Disagreement over Longevity Bonus stalls Teacher Contract Negotiations

FAIRBANKS, Ak - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education and the Fairbanks Education Association failed to negotiate a new contract through the mediation process.

All but one provision was generally agreed upon by both sides, but they are now null and void until arbitration, all because of disagreement over the Longevity Bonus.

"The Longevity Bonus was another way the teams looked at providing compensation for those teachers who are at the top of the scale who no longer are eligible for the step and column," says F.E.A. President, Tammy Smith

School District officials say F.E.A. wanted the longevity bonus as a permanent provision, occurring every year.

Gayle Pierce, spokesperson for the District's bargaining team says teacher contracts are for one year, so multi–year commitments cannot be considered.

"For the District’s proposal, that stipend is for the 11-12 school year.  F.E.A. wanted a permanent, recurring $1,500.  It’s like adding a new step on the salary schedule," she said.

The union says teachers who have reached the top of the salary schedule should have financial incentive to stay.

The School District sees it a different way.

They say it takes less time to reach the top of their 15–step salary schedule, therefore, teachers reach the top quicker and stay there longer, earning top wages.

For example:  Comparing salary schedules from Fairbanks and the Anchorage School District, it takes 18 steps to reach the top of the Anchorage schedule.  Even then, the top of their schedule pays out thousands less than the top salary in the Fairbanks salary schedule.

"Because we don’t have an ongoing revenue stream from either the State or the Borough, we’re reluctant to commit to ongoing money,” says Pierce.

With the two sides still in disagreement, they will once again present proposals next Monday in front of Seattle Arbiter Richard Humphries who is expected to render his opinion by Tuesday.