On Friday, January 22, 2021, the Keystone Oaks Education Association (KOEA) announced its intent to implement a work stoppage on Monday, February 1, 2021 if a contract agreement is not reached by then. Just as they have over the past 12 months, the Keystone Oaks Board of School Directors will continue to negotiate in good faith with KOEA over the coming week, with the goal of reaching a productive, efficient and affordable Agreement that is sustainable and fair to the teachers, students, parents/guardians and taxpayers in the Keystone Oaks community.
“Although circumstances have changed drastically since we began negotiating one year ago, our priority remains the same - to agree on a contract that puts students first and is fiscally responsible for tax payers in the Keystone Oaks School District,” said Theresa Lydon, President of the Board of School Directors.
On April 14, 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning, the Board of School Directors offered KOEA a one-year extension on their current contract that would have also kept their expected salary increase intact for the 2020-2021 school year. KOEA turned down that offer.
Since that offer was made, revenue projections for the next few years have continued to worsen, with school districts, including Keystone Oaks, expected to face declining local revenues due to the long-term effects of the pandemic, as well as continued increasing costs for charter school tuition. Additionally, while details are still being released, stimulus funding from the federal government can typically only be used for one-time purchases or infrastructure projects and not for recurring expenses like salaries and benefits.
“We have to look at the long-term financial implications of the agreement and balance the impact against revenue projections to determine whether or not the contract is sustainable,” Lydon said. “We feel that our current offer meets these goals.”
The Board of School Director’s most recent proposal includes the following:
A five year contract, effective July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2025.
Proposed salaries over the five-year agreement:
2020-2021: Salary freeze
2021-2022: Salaries increase by 5.43%
2022-2023: Salaries increase by 4.89%
2023-2024: Salaries increase by 4.38%
2024-2025: Salaries increase by 3.18%
For the 2020-2021 school year, KOEA members have been offered a healthcare credit that would offset the increase in their contribution for this school year. This would ensure that no member is receiving less take-home pay than in 2019-2020.
“The Board of School Directors appreciates the hardworking teachers, counselors and nurses that work to ensure that Keystone Oaks students are receiving the best possible education,” Lydon said.
“However, given the current financial circumstances and uncertainties, the Board also has an obligation to every single taxpayer to ensure that the teacher’s contract is fiscally sustainable. We know that so many of our families have faced - and continue to face - economic hardships and we must do what we can to ensure that we are providing students with the best possible education that does not cause us to overburden our taxpayers,” she added.
For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the District’s budget included a deficit of nearly $830,000 that was expected due to decreased local revenues caused by the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy. During the 2019-2020 school year, District revenues decreased by more than $500,000 due to a reduction in property value for a large commercial property in the District. The District anticipates additional real estate tax appeals, which will impact current and future budgets.
The teachers within the bargaining unit have been working under the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement that was in effect as of June 30, 2020. As such, there has been no interruption in or discontinuation of receipt of pay and benefits during this time. All teachers have been paid the same salary and received the same benefits that they received during the 2019-2020 school year.