Portage teachers, School Board OK contract

2012-10-11T00:00:00Z Portage teachers, School Board OK contractBy Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The Portage Township School Board unanimously approved a new teacher contract Wednesday night. The teachers had ratified the agreement the day before.

The new contract was a bit of a strange beast for Portage Association of Teachers President Deb Porter.

Because of new state law, bargaining can only be done on wages, wage-related benefits and paid leave.

While teachers received a 1 percent pay increase effective Dec. 1 and an one-time stipend equal to 1 percent of their base pay, Porter said what is significant about this contract is what's absent.

Porter said, physically, the contract is about half the size it use to be with things like transfer language, unpaid leave and planning no longer subjects of negotiations.

PTS labor attorney Dan Friel said those work condition items are now part of discussions, not negotiations, between teachers and school boards.

Another unusual thing about the new budget is its duration. Its only effective until June 30, 2013.

Porter said state law prohibits extending a contract beyond the state budget biennium, which also is June 30, 2013. And, she said, while the contract ends sooner, the law also prohibits the two sides to begin the next round of negotiations until Aug. 1, 2013, which will, in effect, leave teachers without a contract for a portion of next year.

While it was on the agenda for Wednesday's special meeting, the board did not approve a contract with its school bus drivers.

Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said he had been asked to delay any action on the contract as negotiations continue between drivers and the district.

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