The District’s Last and Best is not Good Enough

After speaking to our bargaining team I find myself feeling angry, perplexed and more concerned than ever over the quality of leadership at the district level.

On Benefits:
The District put on the table that their contribution to benefits would be a hard cap of $12,068. That number is what we’ve said their contribution should be all along based on the 68% of the Kaiser 10/10, Safeguard, Vision and Life family rate. Which by the way, was the district’s original proposal. However, they’ve regressively proposed a hard cap. Why is this a bad thing if the dollar contribution is the same? Because in the future, when health care benefits increase, SEA members will be responsible for 100% of the increase in out of pocket expenses. So while they appear to be giving in to our assertions, their proposal is a take-back. We negotiated the percentage rate based on the fact that the district asked for furlough days last year. To accept this agreement today, would mean that we gave up the furlough days last year for nothing.

Furthermore, by making the benefits offer of $12,060 in their last best and final offer, they are basically obligating themselves and admitting to what we’ve been saying all along. This was the district contribution negotiated last year and they absolutely can afford to pay for it. They just outed themselves. Yet, in open enrollment they are unilaterally imposing Brand’s made up district contribution. I find the level of stress that he is putting our families through and how he has try to extort concessions using healthcare as a bargaining chip completely unethical.

On Salary:
I believe that our team’s latest proposal to the district was more than reasonable. As a matter of fact it was a fairly modest 3% increase in salary retroactive to the beginning of the school year. Their offer of 1.56% increase effective January 1 (not retroactive) is absurd. And their proposal for a 3 year contract where the raise for the second year is 1.8% and for the third year 2.2% is an attempt to lock us at a time when we know that much more funding is coming to California schools thanks to our efforts for passing Prop. 30. What Brand is saying is “Thanks for the hard work. Here are some scraps for you.” After years of sacrifice, we deserve more.

On Class Size:
This is the item that is most maddening of all. My predecessor for years reminded the district that the MOU that increased staffing ratio to 31 to 1 and the student contacts to 182 was expiring in June of 2014. That after June, we would return to the contractual staffing ratio of 28 to 1 and student contact maximum of 176. The district of course ignored this, didn’t plan for it, didn’t budget for it, and now the have the audacity to tell students, parents and teachers that what they want is to cram even more students into the classroom. They proposed an increase in staffing ratio to 31:1 and an increase in student contacts to 187! Let’s remember that over the last 4 years we’ve had this staffing ratio at 31:1 with 182 students. By proposing 187 student contacts they are trying to hide a higher staffing ratio (roughly 37:!) and at the same time making a regressive proposal. Their last proposal both on benefits, and on class size are worse than their original proposal!

Last, Best and Final Offer
When I spoke to Ed Brand last week he said his team would come to the table ready to do whatever it took to reach an agreement. Negotiations started at 10am and by 3pm the district had presented their last, best and final offer. Even after that our bargaining team made one last proposal. The district rejected it and reiterated that they had presented their last best and final offer. The ball is on the district’s court. Are they coming back to the table or are they going to declare impasse? It’s hard to believe that during the 5 years of financial crisis impasse was always avoided, but now that the financial picture is improving, the district is all but declaring impasse.

It’s time to show the District our resolve! Work to the Rule. Show up the next Board meeting. Stay informed.

Sincerely,

Roberto Rodriguez
SEA President

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4 Responses to The District’s Last and Best is not Good Enough

  1. Thomas Ultican says:

    We should give the district our last and best offer. Obviously this district has succumbed to corporate education reform. They promote charter schools, expensive private colleges and larger class sizes. We should demand a 25:1 ration and a 5% raise to make up for last 7 years and district to assume 90% of health care costs.

    • Helen Farias says:

      Thomas,

      I agree! Imagine class sizes of 25:1 and a rate of pay that is commensurate with our professionalism!

      In unity,

      Helen

  2. Vincent Gervais says:

    The nature of teacher’s everywhere is one of duty and respect. We earned it through our extended duty hours of service and we received it in the form of higher pay and generous benefits. I remember when I was a student in the 70s & early 80s, several of my teacher’s worked second jobs. I saw them selling programs or working as ushers at sporting events. I saw them tending the booths at the fairgrounds and I saw them serving tables or working behind the bar at local restaurants.
    Is this what is in our future?
    Why is that something the board or Mr. Brand thinks is best for kids?
    Jan Schlichtmann (Civil Action) is quoted as saying, Corporations and businesses show respect with money. In history Our district’s showed that they respect us by offering a suitable salary and by offering benefits that are worthy of our time and efforts.
    In my professional life, I have been more than happy to open my room at lunch to students, to stay after school for tutoring or test-make-up. I have volunteered for additional duty in the evenings at games, dances and performances. It did not matter that I took student work home to grade in the evenings or on the weekends. I did not mind that it took time away from my own child and spouse because I was respected by my employer. My salary was respectable and the health care benefits, Dental and eye care as well as the retirement benefits were all worthy of respect and out of duty I did all of the aforementioned activities to provide for the needs of others.
    They cared, I cared, they cared, we cared. It was a reciprocal relationship. It was perpetual as one begat the other. It was a TEAM effort. I gave my time and they noticed and showed respect for my efforts through professional salary and benefits and as such I gave more.
    But times have changed, The leadership in our district administration and the board does not seem to think the same way their predecessors did. Clearly, this current group does not respect us. They are showing us they do not respect us in the poor contractual offers. They do not respect our time. They do not respect our efforts, and they certainly do not care about our families. As a result, I am forced to take a stand.
    Until that respect is evident again, my class room door is closed at lunch as I take some “me time”. Until I feel that my position is respected again, I will no longer tutor students outside the 53 minute period that my job affords me. Unless the district changes its tone toward caring about my well being and my family, I will not volunteer for any after hours events, as I love my family and missing time that I can spend with them to offer SAT prep or help with college applications is not worth what the district is currently offering in contract discussions.
    I have weighed the pros and cons of the direction this district is heading with its disrespectful contract negotiations and all signs point toward this job becoming a Work to the Rule job. That’s too bad.

    • Helen Farias says:

      Vincent,
      Thank you for your inspiring message, and for supporting SEA’s work actions. I would love to publish this in our newsletter and/or on our FB group page. Would you be ok with that?

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