MPS teachers ratify cost-cutting contract

Milwaukee Public Schools teachers have voted to ratify the first-ever four-year contract — an agreement that includes a retroactive pay freeze and a health insurance change that is estimated to save taxpayers up to $50 million over the next two years.

Teachers will not only switch to a lower cost health plan but will contribute to its premiums.

Meanwhile, the pay freeze means MPS won’t have to retroactively pay more than $13 million in raises that would have been due to teachers if the previous contract had simply been renewed.

Nearly 86 percent of Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association members voted to accept the contract, which runs through June 2013.

“This agreement balances the financial needs of teachers and the economic realities facing MPS. By accepting a pay freeze and substantial employee contributions to the district’s health insurance costs, our union members have demonstrated their willingness to be part of the solution,” says MTEA president Mike Langyel.

“We can now focus our energies on working with the district, parents, students and the community on education reforms that will strengthen our schools, and build a stronger community.”

The contract does provide for 2.5 and 3 percent raises to teachers in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, respectively. A 3 percent “non base building” raise will be paid to teachers in two installments this school year.

“This is great news,” said MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton in a statement. “We appreciate the way our teachers have shown their commitment to the district. It’s similar to the commitment they show Milwaukee’s children every day.

“The four-year contract with the MTEA is an integral part of the educational and financial foundation we are beginning to reconstruct for the district.  We have begun the same process of negotiation with unions representing other MPS employees, with the hope of gaining agreements within the next three to four months.”

The Milwaukee Public Schools Board is expected to vote on ratifying the contract at a meeting that will be scheduled after the Thanksgiving break. 

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