Back to School Five.jpeg

Educators smile and laugh at a back-to-school assembly.

About two months after negotiations with the Oregon Education Association (OEA) began, the Oregon School District (OSD) Board of Education unanimously approved a tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and compensation plan that provides educators with a base wage increase of 5.93% at their Monday, Jan. 9 meeting.

In a memo to board members, OSD Superintendent Leslie Bergstrom noted that school staff has not received base-pay raises for the last two years. The consumer price index (CPI)–the rate of inflation in the U.S.–increased by 5.93% total in that time.

“The main purpose of the referendum in November was to retain and attract our excellent educators by offering competitive salaries that kept up with inflation,” OSD’s Director of Human Resources Jina Jonen said. “With that, we had talked about, as a board, looking for a 5.93% wage increase because of CPI.”

The OSD is required by law to partner with the OEA to create a CBA for each school year. Part of that process is to bargain base wages, which can not exceed the CPI.

Additionally, OEA and OSD worked together to create a compensation plan with three levels (the “green,” “blue” and “orange” levels) that correspond to the amount of time an educator has been with the district as an employee. At 20 years of service with Oregon, an employee will start receiving further stipends to honor their contributions to OSD schools.

“We recognize the difficult decision that community members made to approve this year’s referendum,” OEA member and Oregon High School science teacher Nathan Johnson said on behalf of the organization. “Unfortunately, in light of the state’s freeze on education funding, the only way we can continue to properly fund our schools is through local action. Thank you to all in our community who voted yes, making this agreement possible.”

Overall, district administrators listed four main goals for their plan: “Provide each employee at least a 5.93% increase to keep pace with the CPI the past two school years,” “Provide salaries comparable to area districts to help retain and attract staff,” “Maintain a salary schedule for educators that provides consistency and maximized career earnings over time,” and “Be fiscally responsible to our community.”

Board of Education President Krista Flanagan ended the discussion with a message to community members that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) intends to host a day at the capitol for members to discuss the lack of state funding for public education with legislators.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the state government’s budget surplus is projected to hit $6.6 billion for 2022-23, which does not include the “roughly $1.734 billion currently in the state’s rainy day fund.” Flanagan noted the surplus in her statement.

“That budget has not moved,” she said. “No decision has been made to give public school districts more money or to give tax relief to our community who is spending these taxes, and we are on those tax bills. So, we’re still on that conversation, and we’re aware of it, and we are pushing our legislators to take some action.”

Contact reporter Alisyn Amant at aamant@wisconsinmediagroup.com.

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