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District 91 teachers vote on contract after 7 days of negotiation

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Jun 03 2013 10:36:00 PM CDT

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

As Idaho Falls School District 91 faces nearly $4 million in budget cuts, teachers are coming to terms with some of the benefits they will lose in the process.

Monday night meant a special meeting of District 91 teachers as they gathered to vote on a new contract package.

Teachers saw what will become their new contracts for the very first time, and within about 30 minutes of seeing those contracts for the very first time, they had to vote whether to accept the changes or not.

In the end, 96% of teachers overwhelmingly voted to avoid another trip to the bargaining table and ratify the contract, but not before acknowledging the loss of one very valuable benefit:

"We were emphatically told that even to keep 750, which is half of your medical stipend, 13 to 16 certified positions would be cut," said IFEA member and negotiation committee member Nancy Caldwell.  

Rather than risk more than a dozen faculty position cuts, District 91 teachers voted to lose their $1,500 annual medical benefits stipend. .

Newly elected Idaho Falls Education Association president Angela Gillman said a team of association members, including Caldwell, negotiated with the district for 7 days over contract language.

"There are so many things in the contract, especially things that are non-monetary," said Gillman.

Gillman said, in the end there were concessions made when it came to money, but teachers gained more academic freedom, and other advantages -- more sick time, bereavement time, and more academic planning time.
     
"There's mixed reaction," she said.  

While reaction may have been mixed, the vote of IFEA members did the talking in the end.

A near consensus -- 96 percent of the approximately 370 members in attendance -- voted to move forward with the new contract.

Now it's on to the district for full approval and ratification which will take place in an emergency meeting of the District 91 school board on Tuesday.

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