I hope everyone had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.
Just before the break, we learned the Tentative Agreement (TA) between the Teachers Association (Association) and the District did not ratify. I would like to use this update to keep everyone well informed in light of the TA not being ratified.
What is a Tentative Agreement? State Law establishes the parameters and legal rights related to collective bargaining. At the table both parties are equals and protected by Education Code, Labor Code and Federal Law. When a mutually agreed upon settlement is reached in collective bargaining with the employer (the District) and the exclusive representative for a group of employees (the Association), it is called a tentative agreement. The agreement is tentative because it is not binding until it is ratified by the Association membership and approved by the District’s Board of Education. By its very nature, a mutually agreed upon settlement indicates both parties support and are satisfied with the agreement. If this were not the case, the parties would continue to bargain.
Once a tentative agreement is reached, both teams are legally obligated to take the agreement to their respective parties (the Association’s membership and the District’s Board) in a good faith effort to secure ratification. Neither team may undermine the bargained agreement as this would be an unfair labor practice and indicate the bargaining was not done in good faith.
This was the first time in the history of the District a tentative agreement was not ratified by the Association membership. Similarly, last year was the first time impasse was declared by the Association.
The District fully respects the membership’s right to ratify or reject a tentative agreement. We are disappointed because both teams spent considerable time developing a settlement using the Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) process and seemed committed to, and supportive of, the agreement.
How does the budget play into this equation? The State of California consistently funds education at a lower level than most other states. In fact, the State is still in the process of restoring education funding to pre-recession levels. This isn’t the message coming out of Sacramento. The Governor prefers to say he is increasing, rather than restoring funding for public schools. Technically, school districts receive more money than they did last year, but only because revenues were cut so drastically during the recession. Most school districts receive less funding today than they did in 2007 (adjusted for inflation). And even at pre-recession levels, the State was 46th in the nation in per pupil funding.
For most districts in California, costs have increased at a greater rate than revenues. Over the past five years, our fixed costs (staffing, health benefits, salary settlements, STRS/PERS, maintenance of our facilities, etc.) have increased by $38 million while our revenues have only increased by $35 million. This has eaten away at our reserves. Last year our District carried the lowest reserve level in San Diego County. Yet, the District has consciously taken financial risks to stand out as an employer of choice among our comparison districts. This is evidenced by the fact our salary settlements have been well above the average of our comparison districts for the past three years, and teachers’ salaries continue to rank in the top third.
The District’s reserve level was the greatest challenge we faced in negotiating salary this year, yet the negotiating teams worked together to design an agreement that would have creatively increased salaries by 3.6% over the next two years while keeping reserves just above the minimum level required by law (3%).
What did the Tentative Agreement include? The agreement would have provided a 1% increase on January 1, 2018, a 1% increase on January 1, 2019 and a 1.6% increase by adding two professional learning days in 2018-19 and one day in 2019-20. This would have resulted in a total increase to salary of 3.6% over the next two years.
There may have been some confusion about purpose and effect (on the salary) of three additional days. Adding professional learning days was a result of thinking creatively to increase the salary offer, allowing us to use restricted funds specifically targeted for professional development. Both parties expressed the conviction that we are doing the right work – continuing as a Professional Learning Community that shares a common vision, mission and belief that each and every student can learn at high levels; identifying essential standards; developing an understanding of what the standards look and sound like when students achieve them; constructing learning targets; writing common formative assessments to measure our students’ progress; and planning a learning path for students to maximize their success. This is hard work that affects all of us and requires dedicated time. Adding to the struggles of finding this time, is the challenge of having sufficient substitutes. Having dedicated professional learning days allows staff to dive into this work and receive per diem pay. It also allows flexibility to work together to identify, and respond, to the learning needs of the adults in our system. We are all committed to the kinds of professional learning that has meaning for teachers and makes a difference to student outcomes. These additional days would have increased salary by 1.6%.
Next steps? We will return to the bargaining table in January and will continue to bargain in good faith. We hope to reach an overall agreement that will allow us to remain focused on our most important work – learning and the success of students.
As always, I am available to answer questions or concerns. Please feel free to contact me via email or phone at extension 6373.
Until next time,
Assistant Superintendent, HR