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JCPS teachers union members ratify contract extension

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio announced a tentative new union contract with JCTA president Brent McKim Friday.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio announced a tentative new union contract with JCTA president Brent McKim Friday.

Members of the Jefferson County Teachers Association voted in favor of approving a three-year contract extension with Jefferson County Public Schools.

JCTA president Brent McKim said 80% of the members who voted gave their approval to the agreement, which includes a 5% raise next year for all JCPS employees. The union’s ratification means the proposal goes to the Jefferson County Board of Education for final approval later this month.

“This is going to be good for students, it's going to be good for educators, it's going to help the district attract great teachers that our students deserve, and we're very proud to be part of this,” McKim said during a press conference at the VanHoose Education Center Monday morning.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the 5% pay increase is the largest raise for JCPS employees since 2001. Coupled with this year’s 4% raise, the increase boosts the average teacher salary in JCPS to roughly $71,000 a year.

Pollio acknowledged that this agreement is “a little bit unorthodox” because it comes much earlier than anticipated. Rather than go through months of full negotiations, union leaders opted instead to extend the current contract, with some changes, including the raise.

“But we know we're in different times,” Pollio said, “especially with the staffing crisis across America right now.”

The truncated process, McKim said, will allow district recruiters to go out right away “armed with that raise in their hand” and help address the staffing shortage. Pollio said JCPS still has a “substantial” number of vacancies.

McKim said finalizing the raise now could also convince current teachers to stay on, especially those near retirement.

Teachers’ pensions are based on the highest annual earnings when they retire.

“So if you get a 5% salary increase, that will impact your pension for the rest of your life,” McKim said. 

Some union members have expressed frustration with the sped-up process, and say union leaders should have gone through full negotiations, which offer more opportunity for member input. Teachers are especially concerned with workloads, and how often they are asked to skip a planning period to cover classes when the district can’t find enough substitutes. 

A little less than half of JCTA members weighed in on the agreement. One in five of them voted against it.

The agreement goes on to the school board for final approval on Nov. 29. Pollio said he would be “very surprised if it was not approved.”

If finalized, employees would see their paychecks rise starting next July.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.