Officials from Jeffco Public Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association left the bargaining table Wednesday afternoon without a contract for the suburban school district’s teachers — and it’s uncertain when they’ll return.
When they do, the teachers union wants members of the Jeffco school board there to explain why they want a 10-month agreement.
Talks on Wednesday ended over a disagreement on how long the contract should last. The duration of the contract for the district’s more than 5,000 teachers is the final issue to be negotiated.
The teachers union wants a three-year contract to run from Sept. 1, 2015 through Aug. 31, 2018. The district wants a contract to expire in 10 months, on June 30, 2016.
“We are now calling upon the board to come to the bargaining table to express its interests around the duration of this agreement,” wrote JCEA president John Ford in a letter to the district’s five board members. “We feel that with more clarity directly from you, the decision makers, we can be successful in finding a mutually agreeable solution. We are available to meet with the board at your convenience.”
In a statement, Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee signaled that a 10-month deal is the district’s final offer.
The district’s rational for a 10-month contract is that it provides both teachers and the district to adjust to a more streamlined contract and it would align the bargaining process with the budget process.
“We believe this agreement is good for Jeffco students and Jeffco teachers and I hope the final document can be agreed to quickly and we can continue to provide a great education for our kids,” McMinimee said.
A 10-month contract would be a bit unorthodox. According to research by the National Council on Teacher Quality, the average collective bargaining agreement for teachers unions in the United States is three years. However, Jeffco and JCEA have previously had one-year contracts.
Contract negotiations between the teachers union and district, the second largest in Colorado, have been ongoing since March. More than 140 hours have been spent negotiating. In total, the agreement’s length has been reduced by about 60 percent. That was a huge priority for the school board.
Talks broke down temporarily during the spring over teacher compensation. However, an agreement was reached and negotiations quickly resumed.
In June, the district shared with the union a nearly-completed draft contract. The two sides have been using that document and a table of contents supplied by the union as a to-do list to complete the contract.
The current contract expires Aug. 31, about two weeks after school starts in Jefferson County. Any new contract must be ratified by the unions’ members and approved by the school board.