ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage teachers gathered by the thousands, but decided to postpone voting about whether to accept a new three-year contract that includes first-year raises of $3,200 each.
Many of the teachers said they hadn't had enough time to study or even see the tentative labor deal reached late Sunday between the teachers union and the Anchorage School District.
''The last time we rushed through a contract, we regretted it every single day,'' teacher Chris Bowden told the bargaining team sitting on the dais Monday evening. ''If it's a good contract, it should still be a good contract at the end of the month.''
A vote to ratify the contract, which union leaders recommend, is scheduled for May 18. If approved, it would become effective July 1.
''That's not good news from our standpoint,'' said Anchorage School Board President Peggy Robinson. ''We'd hoped to get this settled and move on with plans for next year.''
In order to vote on the contract, the teachers, counselors, nurses and others at the meeting would have had to suspend union rules by a two-thirds majority.
Union bylaws call for a minimum of 48 hours between a contract agreement and a ratification vote.
The union was unable to make copies of the 50-page agreement, first typed up at 1 p.m. Monday, in time for the 5:15 p.m. meeting, union leaders said. There were not even enough copies of the one-page salary schedule to go around.
The teachers said they had too many questions. The meeting broke up at 7 p.m. when fewer than half supported a suspension of the bylaws.
The proposed contract, reached in marathon bargaining over the weekend, would increase costs an estimated $13 million the first year, another $8 million the second year and $5 million more the third year, Robinson said.
The contract gives teachers raises of about $3,200 the first year, including bonuses that the union would control. Roses said the bonuses would be used to ensure that everyone received identical pay increases the first year.
Another major provision calls for $10,000 retirement incentives available to 200 teachers.
The district would increase its contributions for health insurance premiums to $427.50 monthly per teacher in year one vs. $380 now; and $475 in year two. The issue is open to negotiation for year three.
Robinson said it's not yet clear how the district will pay for all three years. The board already had scheduled a meeting May 10 to cut $9 million from next year's spending plan, as ordered by the Anchorage Assembly.
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