After more than six months and the help of a federal mediator, the Kewanee Education Association negotiations team and Kewanee Community Unit School District 229 Board of Education have accepted a new contract.
“We are proud of the work we did at the bargaining table on behalf of our students and Kewanee staff. We represented our members’ interests in terms of historic pay increases and establishing a shared understanding of the meaning and value of a wage schedule,” KEA president Ruth Kapacinskas said in a Monday night release, following school board approval of the new three-year pact.
“The wins we got will truly mean a better education, better schools and a better community for all our students,” she said. “We are incredibly grateful to everyone in the community, including all the parents and students, who supported us in so many ways.”
This new contract:
- Creates a joint committee with members from the board of education and KEA: This committee was something KEA fought hard for, and we believe it is an opportunity for collaboration and growth, the teachers’ union release said, noting it provides a new avenue for KEA to advocate for students.
- Includes a teacher shortage fix: The new contract will provide funds for education support staff interested in earning their teacher certification, which will help Kewanee keep dedicated educators in our district. This will also improve our educators’ working conditions and our students’ learning conditions by bringing more teachers into the profession and addressing the teaching shortage.
- Provides historic wage increases for Kewanee teachers and staff: In the first year of the contract, all licensed employees earned a raise of at least 5 percent and hourly staff earned an increase of $1.50 per hour. Some members whose salaries had been frozen (hired 2017-22) will earn 9 percent more than 2022-23 in order to address the wage compression.
- Includes back pay: The new wages in this contract will be retroactive to the end of the last contract, which expired on Aug. 15.
“We plan to continue to push for better in future contract negotiations. We need to remember a salary schedule that provides wage increases based on an individual’s experience, loyalty and educational advancement result in a more transparent wage structure. When a pay structure is transparent, the community sees its investment in the best public schools and future costs are more predictable,” Kapacinskas said.
KEA represents more than 200 teachers, counselors, bus drivers, classroom aides, secretaries, cafeteria workers and nurses serving the nearly 2,000 students in Kewanee CUSD 229.
Once signed, the contract is immediately in effect since KEA’s current contract is already expired. The new deal will be in place for three years, 2023-26.