District 97 and the Oak Park Teachers Association have reached tentative agreement on a new five-year contract for teachers.

The district’s first ever, five-year agreement requires approval by the District 97 Board of Education. The deal was reached on April 18, and calls for a nearly 5-percent increase in the first year, a 3.1-percent increase in year two, and a 2.5- to 4 -percent increase the last three years, depending on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The current three-year contract expires this summer. Salaries for certified teachers in the new deal would increase significantly over the current deal. A first-year teacher under the new deal with a bachelor’s degree will make a base salary of $40,000, an increase of about $5,000 from the current deal. Those salary figures do not include step increases. On the high end of the salary scale, a teacher with 25 years of experience who has a master’s degree with 60-plus hours of college academic credit will make roughly $92,000 in the first year. Teachers can move to a higher salary by attaining additional college-level credit.

District and union officials said the new contract will likely be approved by the board in May.

Superintendent Constance Collins insisted the contract is not tied to an impending referendum. Collins would not commit to a date for that future referendum, which the district had originally planned for last year and which the new strategic plan specifically calls for.

Collins said before the current deal was reached, the district was eying a referendum. The last operating fund increase was nearly 20 years ago. Collins added that the district’s structural deficit necessitates a referendum.

“I don’t know of any district that has gone this long without a referendum,” she said. “We have done well but we know that that time is going to come. That is going to have to happen. I can’t say when, but a need for a referendum will be there.”

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