AP NEWS

Ridgefield teachers get salary increases under new contract

January 14, 2019

Ridgefield teachers are getting raises under a new contract for the school district’s roughly 460 educators.

Union President Jeanne Deming said that a 2.73 percent “general wage increase” provides raises at that level to all teachers in the first year of the contract. Salaries will increase by steps — 2.98 percent and then 2.99 percent — in the fiscal years after that.

The three-year cost to the town of the salary increases is projected at $129.6 million, based on the assumption the school system maintains the same teaching workforce.

“The board is pleased with the contract. It confirms our commitment to ‘attract, support and retain talented educators,’” said Board of Education Chairwoman Margaret Stamatis. “The teachers, through their union, showed partnership in understanding our fiscal constraints reality, and there was movement on their part especially as it relates to insurance and the design of their plan.”

The new contract will run from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2022. It was approved by the Board of Education and teachers’ union in November, and then had to go through a 30-day waiting period during which it could have been appealed. The 30-day waiting period, required by state statutes, ended in December.

Along with the salary increases the contract adds “managed plan elements” to the teachers’ health insurance, and increases their share of premiums while raising deductible levels on out-of-pocket costs to teachers when accessing health care.

“What we needed to balance this year were salaries for our members along with insurance costs,” said Deming, president of National Education Association-Ridgefield (NEA-R), the teachers’ union local.

“We wanted to strike a balance,” Deming said.

Not counting pay for extra duties like coaching, the salary scale from the district’s lowest-paid to highest paid full-time teachers ranges from $46,982 to $118,550 this year — 2018-19, the last year of the old contract.

Insurance

Health insurance changes under the new contract that are described as “managed care” address issues concerning teachers’ use of medical care services — frequency of office visits, prior authorizations — that are designed to help hold down the growth in health insurance premium costs.

There are increases in the annual deductibles teachers must meet before insurance begins covering medical expenses.

Deductibles rise by $250 to $2,500 for singles and by $500 to $5,000 for families.

In addition, teachers’ share of the insurance premium costs will increase through the three-year contract: 20 percent in 2019-20, to 21 percent in 2020-21, and 22 percent in 2021-22.

Class sizes

The three-year contract addresses areas beyond pay and insurance, such as class sizes.

“It is agreed that a class size of 25 is the desired maximum in regular elementary and secondary classrooms,” the contract states. “…A reasonable effort shall be made to establish the sizes of kindergarten and grade one classes at 20…”

Physical education class sizes will be “compatible with accepted principles of safety and good instruction” and science labs, technical education class sizes should be. …commensurate with safety standards and effective utilization of equipment…,” according to the contract.

Classes “in special education shall not contain more pupils than designated by standards developed and promulgated by the state Department of Education,” the contract adds.

“In evaluation of a teacher’s performance, consideration shall be given to the number of students assigned to him or her, in individual classes and in total.”