JCPS contract with teachers' union may expire before new deal reached
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Negotiators working to hammer out a new contract between Jefferson County Public Schools and the local teachers' union have made "steady progress," but Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim says the current agreement may expire before a deal is struck.
The contract between JCPS and JCTA is set to expire Saturday, and both sides have huddled behind closed doors in a series of meetings for more than a month.
Between rounds of negotiations Wednesday, McKim told WDRB News that the district and the union have reached tentative agreements on more than half of the contract's articles. While McKim said it's possible a new deal will be reached by Saturday, but he was unsure whether that would occur.
"I don't know if we will hit our target of June 30 or not," he said. "It may be kind of close, but I've been on every bargaining team since 1994, and I don't think we've ever ratified a contract before June 30 in the past, so if we hit the target it'll be probably the first time in my experience that we've done that."
If the current contract lapses, McKim said both sides would continue to operate under the existing collective bargaining agreement.
Contract negotiations between the district and JCTA come amid turbulent times for JCPS. Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis recommended that the district be placed under state management following a 14-month audit, which JCPS is appealing in a hearing before the Kentucky Board of Education.
Lewis has said he expects the state's analysis of the current collective bargaining agreement to be complete soon. That examination delayed the audit's release under former Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt. Lewis wrote in his April 30 letter to the district that the review will "determine whether any systemic issues identified in the audit can be addressed by renegotiated provisions of future contracts with JCTA."
The current five-year agreement between JCPS and JCTA was ratified in 2013.
If the district is ultimately placed under state management, McKim said he did not believe the Kentucky Department of Education could force the district to negotiate another collective bargaining agreement with JCTA once a new deal is brokered. The current contract allows either party to request changes with 30 days' notice, with both sides required to agree on any amendments.
"The commissioner, for the most part, doesn't get any more authority than the existing school board, so he doesn't get the authority just to abrogate an agreement or something like that," McKim said. "That's protected by the state Constitution."
McKim declined to discuss specific provisions on which JCPS and JCTA have agreed.
He had previously told Insider Louisville that the union would push for raises for the district's teachers.
"That's a level of detail I'm not able to talk about other than to say we've certainly proposed a raise, but I can't really go into details," McKim said when asked about raises in contract negotiations. "We'll see whether that occurs."
Incentive pay for teachers in priority schools is another area of debate. The current deal allows certain incentives that are include, but are not limited to, national board certification, graduate degree completion, reimbursement for continuing education tuition and paid professional development opportunities for educators in priority schools.
"It's certainly something the association's open to although I don't think it's the kind of panacea that some people seem to think it is," he said, noting teachers in priority schools can receive incentive pay through the current agreement.
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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