MEDFORD, Ore. – Negotiations between Medford teachers and the school district continue to sour after the latest round of mediation this week.
After 18-hours of trying to reach an agreement, it seems the two sides have made some progress, but still no light at the end of the tunnel.
The district and Medford Education Association (MEA) met during a scheduled mediation on Wednesday.
At 1:00am the school board submitted a handwritten offer that teachers say was illegible. That offer was then resubmitted on Friday – much more legible, but still unacceptable according to teachers.
“We talked about some language issues, some articles, that we believed we were close,” said MEA President Cheryl Lashley. “And there was some movement on a few of those pieces, but not enough to be truly significant.”
The offer includes an 8% cost of living adjustment, along with a 6% increase in PERS payments – a net 2% raise.
It adds a 3.4% annual salary bump for a teacher’s first 14 years. But it also extends the school year by six days.
Teachers say it actually translates to less money per hour, but district leaders say they have to factor in rising costs of benefits.
“In the last 10 years our benefits costs have gone from $22 million to $32 million, and we have not had that type of increases across the board for everything else,” said school district Superintendent Phil Long.
Long says the goal is to get the right benefits in place at the right price so that in a few years the district can afford add more teachers. But teachers say that won’t happen until wages get fixed.
Negotiations can continue as long as both sides are willing. For now, Medford teachers are expected to formally respond to the district’s offer during mediation on November 12th.