Bismarck teachers continue contract negotiations

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Teachers are negotiating with Bismarck Public Schools on possible pay raises.

While the initial proposal from teachers was rejected, both sides believe a deal is close.

The scene is very different from two years ago: the district is better off financially and K-12 payments from the state have increased. But Bismarck teachers want more when it comes to safety and defining their work day.

Bismarck teachers are closing out the year in their classrooms, but the negotiations for a new contract still need work. Teachers started the talks with a four percent increase each of the next two years. That was rejected. Now the teachers are coming back with a second try at the percentages.

"We're still researching it, but we feel as though the 2.5 and the 3 is fair compensation for the teachers for what the teachers have been going through. We also understand that that's just another proposal,” said Mike Crouse, Wachter Middle School teacher and lead negotiator.

"We got $2 million in new teachers to go along with that. I don't know if the budget is going to handle more than the 1.6 and 2,” said BPS Superintendent Jason Hornbacher.

School safety is also at the forefront of the discussion. Hornbacher says the schools and students are safe, but that safety is a moving target.

"So we need to be nimble enough that what works for one kid, doesn't necessarily work for all kids. So those are the processes and systems we're putting in place,” said Hornbacher.

The teachers appreciate the work that's been done, but have seen a growing trend of violence against them. They want something to address that in this contract.

"Majority of the teachers feel safe. However, there have been numerous instances of violence towards teachers. Even one is too many,” said Crouse.

Both sides say they believe a complete agreement will happen soon.