The largest number of Davis County teachers in recent memory has voted to ratify a new contract with the school district.

Davis Education Association members voted overwhelmingly to approve the contract that provides for no salary increases but includes the school district paying off a $1.2 million shortfall in the employee insurance program.Ballots counted Thursday afternoon showed teachers voted 929-148 in favor of the contract. Some 60 percent of the 1,780-member association voted in the contract balloting conducted by mail over eight days. Teachers who aren't members of the association could not vote.

"Many teachers, both at the membership meeting on Aug. 10 and in written comments, expressed frustration and anger because of no salary increase for the third year in a row," Bone said.

The Davis School Board is to ratify the contract Monday morning. The district's 2,200 teachers will return to their classrooms Tuesday in preparation for classes, which begin Aug. 29. So far, 19 districts have reached contract agreements.

Bone said teachers are concerned for students they teach, how increasingly difficult it is to meet their educational, social and emotional needs in larger classes and with limited resources.

"However, this anger seems to be directed not at the Davis School District or Davis Education Association, but at the political climate in Utah," she said.

Association officials said the balloting brought the largest response in recent memory from district teachers. They attribute the response to a new mail-out balloting system and heightened concern about the lack of education funding in the state.

In addition to paying off the insurance program shortfall, the employees will be transferred from a self-insured program to a state insurance pool. The district has also agreed to pick up a 25 percent premium increase to maintain current levels of coverage in the new program.

"We are pleased the district has agreed to the insurance," Bone said. `Teachers placed the blame (for no salary increases) with the Legislature. They understand there was no money and the district tried its best to keep the benefits."

The contract keeps intact a teacher salary schedule used by the district for the past two years. Those who are not eligible for scheduled raises - usually teachers who have been employed more than 20 years - will be guaranteed a $240 yearly "experience bonus."

It will also establish a 183-day contract, which would eliminate Utah Education Association convention days as paid working days.

Other contract provisions include giving teachers notification if layoffs are pending. The DEA felt the language is particularly important if the tax-limitation initiatives pass in November. Layoffs are expected if the measures pass.

The contract also changes the grievance process for teachers. Teachers will go before a hearing examiner before the school board decides on a grievance. It also requires teachers have access to their employment files except for confidential university placement records and rating forms used when the teacher is hired.