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      What's The Deal: Part 1

      Marquette area teachers have worked an entire year without a contract.

      The question many are wondering, why haven't they settled?

      Schools out for summer, but it's still on the minds of 192 Marquette school district teachers.

      Last year they worked without a contract meaning they received no increase in wages, but paid more money for their health insurance. Many feel disrespected by the district.

      "I'm looking at not giving as much because I feel saddened, hurt, devalued in the profession I'm passionate about," said Nancy Usitalo, third grade teacher.

      They are asking for a two step wage increase in a new contract. Last year, they didn't get a pay raise. This coming year, they have been offered a one step wage hike.

      A step is a system of increasing wages based on years of experience and education.

      For example a first year teacher making around $34,000, a step increase would bump up their pay to more than $36,000 for their second year.

      Teachers say not having the step increase could cost them a couple thousand dollars a year.

      "If we were to give up a step that could cost us $70,000 over the course of our career, plus additional costs in retirement," said Fred Cole, lead negotiator, MAEA.

      They are also paying higher health insurance costs because the district's chosen to impose a hard cap on how much they pay for premiums.

      With more money coming out of their checks, no increase in their take home pay, and the rising cost of living, teachers are starting to feel financially stressed.

      "I use to have enough savings where I felt comfortable if something went wrong. If my refrigerator went or if my dishwater went I'd be able to handle that, but I don't have that now. So, there's an element of uncertainty and thinking my salary is going to continue to decrease," Usitalo said.

      While their take home pay is decreasing, their workload is increasing.

      Even though they have summers off, they continue to plan curriculum for the upcoming year, and taking courses, paid out of pocket, to further their education.

      There remains a significant gap between the contract offer from the union and one from the district.

      "The two proposals are about $100,000 apart. And, that is a lot of money. I recognize that, but out of a 30 million dollar budget we feel that's something be worth paying to the teachers to get this contract settled," Cole said.

      The districts budget is $29.4 million, from 58.7 percent is used on teacher wages and benefits.