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      Crowd gathers to learn about contract negotiations

      About a hundred people showed up at Wednesday nights Marquette Teacher Town Hall meeting at the Ramada Inn.

      The meeting was set up to talk about why the district and teachers union have yet to settle.

      "I don't want my kids being taught by indentured laborers I feel for the plight of the teachers they are not being appreciated not dealt with dignity and not being paid what they deserve," said Mili Martiz-White, parent.

      A room of concerned residents looking for answers on why there's still no settlement.

      The teacher's union is looking for a two step wage increase, but the district is proposing a one step increase and $500 dollar increase to teachers who aren't eligible for a step.

      Fred Cole, lead negotiator, says preserving the step increase is about respect.

      "Trying to make a difference in the lives of students trying to make a difference in the lives of the community. And, it would be nice to have the respect and a decent salary to go with that. Teachers salaries have been flat with zero raises to the base in about five years," said Fred Cole.

      Cole says the district has enough money in the general fund balance to be able to provide both steps this year due to increased state funding and the sinking fund which allots money for improvements to school infrastructure.

      Many teachers say missing out on a step will cost them in the long run.

      "A new teacher would lose $70,000 dollars over a thirty-year period. And, I don't know that a lot of the people in the community or even some of the school board members really understand how important those steps are," said Stu Skauge

      Teachers say it's getting harder to make ends meet with increased healthcare and retirement costs.

      They are now paying 20% towards their premiums while the district has chosen to hard cap at 80%.

      The school district was not represented at the meeting, but school board president Rich Rossway issued this statement "The board is committed to paying our extraordinary teaching staff at the highest level possible while focusing on being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of our school district."