Rapid City Teacher’s Union Surrenders, Accepts Board’s Proposal to Favor New Teachers

In a state where right-to-fire laws defang labor, where teachers have no right to strike, and where school boards have the authority to impose contracts unilaterally, what’s a teacher’s union to do when the school board proposes a bad contract?

In Rapid City, capitulate:

Rapid City Education Association leaders are telling members, based on teachers’ union surveys, the group will accept the Rapid City Area Schools’ controversial contract that will overhaul how district teachers get paid.

An 8:25 a.m. Wednesday email signed by the RCEA contract negotiations team says, “Survey results indicate the desire of the membership is to forego mediation and let the district impose its Last Best Offer without challenge to the Department of Labor” [Mike Anderson, “Rapid City Teachers Accept Contract Offer,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.06.10].

This “acceptance” of the board’s “offer” shows how carrying out the Legislature’s intent to focus new K-12 revenue on beginning teacher salaries without commensurate rewards for long-undercompensated veteran teachers undermines the power of labor in public schools:

Veteran teacher Sabrina Henriksen, who has a master’s degree and more than a decade of experience, said Thursday she was disappointed with the RCEA’s decision to not seek mediation.

“It’s the will of the group, so it has to overrule any personal feelings I have,” she said. “My hope is that some of those younger teachers who are getting a big bump in pay will take that seriously and become part of the (RCEA), because only with a united front can we keep moving forward” [Anderson, 2016.06.10].

Henriksen’s pitch seems overly hopeful. Young Rapid City teachers who haven’t joined the union yet won’t see their new contract as a reason to join. They’ll see that they would have gotten their raises regardless of the position the union took. The union’s only selling point is that the revenue for those raises wouldn’t exist without long, hard lobbying from the teachers’ union at the state level to secure passage of the half-penny sales tax and the new K-12 funding formula focused on teacher pay.


18 Responses to Rapid City Teacher’s Union Surrenders, Accepts Board’s Proposal to Favor New Teachers

  1. mike from iowa

    Sounds like pre-meditated divide and conquer strategery to entice younger teachers not to sign up with union.

  2. Douglas Wiken

    So how much increase did the whining veteran teachers actually get? My guess is it is more than the piddling 1 or 2 percent many other employees in hospitals and business got. Just because it is less than the lump sum first year teachers who were woefully underpaid got does not mean it was unfair or anti-union.

  3. Jason Sebern

    Mike hit the nail on the head … Divide and Conquer indeed. It is so easy to defeat workers in this state. Without binding arbitration workers are at the mercy of management.

  4. I think teachers with more than six years of experience got a one-time $3,000 raise. It is unclear to me what they would get in following years, but presumably this is not the last raise they would ever see.

    (Note: I am the new Tim. Hereafter I am changing my nickname to Timoteo to avoid confusion as I noticed another current poster on here identifying himself as “Tim.”)

  5. Doug, the ‘whining veteran teachers’ get a one-time $3K bump (if their current annual salary is over $50K). One concern is that RCEA does not represent a majority of teachers – and an even smaller percentage of para-pros. Lots of educators won’t (or can’t) pony up the fee for membership.

  6. Thanks for that clarity, New Tim/Timoteo!

    You’re right—the experienced teachers get a $3K raise now, but they lose the predictability of the salary schedule. They now have to fight every year for a suitable raise, which will hinge on the vagaries of the Legislature and the ongoing strength of their union negotiators.

  7. owen reitzel

    Doug those “whining” veteran teachers have been fighting for the money they deserve for decades. They’re for the new teachers getting a higher wage but these “whining” teachers have proven how good they are- The new teachers not so much. Jason makes a good point. Divide and conquer.

  8. Well Said Cory. “Right To Fire”

    Sad state of affairs.

