ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Despite previously reaching what was called a "tentative agreement" on new contracts for Anchorage teachers, members of the local union voted to reject it.
The vote, which took place online, found that the majority of the members in the Anchorage Education Association opposed the Nov. 15 tentative agreement with the Anchorage School District.
Members had from 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 27, to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, to place their votes, and were notified via email Wednesday night that a majority voted against the new contracts, which notably did not include the three percent salary increase the union originally asked for.
However, not everyone believes it was all about the money.
Corey Aist, an ASD teacher who is with the union, said Thursday that low morale could have been a contributing factor to the rejection.
"Personally, I was at every board meeting," Aist said, "listened to all the stories being shared by the teachers. And they just want to be valued, they want to be heard, they want to be respected.
"That may have had a bigger consequence to the contract than the actual items within," he said.
At the time of the tentative agreement, Superintendent Deena Bishop commented on the pay raise, saying, "Three percent on the scale was unaffordable in our state at this time."
Tom Klaameyer, President of the Anchorage Education Association, said via email Wednesday, “The Anchorage Education Association is a democratic organization that respects and follows the will of the majority. Our members have spoken.”
Previously, Klaameyer was critical of the tentative agreement, saying earlier this month, "Financially [the tentative contract] probably falls short of expectations of many of our members. In fact, that's a concern when it comes time to vote to ratify."
That vote indeed did turn out to be concerning for the new contract after it was announced to have failed to secure a majority on Wednesday. "This does not adequately address the need to attract and retain high quality teachers that our students deserve," Klaameyer said.
Klaameyer's full statement on the voting results is below:
“Regardless of the outcome of this vote, Anchorage Education Association members will be in their classrooms, doing everything they possibly can to improve student learning,” said Klaameyer. “I stand with the members of AEA and I know that we intend to return to the bargaining table in good faith and bargain an agreement with the District that is good for students, good for teachers, and good for the communities in the Anchorage School District."
A representative with the union told Channel 2 that the previous contract, which technically expired in June of this year, will continue to be in effect until a new agreement is reached.
As to how many teachers out of the over 3,300 employed under the contract with the district opposed the contract, or even how many voted, that remains unclear. Klaameyer's said the AEA board's policy is that "neither the total turnout nor the margins of the vote will be announced."
For the district, that leaves some questions unanswered. "I don't know, do you know how many people voted for or against that agreement? So we're unsure as to whether a hundred people voted out of 3,300 or if 3,300 voted." said Todd Hess, Chief Resource Officer with ASD.
Looking ahead at what comes next for the teachers, Klaameyer said parties will return back to the bargaining table in search of a new contract that will "enhance our ability to educate students.”
Hess with the district said, "We're obviously disappointed, but we are committed to going back to the bargaining table and doing what we can to reach a resolution in this bargaining process. Obviously there are certain constraints that we have to operate under as for the fiscal constraints that the district finds itself in."
Had the group ratified the agreement, it would've been forwarded to the School Board for approval and could've kicked in before the coming spring semester. Instead, bargaining will continue with mediation.
"I can't speak for everybody's individual vote," Aist said, "but I can say that we're going to go back, hold meetings, talk to members and reflect, and then go share that with the Anchorage School District."