Editor's note: The copy of the fact-finder's report provided to the Blade omitted the final page. That page included a recommendation that the board identify 25 gifted, alternative, and curriculum specialist positions to be cut.
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A fact finder's report recommends cutting Toledo Public Schools teachers' pay by 2.5 percent and requiring them to pay a bigger portion of their health-care premium to help balance the district's budget for the next two years.
The report, obtained Sunday by The Blade and to be voted on Tuesday by the Toledo Board of Education and the Toledo Federation of Teachers, also says passage of a new levy is vital for the district and recommends maintaining popular programs to bolster support for such a levy.
The report rejects district proposals to eliminate elementary specialists and the creation of a performance-pay system for teachers.
The proposed two-year contract calls for a 2.5 percent pay cut for teachers, and would stop teachers from receiving automatic longevity raises for the duration of the contract, saving the district an estimated $8.6 million a year. It also eliminates 25 positions.
In total, the report calls for about $44 million in concessions over the next two fiscal years, effective July 1. The current contract with teachers expires June 30.
- A fact finder's report recommends a two-year contract between Toledo Public Schools and its teachers' union, effective July 1. The recommendations include:
- A 2.5 percent salary cut.
- Freeze of longevity pay raises.
- Health care cost savings to the district of $9.5 million a year.
- Elimination of 25 gifted, alternative school, and curriculum support specialists.
- The fact finder rejected district proposals to eliminate elementary school art, music, and physical education specialists, streamlining of seniority, and a performance pay system.
Most board of education members declined to comment or only spoke in general terms about the report, except for Larry Sykes, who provided the report to The Blade.
Mr. Sykes said he released the report because he wanted the public to know its recommendations and for them to give feedback to board members before they vote. Teachers, administrators, and the district's other employees all have representatives who fight for their interests, Mr. Sykes said, but parents and students do not. He said misinformation was spread about district proposals during negotiations. Releasing the report, he said, would allow people to see facts.
"I am their advocate," he said of parents and students, "and that's why I think it's important they see and understand this contract before I vote on it."
He said that although there are good elements to the report and that he may support it, he wanted to hear what people had to say before he made a final decision.
"If the public is not happy with where we are going, then by Tuesday night [board members] need to know," Mr. Sykes said.
Francine Lawrence, president of the teachers' union, railed against the release of the report, calling it a subversion of the review and consideration process under Ohio's labor laws. She called Mr. Syke's actions "completely irresponsible behavior."
"His actions will potentially have the effect of having the report rejected by the union membership," she said.
The report by arbitrator Nels Nelson is to be voted on tomorrow by the school board and members of the union. In fact-finding, the mediator's report is binding unless it is rejected by 60 percent of the voting members of either side.
If either the board of education or any of the union's three bargaining units reject the contract, the union will likely immediately hold a strike authorization vote, Ms. Lawrence said.
The district faces a "severe budget crisis," Mr. Nelson wrote, because of declining revenues from federal, state, and local sources, while costs continue to increase. New state and federal money is not likely, he wrote, so cuts are necessary. Mr. Nelson stated his belief that cuts alone won't solve the district's financial woes and that Toledo residents must pass a levy, raising additional revenue for the district.
"The voters must pass a levy to allow the board and the teachers to offer their students the education they deserve," Mr. Nelson wrote, "and to provide the city with the schools it needs to attract new businesses and retain residents."
The district faces a two-year budget deficit of about $50 million, according to the report, after the district agreed to partially pay for textbooks out of the capital improvement fund and to reduce the projected number of students who will move to charter or private schools. Mr. Nelson's recommendations would "give the district the opportunity for a balanced budget over two years," district Superintendent Jerome Pecko said.
Mr. Pecko said he would recommend the board accept the report.
"These are tough times in the school district, and this fact finder's report represents that very well," he said. "We just have to get out of the mess we are in financially, and this helps us do that as a district."
After negotiations stalled two weeks ago, district representatives and leaders of the teachers' union entered the fact-finding process, in which a mediator attempts to resolve differences, and if that is impossible they issue contract recommendations after hearing arguments from both sides.
The parties held fact-finding sessions two weeks ago, and Mr. Nelson issued his report Friday. The report cost $6,787, to be split evenly between the district and the union.
The report provides recommendations on 11 issues. In general, Mr. Nelson supported district positions on financial areas and the teachers' union on contract provisions, including changes to seniority, voluntary transfers, and a proposed system to pay teachers based on performance, instead of longevity and degree attainment.
The biggest financial concession by teachers would come on health care. Mr. Nelson recommends that a health-care committee meet to create alternative plans and premium contributions that would save the district $9.5 million a year. If the committee does not reach an agreement by Aug. 31, teacher premium cost-sharing would increase from 5 percent to 10 percent.
If the committee still fails to reach an agreement by Dec. 31, employee contributions would rise to 15 percent under Mr. Nelson's recommendations.
Teachers would have their pay cut by 2.5 percent under Mr. Nelson's recommendations, on top of 1 percent pay cuts teachers accepted last year. Automatic longevity pay raises would be frozen for the next two years.
Teachers had wanted a one-year agreement with a 3 percent salary reduction.
In one of the largest proposed cuts, the district wanted to eliminate art, music, and physical education specialists at elementary schools, and have those classes taught by regular classroom teachers. The cuts would have saved about $11.1 million a year.
Mr. Nelson rejected that proposal, however, arguing that reductions in programming would continue the flow of students out of the district. It also could torpedo a levy.
"The passage of a levy is essential to the Toledo Public Schools and even the city of Toledo," he wrote. "Anything that might be identified as a reduction in the quality of the schools could result in the rejection of a levy."
Mr. Nelson also supported a two-year contract because of a possible levy, arguing that with a one-year contract, voters could conclude a levy would simply go toward restoring teacher pay.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: email@example.com or 419-724-6086.