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Boulder Valley teachers OK contract

A labor dispute that dragged on for months in the Boulder Valley School District has ended with teachers accepting the district’s contract offer.

Terms of the tentative agreement, approved Wednesday by teachers, include a 1 percent cost-of-living raise. That’s similar to the offer rejected by teachers last month.

Boulder Valley Education Association President Melissa Tingley said in a press release that there were “minor changes” to the district’s  final offer. Teachers wanted to move forward, she said, but her statements make it clear that they were not entirely happy about it.

“For months, the district and school board have ignored our requests to work together to solve problems and move forward for the benefit of the students, the teachers, and the district,” Tingley said in the release. “The administration’s hard-line position taken last spring has not changed.

“We hope that the district understands the serious morale problem it has created among all its employees,” she added, “the district and the community must realize that the disrespect and lack of collaboration is taking a toll on our dedicated employees.”

Boulder Valley district spokesman Briggs Gamblin said “all of BVSD is in the same fiscal boat. To imply otherwise is akin to one side of the boat telling the other side that they’ve sprung a leak.”

“The bottom line is that employees in a district experiencing minimal growth … still received a cost of living raise, full funding of steps, and full funding of individual employee health and dental insurance,” Gamblin said. “And, the district was still able to do this after having $3.8 million set aside by law into a fiscal emergency reserve.”

Boulder Valley school board to meet Friday

The Boulder Valley school board will meet Friday to vote on the tentative agreement with teachers as well as an agreement with the district’s classified employees, which include aides and food service workers.

“It has admittedly been a difficult negotiations reflecting the deepening state fiscal crisis,” Superintendent Chris King said in the district’s release. “I sincerely appreciate the support of these valued employees for their respective agreement.”

Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said Boulder is the last of the state’s larger school districts to reach an agreement.

Bargaining between some districts and their unions dragged on months longer this year than it has in years past. Boulder, Greeley and St. Vrain Valley districts all have settled recently.

“I don’t think we can attribute this to the current economic climate per se,” Fallin said. “We had many districts across the state that, with the same amount of money that these districts received, were able to settle in the usual period of time, in the spring or before school started in the fall…

“They were able to put their employees at least much higher on their priority list, if not first, than these other districts were willing to do. Those districts spent the money someplace else by choice.”

Union claims teachers not a priority; district disagrees

Gamblin disagreed that teachers are not a high priority for the Boulder district.

“Teachers are a very high BVSD priority,” he said. “Our total compensation package for BVSD teachers … amounts to greater than a 6 percent compensation increase for 2009-10. BVSD is, under Gov. Ritter’s current proposal, facing a minimum of a $12.1 million cut over fiscal year 2009-10 and fiscal 2010-11. To say the state’s fiscal crisis was not a factor in 2009-10 negotiations ignores reality.”

Boulder district and union officials will return to bargaining in February to begin hammering out a deal for 2010-11.

The statewide financial situation is predicted to tighten dramatically for the next school year and it appears likely many districts will be trying to hold the line on salary increases during the 2010 bargaining season.

Districts already have been planning for a 2 percent cut in state aid in the current, 2009-10 budget year. That cut hasn’t been made formally but lawmakers are expected to approve it soon after they convene next month.

It’s also looking increasingly doubtful that the state will reimburse districts this year for higher-than-expected overall enrollment and numbers of at-risk students.

For 2010-11, Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed what amounts to a 6.1 percent cut in state aid. He has advanced a narrow interpretation of Amendment 23 that involves trimming the 25 percent of school aid that is designed to compensate districts for cost of living, at-risk and size differences.

While some legislators and interest groups disagree with the details of Ritter’s proposed mechanism for making the cuts, there appears to be general resignation about the prospect that cuts will have to be made.

Ed News Capitol Editor Todd Engdahl contributed to this report.

 Click here to see the Boulder Valley Education Association press release.

Click here to see details of the tentative agreement between BVEA and the district.

Click here to see the Boulder Valley School District press release.