Monday, June 8, 2015

Letter from an Ann Arbor Teacher: Remembering Our Agreements

I received this as an email from an AAPS high school teacher--who also happens to live in Ann Arbor--so she's a community member and voter--and parent!

Oh, and in case it's not clear--this is clearly a partisan (teacher's) point of view. Just FYI, I thought I would start out by acknowledging that. Also--I described some (not all) of this in a previous post, Confused? Just When Exactly Does the Teachers' Contract End?

From my teacher friend:

Discussions about the Ann Arbor teachers’ contract are confusing: the MOAs (memorandums of agreement), TAs (tentative agreements), durations of agreement, ratifications of agreement. It all sounds agreeable but hard to follow. As an AAPS teacher, I realize that if I’m feeling confused about these agreements, others in our community may be feeling equally—if not more--confused. I decided to go back and look at the agreements that the district and the union signed, and I’ve tried to summarize key elements here. Until 2015 the district and union’s statements and actions seemed to be consistent with the agreements. But in the spring of this year, the district started to issue statements and make decisions that seemed to ignore them. Has the district forgotten the agreements it signed? Do we need a new term: forgetting our agreements (FOA)? Since we may be experiencing this FOA, I’d like to introduce another term: remembering our agreements (ROA). Here is my attempt at ROA.
Since I don’t always trust my memory, I’ve been re-reading the documents. All of these agreements are available on the AAEA website ( and on the AAPS district website. I’ve included links to the district website throughout. Quoted language from the various documents is in bold. (I haven’t been able to open these documents on the new AAPS website at so the links are to the old website at I hope you will take my ROA as a starting point and then examine these documents for yourself.
In June 2010, the teachers agreed to loan the district money by deducting 2.2% from each teacher’s contract amount. The district agreed to pay us back using a complicated formula. This is in “AAEA June 10. 2010 Tentative Agreement” (Tentative Agreement between AAEA and AAPS For a Successor Agreement Extending the 2009-2011 Master Agreement June 14, 2010)  Basically, as revenues increase, a portion will be shared with the teachers. In the same document, the district agreed upon an expiration date for our contract tied to this sharing of revenue:
SECTION VIII. Duration of Agreement
Where ever the phrase “duration of agreement” is used it refers to June 30 of the school year in which Section II above is satisfied. That is the year in which the shared revenue increases total $4,500,000 or more. That date will be known in November when the official audited report is received. Negotiations for a successor agreement should begin by March 1 of that school year per section 1.223 of the Master Agreement.
This is a clear--though complicated--formula for determining the contract’s expiration date: June 30 of the school year in which the shared revenue increases total $4,500.000 or more.
The district has not paid the teachers back the money specified in 2010. In fact, we have given up more money since that loan was made. In March of 2013, at the district’s request, we voted to take a 3% pay cut. This reduction was for one year. The reality of a pay cut would make it hard for anyone to imagine that the district had paid us back or that the contract could now expire. I remember no such suggestion that either of these things had happened. This agreement is in “AAEA March 18, 2013 Tentative Agreement” (
Despite the fact that the 3% pay reduction was scheduled to end in June 2014, teachers voted to continue the pay cut (with step freezes) through the next school year, 2014 - 2015. See “AAEA June 20, 2014 Tentative Agreement.” ( We took this vote in June 2014 in response to a letter sent to us by the Board of Education, saying they would terminate our contract if we did not vote to continue the 3% cut and step freeze for the next year. The grounds for this was the clause in our contract that says:
In the event there are major (exceeding .5% of projected annual revenue) reductions in local, state or federal revenues, or an unforeseen financial crisis which adversely affects the funding of schools, the Master Agreement shall terminate at the time such changes go into effect, except as the contract is extended by mutual agreement. (from article 10.118 of the Master Agreement (
Teachers voted for the pay freeze rather than lose the protections in our contract. The district’s actions and statements certainly seemed to indicate that they thought this was a valid contract. This agreement also included the following provision: “Problem solving to meet in March 2015 to discuss finances and the impact of 10.118.” Some have suggested that is an expiration date, but I don’t see anything about the contract expiring in that line.
Recently, the district has said that our contract needs updating. In her email of May 4, 2015, the superintendent wrote: “we will need to align the teacher contract with the 2011 and 2012 Michigan school reform legislation.” It is true that, under recent Michigan laws, some of the provisions in our contract are now “prohibited subjects” in new teacher contracts. The prohibited subjects are those items that the union may no longer bargain—items such as teacher evaluations, placement, discipline, and layoffs. The laws do take away the union’s right to have a say in how these important matters are worked out. Unfortunately, that is how “right to work” works. But these laws do not require our district to get rid of the provisions, nor do they dictate how the district handles these matters. The requirement is that the union may not bring them up or have a say.
Michigan law also states that a contract containing those prohibited subjects may remain in place until that contract expires. Remember the loan we made in 2010? The district agreed that our contract would not expire until “June 30 of the school year in which Section II above is satisfied. That is the year in which the shared revenue increases total $4,500,000 or 
more.” It seems to me that according to the agreement signed by the district, the contract has not expired because the district has not shared the agreed upon revenue increases with us.
One more point of confusion is the claim I’ve heard that our contract expires in June 30, 2016. This is a deadline found in “AAEA March 18, 2013 Tentative Agreement” ( It does not refer to the contract’s expiration; it refers to our Association Rights amendment that “shall continue in effect through June 30, 2016.” This has to do with how the union functions and how dues are collected--not the contract’s expiration.
I am having a hard time understanding how the district interprets any of this to mean that the contract is about to expire or that they must remove protections from the contract. How do they explain this FOA (forgetting our agreements)? One explanation the district has offered is that when we voted to take the 3% pay cut (2013) and the pay freeze (2014) to help the district through the financial crisis, we technically opened up our contract which then caused it to expire. I realize that there are many legal details here that are way beyond my pay grade, but common sense tells me that the district should not use our vote agreeing to take a pay cut and a pay freeze (both at their request) as the grounds for terminating our contract.
When I see the signature of our district representative at the bottom of these agreements, I wonder how they are making sense of their current claims. Even if they now regret those decisions, the signatures attest to their agreement. Apparently, the concessions we have made, working cooperatively with the district to get through difficult financial times, have not been good enough for the superintendent and the Board. They now seem intent on undermining our bargained agreements in order to impose an “agreement” on us.

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