials have lamented small amounts of new revenues for K-12 districts from the Iowa Legislature, in order to pay teachers and fund programs. Supplemental state aid has been approved at 1.1 and 1 percent in the last two years.
There is a doubling of funding coming for 2019-20, as Gov. Kim Reynolds approved a 2.1 percent boost in general funding for K-12 districts.
Iowa school districts must set their budgets by April 15, and pay amounts are one of the final elements for the Sioux City School Board to set by their timeline of April 8.