The next contract between Muncie Community Schools and the district’s teachers will be based on Muncie Teachers Association’s “last best offer.” That’s the ruling by a state-appointed fact finder. IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann explains what’s in that ruling.
In a 30-page report, fact finder Sandra Jensen lays out the two offer’s details and decides what will be best for both a district with a multi-million dollar deficit and its teaching staff.
Neither proposal from Muncie Community Schools or the Muncie Teachers Association could put the district into “deficit financing” – spending more than it expects to take in.
Jensen characterized the MCS offer as “extremely aggressive.” It included a large cut in salary and benefits – about 20 percent for most teachers. The cuts would also be retroactive, meaning future teacher pay would be docked to pay the district back for money that had already been paid them. In her report, Jensen says the MCS offer is a QUOTE “patchwork of ideas and concepts that do not appear to have been thoroughly vetted.”
The teacher’s association offer saves the school less money. But the salaries for teachers under the MTA offer will remain “competitive” among schools with similar student enrollment. Jensen says the district’s proposal would have seen Muncie teachers paid the lowest among these schools.
Jensen’s report does not mince words about the MCS financial situation. She writes, “MCS must accept the consequences of past actions, act fairly and honestly with integrity and transparency in developing a logical and carefully considered budgetary strategy.”
MTA and MCS Response
The Muncie Teachers Association is calling the ruling a victory. But, as IPR’s Tony Sandleben reports, the school district is not forgetting a plan to possibly close five district school buildings.
“This is a major victory for teachers across the state of Indiana. It gives them hope that at least there is a chance of winning and someone’s listening.”
While Muncie Teachers Association President Pat Kennedy is encouraged, the district is not. In a statement, school officials say MCS will have little choice but to make significant cuts to operational costs. It mentions possibly closing four elementary schools and a middle school. It’s something Kennedy feels could have dire consequences.
“I think it would be very detrimental. I think we will lose students to other school corporations. They will be pulled out and every time you lose a student you lose the money that comes with that student.”
Kennedy feels the school board is trying to cut the debt too quickly, while the district feels the financial situation is too dire. It hopes the fact finder’s decision will be overturned by appeal. But that has parents, like Ari Hurwitz, concerned.
“This could drag on into the summer. I think that no matter what was chosen, it’s going to be an unknown for so long which is I think ultimately so difficult for families and students which is the sad thing about it.”
The district says it will need to cut nearly $2 million for the new teachers’ insurance plan. In another statement in mid-March, the district said it would likely make its decision on which schools to close sometime in May.