There are a few updates worth sharing before our typical December payday EPEA Newsletter.
1. QComp Grievance Update: As many of you recall, our District leaders went against state statute and unilaterally changed our mutually agreed upon QComp Plan. At the same time, the district violated the Recognition of Exclusive Representation clause in our contract by moving the QComp Coordinator Position duties from our bargaining unit to another bargaining unit.
Despite months of conversation and attempts of resolution through conversation, our District leaders maintain no wrong doing occurred. The EPEA proceeded through three levels of the Grievance process. At the conclusion of the Level 3 grievance, District Leaders offered the EPEA an agreement to bring resolution to the issue.
In summary, the District offered to reinstate the QComp Coordinator Position as a .5FTE TOSA. In exchange for this, the EPEA would agree to drop the Grievance with prejudice (meaning we can not grieve the situation ever again). Furthermore, the District outlined in the settlement that the District would then "retain all managerial rights, including, but not limited to: selection of the individual to be employed in the QComp Coordinator position; determination and assignment of duties; decision-making on the number of personnel (including creation and elimination of positions) and oversight and control over the functions of School District programs, including implementation of the QComp Plan." This highlighted section would then eliminate the intention of the MDE's QComp Plan purpose and state statute: to have a mutually agreed upon QComp Plan / Program. MDE confirmed that this agreement would be in direct violation of the law.
Needless to say, it was not in the best interest of the EPEA to sign the settlement agreement; therefore, the EPEA has entered into the next stage of the grievance process: arbitration.
Meanwhile, teachers who serve on the QComp Steering Committee will continue to do their work of approval of team goals and enter discussions of QComp Plan purpose and intention. They will remain grounded in the intent of QComp, MDE guiding principals, and the best interests of the EPEA.
MDE is in agreement that all decisions and changes to the QComp plan must be mutually agreed upon, and the QComp Team at MDE has agreed to come to EPS and facilitate discussions to result in an updated plan that follows all the guidelines. To this point, District leaders have not welcomed MDE in to help this work.
If you would like to read the District's "Trojan Horse gift" meant to be resolution (for their own bad behavior), you can find it below.
2. Unfair Labor Practice Update: Co-currently, despite state statute, our district is not treating our Preschool educators as teachers on our EPEA contract. They are not placed on our salary schedule, expecting mothers are not receiving maternity leave benefits, and these teachers are not allowed to participate in the QComp observations, evaluations, or compensation like all others within the EPEA. All of this after both the State Legislature and the Bureau of Mediation Services declared that Preschool Educators fall within the EPEA bargaining unit and are, therefore, afforded all terms and conditions of the contract.
The EPEA attempted in enter into discussion about these concerns. In the end, the EPEA (with guidance from our Education Minnesota attorney team) concluded the seriousness of the matter warranted a charge to the MN Public Employee Relations Board for an Unfair Labor Practice. Dozens of pieces of evidence was submitted for initial review by our case investigator. On December 8th, the PERB will be presented the investigator's findings and will then determine whether or not the case should proceed to trial. More updates to come on this matter.
3. District's Publishing of Negotiation Details to the Public: As many of you may be aware, our employer chose to publish their opinion regarding the progress of our negotiations efforts. Our negotiations team was hopeful that our employer would choose to negotiate in good faith and maintain the norms for the process they created; however, our trust has been shown to be misplaced.
At the beginning of our negotiations, the district asked the negotiators to agree to the following norm they authored: “Confidentiality. Respect what is shared in the room stays in the room. We do understand that updates on the negotiations process will be shared with Union membership and the School Board.”
You will note that our updates to this point have been intentionally vague in order to adhere to the basic agreement of confidentiality. Our employer continues to preach their expectation that we trust their intentions; however, their actions have continually worked to violate the most foundational elements of trust. With their most recent actions, our employer has now violated all five of the norms they authored to guide our negotiations process.
Unsurprisingly, our employer’s communication to the community regarding progress on negotiations fails to capture the truth of the process. As such, we would like to take the time to provide a more complete narrative regarding the process, while clarifying some misconceptions our employer is publicly advancing.
a. Our employer opened negotiations with 0 proposals, and they very clearly stated that they are more than happy with the current status in Eden Prairie Schools.
b. Our employer claims that the bulk of their funding goes towards “retaining and supporting exceptional staff members,” but these funds are blatantly misaligned to their goals as Eden Prairie has lost close to 300 teachers in the last two years due to our employer’s policies. There is a clear lack of appreciation and trust for our teachers.
