BREAKING: Teachers reject class size and pay deal

Updated at 6:34 p.m. Friday, March 30

Alameda's teachers have rejected a contract deal that their union leadership has caled "inferior." The deal, which would have kept class sizes where they are and offered teachers some additional pay, was rejected by the 524-member teacher's union by a two to one vote.

“At some point AUSD will have to make teachers a priority and stop presuming that we will be able to continually sacrifice,” Alameda Education Association president Gray Harris was quoted as saying in a press release issued Friday evening.

Union leaders accused the district of failing to negotiate in good faith and also refusing to accept compromises they offered.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she was disappointed by the news.

"We are disappointed. And we will move forward from here," Vital said. She said the district would offer additional comment next week.

The agreement would have kept class sizes in kindergarten through third grade at 25 students per teacher in exchange for a one-time, 1 percent salary bump and another 1.5 percent in 2012-2013 that would have become permanent if certain state funding thresholds are met. The one-time bonus would have netted teachers between $398 and $799 each, said the union's release, which said the pay offer "was not sufficient to warrant the permanent concessions they demanded." The deal did not address teachers' health care costs, the release pointed out.

The agreement also would have allowed the district to raise K-3 class sizes to 30 students per teacher in the event of a severe fiscal emergency, and to 32 students if the Measure A parcel tax is revoked. The Board of Education would have been required to hold a hearing on such a declaration before it could be made.

The agreement also would established tentative school year calendars for the next two years the contract is in effect and offered a new, union-added academic freedom clause that would allow teachers to bring supplemental learning materials into their classrooms above and beyond the standard curriculum they teach. It also established a one-year collaboration pilot that would shift the hours of one school day per week.

The deal teachers rejected also laid out separate rules for teachers interested in working in one of the district’s magnet or innovative school programs and new rules for handling complaints against teachers.

In a letter to county schools officials, Chief Business Officer Robert Shemwell said the deal would save the district $586,370, which they had planned to put toward strategic cuts he said the district would need to make in 2013-2014. The district’s recent interim budget report to the county shows that cuts need to be made, though it doesn’t include $12 million in Measure A funds and shows K-3 class sizes at 20 students per teacher.

Keeping those class sizes at 25 students per teacher would have saved the district about $3.7 million over the term of the agreement, a document submitted with the letter shows, while the increase teacher pay would have cost $2.14 million.

The announcement is the latest salvo in a heated battle between teachers and district administrators over class size, pay and treatment of the district’s teachers, who have complained of poor morale.

District officials and the teachers union were in mediation talks over class sizes after the district asked the state to declare an impasse on the topic. District officials had wanted to keep K-3 class sizes at 25 students per teacher, while teachers wanted them to drop back to 20 students per teacher.

In late February the teachers union submitted a proposal that would have lowered class sizes to 20 students per teacher after three years and shrunk other class sizes. They hammered out the deal last week after four late-night mediation sessions.

Comments

Is it fair to ask why AEA agreed to the proposal (the A in TA means "agreement") but then almost instantly trashed said agreement?

Is that standard negotiating behavior?

Hi Dave,

I am working to get an answer to that question. Stay tuned.