Mat-Su educators vote to strike

Mat-Su Classified Employees Association President Rick Morgan speaks to the local school board on May 3. The union and the Mat-Su Education Association are represented in the same contract. (Screenshot from Mat-Su Borough School District livestream)

Teachers in the second-largest school district in Alaska have voted to authorize a strike.

The contract between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District and the Mat-Su Education Association, which represents roughly 3,400 teachers and support staff, expired last July. The two sides began negotiating in January 2022 but were unable to agree to a deal.

Mat-Su Education Association President Vicki Hewitt said the union and school district disagreed on two issues: the district’s attempt to move to a national health insurance provider and the district’s proposal to increase teacher pay by 2% over a three-year contract, which Hewitt said does not keep up with inflation.

Currently, the Public Education Health Trust provides health insurance for Mat-Su educators and does not share teacher health data with the district. That’s been a sticking point for the district.

“The District has sought relevant and necessary information from MSEA and the Public Education Health Trust for over a decade,” district spokesperson Jillian Morrissey said in an email. “The information was not provided and there is no expectation that it will ever be forthcoming.”

The district made its “last, best offer” May 12. A week later, the teacher’s union voted to approve a strike.

According to a union statement Monday, more than 90% of teachers voted in favor of a strike. The statement says teachers would not go on strike until the fall, if an agreement is not reached over the summer.

“We don’t want to go on strike, we don’t want to put our community through that,” Hewitt said. “Our community has already been through so much with the decisions that the school district and the school board have made in the last two years. We don’t want to do this.” 

Hewitt said Mat-Su teachers have never gone on strike and hopes they still won’t have to. The union also voted to approve a strike in 2020, prior to reaching an agreement with the district on the previous contract.

Both the district and union said they are willing to keep discussing the contract.

The first day of the regular school year in the Mat-Su Borough is set for August 15.

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Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him attrockey@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8487. Read more about Timhere

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