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Teachers accept back-pay report from fact finder

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Toledo Public Schools teachers accepted a fact-finding report yesterday that would settle the issue of back pay owed to them since 2002 and provide the first raise in more than five years.

Teachers also authorized their union president to call for a strike if the Toledo Board of Education rejects the report.

"We're hopeful the board will see this as a good agreement," Toledo Federation of Teachers President Fran Lawrence said.

The proposed agreement includes a schedule to pay the teachers the 1.48 percent raises approved in December, 2002, but which have yet to be paid.

Although it's referred to as the "1.48 percent," it is really 2.01 percent because of a 0.53 percent deferred payment given to another union that the teachers got under a "me too" clause.

The approximately $16 million in back pay that is now owed would begin to be paid back with a lump sum of 4.02 percent representing two years' worth of the 2.01 percent deferred payment.

That lump sum, which would be paid no later than Aug. 29, would mean a separate check of between $1,314 and $2,634, depending on the teacher's salary.

Annual salaries for the district's teachers start at $32,697 and go to $65,520 for a teacher at the top of the scale with a PhD.

Teacher salaries for the next two years of the contract would go up 4.02 percent per year.

The fact finder, James Mancini, also recommended a 1 percent raise for the 2008-2009 school year and a 2.8 percent raise for 2009-2010.

"Teacher salaries are so depressed compared to other districts," Ms. Lawrence said. "This contract moves closer to closing that gap."

The fact finder also was asked to settle a dispute about the length of the contract.

The district wanted a two-year agreement because the treasurer could not certify the appropriate funds to pay for the third year; the union wanted a three-year deal to provide stability.

The fact finder recommended a two-year contract from April 1 to March 31, 2010.

The teachers were the first to vote yesterday when nearly all of the approximately 2,000 met at the Stranahan Theater.

They accepted the fact-finding report with a voice vote that included only a sprinkling of no votes, Ms. Lawrence said.

They stood to authorize the union president and chief negotiator to call a strike.

Later in the day, the district's 275 paraprofessionals and about 320 substitute teachers, who both get pay increases in the proposed contract, also approved the fact-finding report and strike authorization.

It's up to the school board to decide if this fact-finding report settles the disputes for the first new contract between the district and the union since the last agreement in 2001.

It expired March 31 after three extensions of the original agreement that ended in 2004.

Superintendent John Foley said administrators met with each of the board members this week to show them the report.

There has been no special board meeting called to vote on the fact finder's report, he said.

The board's next regularly scheduled meeting is May 27, which is within the 14 days agreed upon to take action on the recommendations.

"From our side, that is one-half of the equation," Mr. Foley said of yesterday's union vote. "And certainly the board is considering their options and the impacts of the fact-finder report and the language issues and asking good questions and being very thoughtful."

Should the board reject the report, the union would have to give the district at least 10 days' notice before going on strike.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.

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