La Grande School District’s teachers are set to receive salary increases each of the next three years.

The La Grande School Board voted to ratify a three-year contract for the school district’s teachers Wednesday. Terms of the pact call for La Grande’s teachers to receive base salary increases of 3 percent in 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The contract was ratified by the school board after the school district’s teachers union, the La Grande Education Association, voted in favor of it in late March. Dalton Sheets, vice president of the teachers’ bargaining team, said he is pleased with the new contract.

“It will benefit the school district and its teachers and, in turn, be good for kids,’’ said Sheets, a sixth-grade teacher at La Grande Middle School.

He said that negotiations went well.

“They went more smoothly than they have in the past,” Sheets said. “The teachers and the administrators have a good relationship.”

Joe Justice, chair of the school board, noted that the district’s teachers, who also received boosts in pay the past two years, went many years with no salary increases in the recent past when the district was having financial difficulties caused by the Great Recession. He said he is excited that the school district can now offer salary increases.

“We hope this can help us keep the best and the brightest in the district,” he said.

The board chair said La Grande lost ground to many school districts of similar size in this region during the years it did not provide salary increases.

“We are still behind many of them (in terms of teacher salaries), but this puts us much closer,” Justice said.

Terms of the contract call for the school district’s base teacher salary to be $34,839 and its top salary to be $66,195 in 2019-20.

Teachers will also receive more money for health insurance premiums. The cap for what the district will pay for health insurance premiums per month will jump at least $40 each year of the contract. The total increase will be boosted to $75 a month if the Legislature adopts a $9.1 billion education budget for the 2019-21 biennium. The state’s education budget for 2017-19 was $8.2 billion.

See complete story in Friday's Observer

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