Teachers make fresh pay push

Teachers make fresh pay push

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s teachers made a fresh public push for a new contract at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, saying they’d like better pay and benefits.

“We strongly ask for a fair and reasonable financial proposal on the 24th because it is needed. We need to move this process forward and we need to settle this contract,” said Richard Bunker, bargaining chair for the Alameda Education Association, referring to the next bargaining session, on January 24.

Parents said that they, too, would like a contract to be settled this year. Alameda’s teachers have not had a fresh contract since 2009.

“We do not want a strike or the activities leading up to one,” parent Kim Krause said.

Teachers who packed the Alameda High School cafeteria on Tuesday said they’ve had nine bargaining sessions this year and that they’ve presented their contract proposals, but they said schools administrators have not. They said administrators have promised to offer their proposals at the next bargaining session.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she can’t comment on the negotiations.

“We will have a formal proposal on economics at the next bargaining session,” Vital said.

Teachers signed off on a class size deal and a calendar last June after shooting down a full contract proposal months earlier. The deal capped a rancorous year of negotiations that included public release of contract proposals and dozens of teacher grievances along with a messy war of words in the local press. Those proposals are not now being made public.

Teachers had agreed to a memorandum of understanding in 2009 that suspended class sizes in kindergarten through third grade of 20 students per teacher, a change district administrators had sought to make permanent.

On Tuesday, teachers said they’re struggling to make ends meet on their current salaries, which are the second lowest in Alameda County, and struggling to keep up with escalating health care costs. And some said they want the district to show it values them by offering better compensation.

Math teacher Michael Schafer said his health care rates have risen 55 percent over the past three years. He said he dropped his adult daughter from his health care plan and put her on her own plan because it was cheaper.

“I can teach almost anywhere I want,” he said. “I love Alameda, and I love the kids. But I don’t feel appreciated and I can’t afford to stay here.”

Some teachers said they’re hopeful that new money for schools in Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget will translate into better pay here. Brown’s budget proposal would increase school funding by 4.5 percent, though it’s unclear how much Alameda Unified would get since state funding varies from district to district and could be allocated differently under Brown’s plan.

Separately, the board approved a school calendar for the 2013-2014 school year on a quick 5-0 vote. Teachers have also signed off on the calendar (posted below).

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