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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Bend-La Pine Schools and Bend Education Association Reach Agreement

After months of negotiations, bargaining teams propose a contract for certified employees
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Art by Lauren Shein, logos courtesy of Bend-La Pine Schools and Bend Education Association

After months of bargaining and contract negotiations, Bend-La Pine Schools and our local teacher union, the Bend Education Association (BEA), have come to a tentative agreement. The agreement, which was made shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, details a four-year contract for all certified school district employees, such as teachers, counselors and learning specialists.

Bend-La Pine Schools and the BEA began the bargaining process last spring as part of a routine contract negotiation cycle. However, bargaining played out in a way that was anything but typical. According to Deputy Superintendent Lora Nordquist, this was the longest and most difficult bargaining process she has experienced in her 16 years of working for Bend-La Pine Schools, largely due to the number of contract items that were brought to the table for negotiation.

“We really have not dived into the language of our contract for many years,” said Nordquist. “It just takes time.”

Although bargaining periods occur every two years, most are partial negotiations in which only certain terms of the contract are up for revision. However, during this bargaining process, no articles or language were excluded from negotiations.

“The main priorities that we had set were around class sizes and workload, planning time, cost-of-living and improved safety measures, and this contract our team believes is a solid start to continuing to work through those issues,” said BEA president Sarah Barclay.

The cost-of-living adjustment was a particularly contentious issue and remained unresolved until late in the bargaining process. Bend, like many other growing cities, has experienced a massive rise in housing costs in recent years, and this phenomenon has made it increasingly difficult for teachers to support themselves in the community. When the previous contract was negotiated in 2019, the median home price in Bend was 378,250 dollars. In 2023, this number jumped to a record 785,000 dollars. An appropriate cost-of-living adjustment would help close this gap and make it easier for the school district to recruit and retain quality employees.

Now, after nearly 10 months of discussion, the two parties have constructed a contract including, among other changes, a cost-of-living adjustment of 6.2 percent over the 2023–24 school year and 4.15 percent over the 2024–25 school year.

“That number is certainly not perfect,” said Barclay, who had originally hoped to achieve 13.76 and 14.0 percent increases over the first two years of the contract. “But 6.2 percent is the largest cost-of-living adjustment that Bend educators have had in the past.” With this salary increase as a starting point, Barclay and her colleagues will continue to work towards proper compensation for all certified employees.

However, just because Bend-La Pine Schools and the BEA have agreed on the contract does not mean the process is over. In order to finalize the contract, it must be ratified via a union-member vote. Following two meetings on Feb. 5 and 6 during which Barclay and her fellow BEA executives shared the contents of the agreement with union members, the ratification vote was opened on Wednesday, Feb. 7 and will remain open for four days. If the contract is voted in, it will then be sent to the school board on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Provided the new contract is ratified by the BEA members and school board, bargaining will recommence in spring 2025 to make decisions regarding the final two years of the four-year agreement. Both Barclay and Nordquist hope to further improve working conditions for educators by ensuring manageable class sizes and additional compensation. Another shared goal is passing a local option levy, a tax that will provide Bend-La Pine Schools with additional funding for teacher salaries. According to Barclay, the possibility of a local option levy will be discussed at the school board meeting on Tuesday and may appear on ballots as early as this May.

To many district employees and community members, it felt as if this bargaining process would never end, but now, with a complete contract agreement reached, it seems that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As Bend-La Pine Schools and the Bend Education Association shift their sights forward and prepare for continuing negotiations, a bright future becomes visible, one in which education is valued and teachers are appreciated for their hard work and important role in society. This new contract is only a first step, but it is a good one, and with collaboration and perseverance, it should be the first of many.

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About the Contributor
Lauren Shein, Staff Writer

Lauren Shein has been an avid reader and writer since 2nd grade, and is excited to dive into journalism this year with the Summit Pinnacle! At school, this sophomore staff writer can be found checking out too many books from the library, solving math problems, and running laps around the Summit track. On the weekends, Lauren enjoys exploring Bend’s local hiking trails with family, juggling an assortment of half-finished art projects, and petting as many dogs as possible.

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