Education

Iowa City school district set to keep most contract items

Brady Shutt facilitates a discussion with his students in his AP U.S. Government class at Liberty High School in North Liberty, Iowa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Brady Shutt facilitates a discussion with his students in his AP U.S. Government class at Liberty High School in North Liberty, Iowa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Despite drastic changes to state law since the last negotiation with its teachers union, the Iowa City Community School District is on track to preserve most items in its master contract.

The district, the fifth-largest in the state, is in the midst of its first contract negotiation with the Iowa City Education Association, or ICEA, since Iowa stripped down unions’ collective bargaining powers in February 2017.

“We’re going to leave our contract in tact, with all permissive language that could be included,” said Chace Ramey, the district’s chief human resources officer. “We’re not taking out any more than is absolutely required by law.”

The district and the union, the Iowa City Education Association, presented initial contract proposals last month, and negotiations are ongoing.

Ramey and Brady Shutt, the union’s president, declined to comment on negotiations beyond their initial proposals.

Shutt, though, said teachers should be encouraged by the proposals, which he noted do not have “significant differences.”

“For the teachers, it’s a sign that, yes, the state did change and it allows the district to do certain things, but it doesn’t mean the district has to do them,” said Shutt, who teaches at Liberty High School.

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“It’s a huge statement about how the district trusts us and believes in us as teachers and as employees.”

Both initial proposals remove items prohibited by new law. ICEA proposed a 2.5 percent wage increase for the 2019-2020 school year, while the district proposed an increase of one percent.

Ramey said the district hopes to wrap up negotiations before summer, though the vast majority of school funding is decided by the Legislature, which opened the 2019 session Monday.

Maintaining all permissive items — which include wages, working hours and grievance procedures — has not been the norm for school districts since state legislators overhauled Iowa’s collective bargaining law nearly two years ago.

Of the more than 225 school districts that have settled a contract since, about 30 have left every permissive topic in tact, according a December report from the Iowa Association of School Boards.

“I hope this relationship and level of collaboration is a model across the state,” Shutt said. “You would be hard-pressed to find a situation or relationship that’s stronger than ours.”

Linn-Mar Community School District is the only Corridor district to have settled a contract that maintained every permissive item.

Four nearby districts — Cedar Rapids, Clear Creek Amana, College Community and Marion Independent — removed some permissive items.

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Clear Creek Amana Community School District has the slimmest contract in the area, and includes only one permissive item, wages. The Cedar Rapids Community School District initial contract proposal last spring included only wages but, after public pushback, grew to include grievance procedures, hours, in-service training, and health and safety matters.

Districts in Mount Vernon and Solon have not yet negotiated contracts under the new law.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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