- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Omaha Public Schools and its teachers union have struck a deal for a new contract that would give teachers raises over the next three years and increase the starting salary for new teachers.

But that the deal would also require employees to pay more toward health care, the Omaha World-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1GP2x4S ) Saturday.

The Omaha Education Association voted Friday to ratify the three-year contract, district attorney and chief negotiator Megan Neiles-Brasch said. The union covers about 4,100 teachers.

Under the agreement, teachers will receive a 5.2 percent pay raise next year, a 2.7 percent raise for the 2016-17 school year and a 5.7 percent raise in 2017-18.

In return, employees will contribute 3 percent more toward health insurance for the first two years and 4 percent more in the contract’s third year.

The school board is expected to vote on a final contract June 1.

The salary increases also include a jump in base salaries for new teachers, a benefit that school officials believe will help the district compete for top teaching talent.

The district struggles to hold onto new teachers and competes with suburban districts to attract teachers starting out after college.

Currently, new teachers with a bachelor’s degree make $36,349 a year. That will increase to $38,849 next year and $41,000 by 2017-18, making the district’s starting salary one of the highest in the metro, officials said.

The district has asked the Legislature for more state funding, but if lawmakers refuse, it will consider cutting programs or staff to help cover the $34.1 million for the increased teacher pay and benefits.

“Hopefully taxpayers realize we’re working diligently on efficiencies,” school board President Lou Ann Goding said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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