When teachers at Evanston Township High School kick off the 2022-23 year this Monday, Aug. 15, they will likely get a 2.3% raise and expanded parental leave if the new four-year contract that was negotiated is approved.
Most significantly, the contract, which lasts through June 2026, will give each teacher a 2.3% raise in the first year, a 3.5% raise in the second year and subsequent raises tied to the inflation rate for the third and fourth years, but capped at 5%.
Separately, educators also receive an annual salary bump connected to their experience level, and that increase is about 2.5% on average, according to Teachers’ Council President Rick Cardis, a history teacher at ETHS.
Both sides finalized the contract terms, and on Monday, Aug. 8, the ETHS District 202 school board formally approved the contract at its regular board meeting.
The ETHS Teachers’ Council, the union which represents more than 300 high school employees, voted overwhelmingly in favor of ratifying the new agreement, with 84% of the votes in support of the contract. Of all union members, 82% submitted votes, Cardis said.
Now, the union’s lawyers from the Illinois Educators’ Association and the district’s attorneys are reviewing the terms before both sides officially sign the agreement, but neither the administration nor the union expect any changes or hiccups at this point.
New contract terms
In total, teachers can expect to see roughly a 5% or more salary hike during each of the next two years, Cardis said. The contract also features a guaranteed and paid 12-week parental leave for all teachers, doubling the six-week leave included in the previous contract.
“The process was good and collaborative. One of the things about contract negotiations, even if there are topics that you don’t reach an agreement and change the contract on, it’s an opportunity to really have focused discussions about working conditions and that sort of thing,” Cardis said in a phone interview with the RoundTable.
“So the process was a good process for our side of the table, and I think for the district as well.”
Teacher salaries will take up a slightly bigger chunk of the district’s overall budget because of the two years of scheduled raises , which are higher than in previous years because of a skyrocketing national inflation rate that stood at 8.5% in July. Under the previous labor agreement, educators received salary bumps equal to half the inflation rate in 2018-19, 75% of the inflation rate in 2019-20 and 100% of the inflation rate in 2020-21.
However, the inflation rate that the school used for salary increases in 2018-19 was just 2.1%, and the increases in 2019-20 and 2020-21 were capped at 2% and 2.5%, respectively.
Regarding other benefits, the new contract does not include major changes to the insurance policies, health care plans and work-related stipends that teachers receive.
The contract also features a number of changes to the structure of school committees to give teachers more of a voice in administrative decisions.
For example, over the past year, teachers from different departments have advocated for better recruitment and retention of educators of color during the public comment section of board meetings. Now, this new contract will create a Racial Equity Committee with representatives from the Black Caucus, the South Asian/Middle East Caucus and other educator affinity groups.
The agreement also made amendments to the existing School Day Committee that will give teachers a chance to evaluate the block schedule in partnership with administrators, according to Cardis.
At the bargaining table
Over all, 10 union leaders and at least 10 administrators held bargaining negotiations from April through mid-July to finish the contract. Representatives in those meetings came to an agreement on 40 different topics in the final collective bargaining agreement as it stands today, Cardis told the RoundTable.
Union officials said it made it easier that most administrators at the table had also taught at ETHS at some point.
Superintendent Marcus Campbell, who took over for Eric Witherspoon in July, was an English teacher at ETHS for 10 years, while the new Assistant Superintendent and Principal Taya Kinzie was a longtime social worker in the special education department before becoming a dean of students and later an associate principal.
Additionally, Scott Bramley, who was chair of the English department for several years, took over as assistant superintendent for human resources in June, and he led the contract negotiations from the administrators’ side.
“Having those longer-term relationships with Marcus and Taya and Scott, there is an understanding and a trust and just knowing that they have a direct experience similar to us,” Cardis said. “I think it does make a difference.”
This spring was also the first time the union and the administration held contract negotiations since 2017, and for Cardis, it was the first experience having a seat at the table during those discussions. He and other union leaders surveyed their members during the last school year to get a better sense of what teachers wanted out of a new contract.
“Probably the biggest thing that stood out to me through the process is both the opportunity and responsibility to be a voice for my colleagues, and really doing our best, the whole negotiation team, to make sure that we’re representing peoples’ voices as best we could,” he said. “I think we all really felt that responsibility.”