Contract negotiations with a local union representing 2,600 support employees at Tulsa Public Schools have reached an impasse after union leaders rejected the district’s offer for a raise.
TPS entered into its annual contract negotiations with the local American Federation of Teachers affiliate in early summer and recently offered an undisclosed raise for support staff, according to an email sent by Superintendent Deborah Gist to district employees Friday evening. That offer reportedly was declined.
“The raise proposed by TPS helps us be more competitive with surrounding districts, is comparable to other years’ raises and helps workers meet increased cost of living,” Gist wrote. “Because AFT leaders have rejected the TPS offer, however, we must now work through the state’s impasse process — which, sadly, will take valuable time and resources from each of our organizations.”
Gist plans to address school board members in executive session during a special board meeting next week about the impasse and the next steps in the process.
In her letter, she said district officials want to provide larger raises for support employees but are unable to do so due to the current financial crisis and severe underfunding from the state.
TPS currently is hosting a series of community engagement meetings to help figure out how to slash $20 million from its 2020-21 budget.
Although the state Legislature secured funding for teacher raises this year, Gist said there was nothing secured for support staff. She said AFT leaders are mistaken if they believe the district’s concern about its financial future is misplaced.
“Again, we are very disappointed that AFT has rejected our offer,” she said. “We must remain mindful of the looming budgetary crisis and the importance of working together in the upcoming legislative cycle. I will continue to advocate tirelessly for increasing funding for education.”
A TPS spokeswoman declined to release the amount of the offered raise due to the ongoing negotiations. The Tulsa World has reached out to AFT for comment.
Meanwhile, the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association reportedly has completed its contract negotiations with the district for the current school year. Negotiations about how to implement the state-mandated $1,200 salary increase for teachers into this year’s contracts have experienced delays since they began in July.
In her own email to teachers, TCTA President Patti Ferguson-Palmer said more information about the agreement should be made available soon.