c. Our employer states that their budgetary actions have been responsible and to the benefit of the community. Our employer’s budgetary choices have led to a 7.9% increase in teacher compensation as compared to a 30.5% increase in school administration compensation and another 8.6% increase in district administration compensation since 2018. It would seem that our employer has identified teacher salaries as an “operating cost” and has moved aggressively to reduce such a cost.
d. Our employer chose to highlight the number of meetings that have been canceled to this point in a manner that suggests teachers are avoiding negotiations. Of the nine cancellations, seven were the result of our employer’s refusal to recognize state statute regarding the identification of preschool teachers as teachers. One meeting was inaccurately reported, /scheduled during the school day, and the other was canceled due to an unforeseen medical emergency.
e. Our employer has characterized their financial offer as a nearly $11,500 investment in every teacher over two years. Since settling our previous contract, purchasing power in the United States has decreased by roughly 16%. That means our employer’s offer to raise salaries by 4% in the first year is the equivalent of asking teachers to take a 12% pay cut to maintain their current duties. A 3.75% increase to the salary schedule in the second year would enshrine this reduction in our purchasing power for years to come.
f. Our employer also celebrated the additional $100 monthly contribution to family health insurance premiums. Assuming no premium increases, this would still result in a parent paying more than $800 monthly for the lowest cost insurance available.
g. Our employer very proudly announced that a 30-year employee would be making $111,686 as an annual salary. We currently have 1 teacher to whom this pay would apply, and his/her contributions to our students are truly worth such compensation. However, our employer neglected to clarify this is the top earning potential in our pay scale for a thirty-plus year veteran with a PhD. Choosing to highlight the top-income potential is a tactic our employer is using to create a false narrative about teacher compensation. A first year teacher in the district’s proposal would earn $48,000 annually, while carrying insurance costs and a national average of $24,000 in student loan debt.
Having responded to the direct mischaracterizations made by our employer, we would also like to let teachers know some of the remainder of our proposals that our employer is hiding from the community.
a. First and foremost, we are fighting for workload and safety improvements. Smaller class sizes, all research shows, is the best way to eliminate achievement disparities. Teachers have proposed contractually aligning our class sizes with the class size targets already approved by the school board. The district has refused, claiming the costs would be exorbitant. READ.THAT.AGAIN... Our students and our parents deserve administrative action that aligns with our employer’s empty promises to “reach each”. Currently, based on the input you all provided, we have at least 15% of elementary classrooms that are over the school board set classroom targets, and at least 75% of secondary classrooms are over the school board classroom targets.
b. Our District leaders do no want to ensure access to a thirty minute lunch period for all teachers. In what other profession is a thirty minute lunch viewed as a luxury?
c. We continue to fight for the minimum-required prep time as defined by Minnesota state statute. Currently, roughly 50% of our educators receive less that the state standard of 5 minutes of preparation time for every 25 minutes of student contact time. We hold that this is the least that can be expected in order for educators to provide the learning experiences our students deserve.
d. Our employer continues to increase the number of hours teachers are required to work "Additional Activities" or "Special Events" outside of our contracted working day throughout the school year. We maintain our position that teachers should be compensated for the work provided for our students and our community.
e. We continue to hold off on a response to financial aspects of the contract until we are clear as to what the expected workload and safety conditions will be.
4. Action Team: Our Core Action Team has meet 3 times with Education Minnesota Communication Specialists and Organizers. As a result of collecting input from membership in the October Negotiations Survey and marrying that information with best practices from our supportive MN Union, the Action team of Cassie Ayub (CR), Jill Boyd (EPHS), Dominic Kirkpatrick (DW), Leif Mostrom (CMS), and Jessica Premo (PV) have formulated Action Steps, set a skeleton roll out plan, and identified components that will make participation by the entire membership strengthened.
At the forefront of any successful Action Plan, are two key factors: strong member participation and community awareness/support.
All the work negotiators and Core Action Team are doing will be effective only if we have all 650+ EPEA members engaging in these designed actions. The community and our district leaders need to witness the unity and resolve membership has for steps supporting a successful contract. Below is a glimpse of the skeleton timeline you can expect to see implemented. To be overtly obvious, we do not want to show/share our plan with others, talk about the plan outside of specific Action Team designed times to do so, or in anyway want our plan to interfere with our duties during the duty day.
More specifics of the do's/don'ts, times, places, goals, and intent will be coming from your site's "A-Team." The first invite from your A-Team will come soon for the "Postcards and Buttons" event (December 19-20).
We thank you for your continued dedication to the students your serve. We thank you for your investment in the upcoming actions/events to bring success in to our negotiations. We thank you for the fire in your bellies to STAND UNITED! and remain steadfast as we continue to be aware of Greeks bearing gifts.
In service and gratitude,