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School Board, REA Approve Three-Year Labor Agreement


The Rockford School Board tonight approved a labor agreement with the Rockford Education Association, the union that represents RPS 205 teachers, psychologists, counselors, nurses and other certified staff. REA members approved the agreement last week after more than a year of negotiations and collaboration; The REA has 1,973 members. The three-​year contract is effective July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2020.

The agreement includes a total base salary increase equal to 5 percent over three years. REA members will see a 1 percent base salary increase, prorated to the first day of second semester this school year (2017-18), followed by a 1.5 percent base salary increase on July 1, and another 2.5 percent base salary increase effective July 1, 2019. The agreement introduces targeted professional development to increase teacher retention and better prepare new teachers with professional development, training and support.

Beyond the financial impact and working conditions routinely outlined in labor agreements, this contract includes a plan to launch an innovative elementary school concept, called Elementary Innovation Zones. The plan provides additional resources to as many as six elementary schools with a goal to boost student achievement. This concept is voluntary, based on principal and staff support. As a pilot, the district will target elementary schools at priority areas, based on student achievement data. The plan provides additional funding for staff positions that support students and adds flexibility for schools that fall outside traditional district and REA provisions. Examples of innovation could include a longer school day for staff and students, or additional school days.

Superintendent Ehren Jarrett is looking forward to the work and potential effects of the Innovation Zones. “This contract represents a significant investment in our elementary schools,” Jarrett said. “It’s a creative, collaborative effort with the REA to really make a difference in teaching and learning.”

Other contract highlights

Retirement incentives: The agreement adds an early retirement incentive for the 2018-19 school year for REA members who notify the district of their retirement by June 30: a 2.5 percent base pay increase, on top of the 1.5 percent base pay increase already outlined for all REA members in the second year of the contract. This is a total of 4 percent maximum raise. This incentive helps the district focus on attracting high-quality staff as early as possible. Instead of retiring staff giving notice five months ahead of retirement, staff will give a 17-month notice in exchange for that retirement incentive. This notification period gives the district a longer time to find dynamic, high quality and talented teachers.

Steps & lanes: Employees continue to receive what are called steps and lanes in a contract salary schedule. Steps on the pay scale are pay bumps for years of service in the district. Lanes are pay bumps earned when an employee completes additional education. The cost of steps and lanes in this contract is $6.3 million – or an estimated $2.1 million in each of the three years. That cost will be partially offset by retirees, because retiring employees (at the top of the pay scale) will be replaced with lower-paid employees. Officials estimate if 200 REA members retire over the course of the contract, that means a $6 million savings to offset steps and lanes.

Insurance premiums: This contract discontinues the least-utilized PPO500 plan and outlines new premium contributions for the PPO1000 plan (the most popular plan). The difference between PPO1000 and PPO1000 Wellness is nonwellness is 3 percent higher (see below):

PPO1000 plan, effective July 1, 2018
​CategoryEmployee pays per month*
​Employee only​7% of COBRA premium (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)
​Employee + children​12.5% of COBRA premium (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)
​Employee+ spouse​12.5% of COBRA premium (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)
​Employee + family​12.5% of COBRA premium (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)

PPO1000 plan, effective July 1, 2019
​Category​Employee pays per month**
​Employee only​7% of COBRA premium (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)
​Employee + children​flat 12.5% (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)​
​Employee+ spouse​flat 12.5% (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)
​Employee + family​flat 12.5% (additional 3% for nonwellness plan)
*based on formula that calculates dependent coverage only
​**based on formula that calculates flat coverage only. Overall health care increases are capped at 10%.


Financial impact: The total financial impact of the contract is $20.6 million over the course of three years. Some of that cost will be offset based on give and take from negotiations. For example, REA members will pay more than $2.1 million over the life of the contract for health care cost contributions, and plan changes result in an estimated $546,000 in savings for the district. The retirement incentive (outlined above) also offsets an estimated $6 million over the life of the contract. 

“This contract supports improving teaching and learning, and that’s our bottom line as educators,” said REA Vice President Paul Goddard. “It will help the district continue to attract and retain the best professional talent, which is critical in this challenging market.”​