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Billings School District 2 board approves teachers' contract, union says best in state

Posted at 12:37 AM, May 21, 2024

BILLINGS - The Billings Education Association negotiated a new contract for teachers in School District 2.

Union leadership says it will make the Billings Public Schools more competitive in recruiting teachers.

The school board unanimously approved the agreement, 9-0, with no discussion and no one from the public asking to comment on Monday night at the Lincoln Center board room.

The two-year contract brings all the increases in the first year.

"Some of us sacrificed a little bit to get some more money toward the beginning career teachers," said Lance Edward, BEA 1st vice president. "We recognize that we want people in the profession and we should have the highest AA starting salary. And I believe we have the highest AA salary at this point."

Edward teaches AP language and AP Spanish at West High School and he is on the Billings Education Association negotiating team.

"We have some things in the contract language that made our job just a little bit more enjoyable and a little more palatable," Edward said.

Montana currently ranks 51st behind all other states and the District of Columbia for starting teacher pay at roughly $32,500 a year, according to the National Education Association.

And the state ranks 42nd when it comes to overall teacher salaries at almost $56,000.

The contract calls for a 12.9 percent increase for initial salary for starting teachers and nearly 6 percent for returning teachers.

"This should be the most attractive district," Edward said. "First of all, our starting pay is good at this point, very, very competitive, if not the best. Our average salary is very competitive, if not the best."

He also talked about the stipends.

"We expanded the special education stipend to get that to more people and I'm really proud of that," Edward said. "That's maybe the most important job in our district."

Edward says School District 2 may be tops in Montana and he says the contract will add $5.9 million the first year to salary expenses and $11.8 million over two years.

The last contract was for three years and this one is for two years.

"We all would have liked a three-year contract," Edward said. "But you see this nationwide as well. There's just a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounding health insurance right now."

Edward said the failure of the mill levies on May 7 did not affect negotiations.

"Those were very much separate issues," Edward said. "The district assured us repeatedly that mill levy passage or failure had nothing to do with the teacher compensation package."