  9. Douglas Wiken

    People getting the 2% or so raise that was too typical this year would have to have been earning $150,000 to get a $3,000 pay increase. I am in favor of boards deciding they can add X dollars to the payroll total and then dividing that by the number of employees and giving them all the same increase. Percentage increases just continue to increase the absurd spread between bottom paid employees and top paid employees. Why do veteran teachers think they should get a bigger lump sum increase than first year teachers?

  10. Douglas, I’m not hearing whining. South Dakota has been shorting every teacher. South Dakota should give every teacher a raise. Veteran teachers have been sacrificing earning power for their entire careers. I contend that every teacher deserves a $10K raise to bring us to something around the median regional pay, maybe the most objective market value we have to tell us what teachers are worth. But on top of that, teachers who have given up 5, 10, 25 years of earning power and interest they could have earned deserve “cumulative damages.”

    Right there is the moral argument, applicable to Rapid City, Winner, and every other district in the state, that justifies giving larger raises to teachers who’ve stuck around, who’ve put up with South Dakota’s ill treatment and still poured their heart and soul into our kids with darned little whining. The fact that they might speak up now, after 30 years of inaction, when money is finally available to do right by all teachers but is misappropriated on a plan that ignores generation-spanning inequity, does not deserve to be called whining.

    Veteran teachers deserve at least the same dollar-amount raise as new teachers. To give them lower raises and take away other benefits (like predictable salary steps) is immoral.

  11. Max Goodman

    Yet one more example of how South Dakota sees education as more of a burden on it’s state budget than any sort of investment.

    How could South Dakota help foster and cultivate the next generation of millionaires and billionaires without dedicated, proud, effective teachers and well-funded public education? Oh yeah, that’s right, South Dakota doesn’t care about any of that sh*t to begin with.

  12. This disappointing decision will impact a generation of dedicated teachers as their social security checks will be based on their sacrifice.

  13. mike from iowa

    Mark Winegar makes a very important point about Social Security. The benefits you won’t get because of low teacher pay all these years cannot be made up.

    Wingnuts say just put the extra money in a savings account for retirement. Riiiiggghhhttt-what extra money?

  14. I read this AM that the R C district “found 2 million $” in their budget they apparently didn’t know they had. Guess what — this amount, or the major part thereof, will be distributed to administrative personnel salaries. Some will receive $26 grand or so. Humm, sounds as if the business dept has found a “glass eye”. Secondly, will the Board begin to question the monthly financial reports?

  15. $2 million extra, and they can’t do some equity for experienced teachers? Come on, Rapid City!

    Good point about Social Security checks. The same is true for the South Dakota Retirement System benefits which are calculated based on salaries for the last three (?) years of service. By striking the salary schedule, giving the older teachers a one-time raise this year but leaving future raises in doubt, the Rapid City agreement upsets all sorts of financial planning that older teachers may have been doing. Under the old salary schedule, a 50-year-old teacher could look at the steps, know what she’d make in her last three years, and plug a real number into her retirement planning. Now she’s back to spitballing.

  16. Douglas Wiken

    SD has a lot of old near-retirement teachers. Increasing starting pay is essential. Greatly increasing pay of older teachers is not essential just because starting teachers get more right now. Steve hammers on envy, this may be a real example of it in play.

    School boards need to concentrate more on education and less on pandering to sports nuts and administrator whims and desires.

  17. Linda Boyle

    As a veteran teacher from Chicago, and member of the largest unions in Illinois, the Chicago Teachers Union, I would like to reach out to Rapid City teachers and suggest they hear from some of our union members who fought for and are still fighting for a contract. We had a successful 2012 strike, and it looks like there’s one in the fall. The neoliberal assault and takeover of public education by big business and non-educators is nationwide. We re facing the end of public education and student-centered/-teacher-led schools. South Dakota is also facing no-growth in new industries and online K-12 education and other business-led entities, while we lose real educators.

  18. Linda, will passing Initiated Measure 23 help boost teachers’ negotiating power? Do we also need to repeal our no-strike law for teachers?