Mat-Su Valley educators rally for better contract

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Update 10:00 p.m.:

Hundreds of teachers and support staff rally at the Mat-Su Borough School Board meeting Wednesday Dec. 4. (KTUU)

Hundreds of teachers and support staff rallied into the Mat-Su Borough School Board meeting Wednesday night. They are on their third year without a contract, and are threatening to strike if the district does not meet their demands.

"I've stood here, and in the audience, more times than I can count to fight for my job," a teacher said to the school board.

There were not enough seats to accommodate all of those dressed in red in support of education – so they lined up against every wall, shoulder to shoulder. They were there to ask for better retirement and healthcare benefits for district staff.

"Mat-Su has the further infamous distinction of being the worst district in Alaska for teachers' retirement," a long-time teacher said.

"Your motto is 'Preparing students for success,'” she continued. “With all due respect, you are not preparing students for success. We are."

The district provided a short statement regarding ongoing contract negotiations:

“Mat-Su Borough School District has over 2,200 hard-working employees that serve over 19,000 students. The District is currently engaged in negotiation and out of respect for the process, will not provide further statements at this time.”

Original Story

Leaders from the Mat-Su Education Association and the Classified Employees Association said members are rallying because they said currently proposed contracts from the school board will not help retain employees in the district.

Both associations are in the negotiation process for contracts with the board, and both said that a strike may be in the future if the school board refuses to listen.

The MSEA, representing certified employees like teachers and nurses, have mediation dates set for later in the month.

The CEA said that their employees are in their third year without a contract.

“Our members are ready to move forward, sign a contract and concentrate on their jobs,” said Karen Salisbury, president of CEA.

According to MSEA president, Dianne K. Shibe, the proposed contract for certified employees is not incentivizing teachers to stay in the district.

Teachers in the valley have more students than those in Anchorage, according to numbers released by district officials, and that is just one of the reasons why Shibe said the district is having issues retaining educators.

“Their proposals don't seem logical to me because it disincentivizes working for the Mat-Su Borough School District,” she said.

Shibe said a few of the issues with the proposals are that it does not make up for increased health care costs and issues with salary.

She said that educators do not want to strike and leave the classroom, but will if necessary.

“If they continue disincentivizing, who’s going to be here two, three, four years from now to teach the students?” Shibe asked.

The Matanuska Susitna Borough School District released the following statement:

“Mat-Su Borough School District has over 2,200 hard-working employees that serve over 19,000 students. The District is currently engaged in negotiation and out of respect for the process, will not provide further statements at this time.”

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