Lansing Teachers Reject Contract

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"We feel disrespected by the actions of the current Board of Education," said LSEA president Jerry Swartz at a Sunday press conference. He speaks of a sentiment shared by 95 percent of Lansing teachers, as they overwhelmingly vote to reject the Board of Education's contract proposal.

"We believe the board, in earnest, will come back to the bargaining table so we can avoid additional turmoil," he said.

Teachers didn't agree with the board's proposed insurance co-pay or salary terms, and they're still angry over losing a $166 monthly stipend. But the board says the next and final contract proposal will be less attractive than the one that was just rejected.

"It's really disappointing," said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, school board spokeswoman. "It means going back to the table when we have a clearer picture of what the situation with the state will be."

That situation is financial; with the state $800 million in the red, schools are set to lose $225 per student in funding.

"That's going to mean $3.5 million less than what we expected when the contract went before the teachers," Rossman-McKinney said.

But teachers still plan to fight for the terms they want. Picketing may become the norm until an agreement is reached.

"[We're] beginning to stir the pot, if you will, so the community at large understands why their teachers are feeling so disrespected," Swartz said.

"If money grew on trees," Rossman-McKinney said, "we'd give teachers a forest. This has nothing to do with respect or admiration of teachers, and everything to do with financial situations."

But with more than 1,000 teachers feeling otherwise, the path to a contract may be semesters away.