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Dixon schools, union talks stalled over insurance

Both offers will be public Wednesday

DIXON – For nearly 18 months, contract offers between the Dixon School District and the Dixon Educational Support Personnel Association have been private. This week, they’ll go public.

The school district declared an impasse Dec. 4, and both sides submitted their final offers to the state Educational Labor Relations Board last week. Those offers will be made public and posted Wednesday to the labor board’s website.

Click here to read the latest contract proposal from DESPA

After the final offers are made public, the two sides can continue to negotiate with the help of the federal mediator whom they had been using before the impasse was declared.

In an interview with Sauk Valley Media last week, DESPA President Mindy Donoho revealed details of her group’s final offer and the last sticking point for her members in a contract that had been tentatively agreed to by the DESPA negotiating team.

Dixon teacher aides and assistants have been working without a contract since June 2012.

“When you go into this, you have where you started and where you landed,” Donoho said. While DESPA would like to have more, she said, it’s “a pretty good contract.”

Dixon schools Superintendent Michael Juenger didn’t return a call for comment Friday.

DESPA’s proposed contract is for 4 years, including 2012-13 and the current school year, meaning that the contract would expire after the 2015-16 school year.

The remaining sticking point, Donoho said, deals with how to calculate the 30 hours to qualify for insurance. The changes to the insurance aspects would affect only those DESPA members hired after July 1, 2013.

Donoho said DESPA wants holidays and breaks that teacher aides and assistants don’t work to be removed from the 40-week school year when the total hours worked are averaged out.

Under the school district’s calculation, working 15 minutes less each day could mean the difference between the average hours per week being 30.8 or 29.7, according to a copy of DESPA’s offer, meaning the difference between receiving insurance coverage and not could be 15 minutes a day.

DESPA members had already agreed to an increase from 20 hours to 30 to be eligible for insurance, an increase in the insurance premium, and a requirement that any members be covered by their spouses’ insurance plan if there was one, Donoho said, but they wouldn’t ratify the tentative agreement with the calculation method.

That tentative agreement was made in August.

DESPA’s final contract offer also includes a base pay starting at $9 an hour for the current school year, with an increase to $9.25 and $9.50 an hour for the next 2 years. Each year also includes step increases and two pay scales, depending on the amount of experience.

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