7 Corridor public school districts have had contracts scaled back

 

Tim Kuehl Clear Creek Amana Community School District

TIFFIN — Almost as soon legislative changes allowed, everything but wages were shed from Clear Creek Amana Community School District teachers’ contracts.

The teachers’ union agreed to the changes, the Clear Creek Amana Education Association’s chief bargainer Marcia Charbon said, primarily because of its faith in the current school board and superintendent.

“I don’t have a lot of worries because I trust those people,” she said, noting little has changed for teachers’ working conditions since Iowa’s collective bargaining law went in effect.

“But the minute those people change, you don’t know what’s going to come.”

As one of the school districts in Iowa experiencing booming population growth — Clear Creek Amana includes Tiffin, areas of Coralville and reaches into rural Johnson County — Charbon, a Tiffin Elementary teacher, said she expects teachers’ benefits to be protected by the district’s need to stay competitive to attract new staff.

“If push comes to shove,” though, she said the union has less power than it did before the law was changed nearly two years ago.

“We haven’t had to shove,” Charbon said.

Clear Creek Amana is the only one of seven public districts in the Corridor — Cedar Rapids, Clear Creek Amana, College Community, Iowa City, Linn-Mar, Marion Independent and Mount Vernon — to whittle its teacher’s contracts down to include only wages since legislative changes allowed districts to do so.

The legislation — passed in February 2017 and signed by Terry Branstad as one of his last acts as governor — scaled back public-sector workers’ rights to negotiate benefits, working conditions and wages.

For Clear Creek Amana, the new law came in the middle of contract negotiations. While Cedar Rapids Community School District and Iowa City Community School District hurried to reach agreementsbefore it took effect, Clear Creek Amana was one of the first districts in the state to settle under the new requirements.

“During that whole time of legislative changes, for everyone, there was a lot of uncertainty and fear around how that was going to go,” Clear Creek Amana Superintendent Tim Kuehl said. “I know there were here.”

The district and its teachers’ union agreed to remove most permissive items — such as policies about bereavement leave or how much time teachers have to eat lunch — and relegate them to a district handbook, which could be changed without union input.

They also agreed to allocate a certain percent of the district’s additional funding each year to salary increases.

“This last year, I would say the trust was restored when people had lived through a year, and we hadn’t changed a bunch of things or negatively impacted staff,” Kuehl said.

Four more districts in the metro area have settled master contracts since the changes became law, according to an Iowa Association of School Boards report published Thursday, though none nearby have removed as many permissive items as Clear Creek Amana.

Of those four districts — Cedar Rapids, College Community, Linn-Mar and Marion Independent — all have included several permissive items no longer required under Chapter 20.

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