School district faces fresh pay issue
School district faces fresh pay issue
Alameda’s schools leaders are facing a fresh teacher contract issue this fall: Whether to approve a fresh raise for teachers that would take effect next July – or face the possibility that the contract could end up back in the hands of a mediator.
The contract approved at the end of February offers a 2.5 percent permanent raise that was retroactive to July 2012 and an additional raise of 0.75 percent for the 2012-2013 school year that was concluding as it was inked. Teachers got an additional 1.25 percent raise for this school year alone.
The school board has until January 31, 2014 to approve an ongoing raise of 1.75 percent or more; if they don’t, district leaders and the teacher’s union will go back to the bargaining table, where they may reopen one or more contract articles – including articles that don’t deal with salaries.
If a new deal isn’t reached by February 15, 2014, both sides will declare an impasse, sending the dispute into the hands of a state mediator.
“It gets a little complicated if they do not vote to give us the increase,” said Audrey Hyman, the new president of the Alameda Education Association. “We’re basically back where we were right before the settlement.”
Hyman brought the issue to the school board last week, she said, because she’s concerned district leaders will wait until the last minute to bring the raise to the board for its vote.
“I think the BART strike showed us how impacted people can become when information is not sought ahead of time,” Hyman said.
Vital said she will bring the decision to the board at its January 28, 2014 board meeting – three days before the decision must be made.
“I realize this may feel like the last minute to teachers who are waiting for news about the raise, but we won’t actually know how much money the state is giving us until January 20, when the governor releases his annual budget,” Vital wrote in response to e-mailed questions from a reporter.
She said that the district will know a little more about its budget when staffers offer a first interim budget projection in December, but that with a host of unknowns that include how the state’s new school funding formula, the Affordable Care Act and the Measure H parcel tax lawsuit will shake out, it “just wouldn’t be prudent” for the board to make a decision sooner.
“But I will say this: We are as eager to resolve this matters as the teachers are,” Vital wrote.
But Hyman said that the wait leaves both sides with little time to resolve any disputes. She said the contract teachers have now took more than two dozen bargaining sessions to resolve.
“It’s putting us on a very tight timeline,” she said.
School staffers have presented budget projections to the school board at its prior two meetings that show the need for budget-balancing cuts by the 2015-2016 school year. The 1.75 percent raise would cost $2.4 million that year, the projections show. But the future-year budget projections were based on the old state funding formula, which won’t be used to determine funding in future years.
Hyman said she’s concerned board members are not getting a clear picture of how funding will change under the new formulas; she noted that the district has consistently shown the need for cuts over the past several years, and has ended each year with ever-larger budget surpluses. Hyman said she is hearing from her sources that the funding will be available to grant the raises.
“The district has to think about, how are they spending their money?” she said. “Isn’t it time, finally, to reinvest in the teachers and staff who are there in the classroom, working with the students on a daily basis?”
The district and its teachers reached a contract deal after two years of acrimonious negotiations that saw teachers reject one proposed contract and both sides seek the aid of a state mediator after negotiations reached an impasse. Teachers sought a 4.5 percent raise, while district leaders wanted to maintain class size that had been raised as part of an earlier interim agreement and to pilot a program that would see teachers collaborating on lesson plans and poring over test scores in an effort to boost achievement.
The teachers won a series of raises over several years, while the district got to maintain class sizes in kindergarten to third grade at 25 students per teacher. A 10-person committee was to be established to explore the possibility of a pilot.