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Fact finding for Jeffco Schools, JCEA to begin mid-August

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Fact finding between Jeffco Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association will begin in mid-August, said JCEA President John Ford. The mid-August date means Jeffco teachers will begin the 2014-15 school year before compensation details are finalized.

JCEA and Jeffco Schools had tried to schedule arbitration earlier, but it didn’t work out, Ford said. “Things are happening now, but there’s no decisions to be made,” he said.

Once the fact finding process begins, JCEA and the district will present to the arbitrator, who then has up to three weeks to make a decision. Arbitration is not binding, and in June, the Jeffco School Board passed a resolution that allows them to determine the form of salary increase after fact finding. The board passed the resolution because they are required to approve the budget by June 30 but had not started the fact finding process with JCEA before that date.

The Jeffco School Board voted 3 to 2 to move to fact finding at the June 5 meeting after failing to approve a tentative agreement with JCEA. During fact finding, every line of the contract is reviewed, even if both parties agreed or mostly agreed about the item.

The key problem seemed to be a dispute regarding whether teachers rated partially effective should be eligible for a step increase. However, when asked whether the entire agreement should go to fact finding or only the disputed areas, Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt said the entire agreement should go to fact finding.

A tentative contract had been agreed to with the help of a federal mediator and signed by both parties on May 8. Witt then asked the district negotiation team to request changes to the agreement, and they contacted JCEA the next morning to request those additional changes before sending the agreement to members for a vote. The JCEA Council voted not to allow the changes because the tentative agreement had already been signed.

A month earlier, JCEA declared impasse and walked out of negotiations after the school board repeatedly failed to give their negotiating team any direction about teacher compensation after repeated requests. The Jeffco School Board then asked JCEA to submit a letter stating their conditions to return to the negotiating table. JCEA responded by asking the board to approve a three-year contract extension, but the board declined to do so at their April 24 meeting.

Teachers in Jeffco Schools have not had a raise in four years. The first day of the 2014-15 school year is Aug. 18.

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