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### Salem-Keizer District and Union Clash Over Class Size and Workload in ‘Final’ Negotiations

After 10 months of negotiations and a deadlock announced last week, both sides have now submitted their final proposals to settle the ongoing labor contract talks.

While the two factions have reached agreements on 17 articles, crucial issues such as wages, perks, and working conditions remain unresolved despite continuous mediation efforts.

The main points of contention center around class sizes, caseloads, and the definition of full-time staff within the district.

There is a significant disparity in the projected costs between the proposals, with estimates ranging from approximately \\(55 million to \\\)72 million over the next two years.

The reasons for this substantial gap in offers are not yet clear. Prior to the exchange of final proposals, SKEA President Tyler Scialo-Lakeberg had anticipated a much smaller difference of around $8 million.

Tyler Scialo-Lakeberg, the president of the Salem Keizer Education Association, spoke to the press in Salem, Oregon, on February 22, 2024.

Following the impasse declaration, the district and the union are currently observing a 30-day cooling-off period, with the next mediation session set for February 29.

At present, the union has not voted to approve a strike. Should such a decision be reached, a 10-day notice must be provided to the district before any strike action can occur, potentially happening in early April following the spring break.

In the event of a strike, operations within the Salem-Keizer School District, Oregon’s second-largest, would face significant disruptions, impacting both in-person and online learning. While some services like grab-and-go meals and limited after-school programs may continue, the overall effect would be substantial.

Key Negotiation Points:

Compensation

The district is wrestling with contract resolutions with its licensed labor union amid upcoming budget constraints and workforce reductions. The union is suggesting a 7% cost-of-living raise in the first year and a 4% raise in the second year, contrasting with the district’s proposal of 6% and 3.5%, respectively.

Other aspects include salary differentials for specific roles and one-time bonuses funded by federal resources that are set to expire soon.

Class Size and Caseloads

Both parties recognize the crucial nature of class sizes and caseloads. The union aims to establish target class sizes for all grade levels and introduce class size triggers to encourage collaborative solutions when class sizes exceed limits.

Proposals involve extra pay for teachers handling larger classes, with the union and the district currently in close alignment on this issue.

Definition of ‘Full-Time’ Employee

A significant discussion revolves around defining full-time educators and upholding existing workload standards. The union highlights the diverse nature of teaching responsibilities beyond direct instructional hours, while the district seeks to standardize workload measurement based on student-facing time.

Proposals also cover compensation for non-student-facing duties and aim to clarify the criteria for full-time equivalent positions to prevent discrepancies in benefits and protections.

The negotiations mirror the intricate challenges faced by both sides in balancing financial limitations, workload considerations, and educational standards within the Salem-Keizer School District.