BREAKING: Teachers declare impasse over pay proposals
BREAKING: Teachers declare impasse over pay proposals
Updated at 3:51 p.m. Sunday, January 27
Alameda teachers are asking the state to declare an impasse in their efforts to reach a wage agreement for their new contract, the day after schools leaders submitted a long-sought wage proposal at the bargaining table.
If the state agrees to declare an impasse, a mediator would be called in to try to help broker a deal and, failing that, a factfinding team would hear both side's arguments and draft recommendations for settling the impasse. If further negotiations based on that report don't produce a deal, the district could impose a last best final offer and if teachers don't accept the offer, they could strike.
The district’s negotiators on Thursday offered teachers a proposal that would raise pay by 2 percent overall and increase new teachers’ pay to the average amount teachers at comparable Alameda Count school districts earn. Additional one-time stipends would be offered to teachers who agree to participate in a pilot program aimed at boosting student achievement.
“Many teachers and schools in the District are already engaged in professional work of this nature and the incentive proposal is intended to recognize and honor their work,” district leaders wrote in a press release issued Thursday that described the district’s offer and the professional learning communities they’d like to create.
Teachers, who said they made their original compensation proposal 10 months ago, said that after the district made its proposal Thursday they countered with an offer to spread a 4.5 percent pay increase over two years and to withdraw a proposal to increase its contribution to teachers’ health care costs.
“We haven’t had a raise in over four years and it is time for Alameda Unified to make teachers a priority,” Alameda Education Association president Gray Harris was quoted as saying in a press release.
Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she believes the district and teachers are making progress at the bargaining table.
"I really believe we are progressing. I’d like to get back to the bargaining table and I believe we can come to some agreement," Vital said.
But Harris, who said Alameda's teachers are among the most poorly paid in the county, said the union sees the district's offer as proof that they have the money to give teachers the raises they're seeking, and she questioned the district bargaining team's decision to introduce new demands when little of what's already on the table has been settled. Harris said the union's rejection of the district's proposal isn't a value judgment on the pilot program district leaders want to institute.
"All these months we haven’t settled anything. And then you bring in another layer - it's counterproductive when haven’t settled anything," she said.
In their latest press releases, district leaders and the union jousted over the district’s financial condition and its impact on negotiations over higher wages. The district says it faces the potential payback of millions of dollars in parcel tax funds and also uncertainty in the face of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to change the way school funding is allocated, while teachers say the passage of Proposition 30 and the district’s millions in reserves demonstrate its ability to offer teachers better pay.
Superintendent Kirsten Vital told the school board on January 15 that the district could be forced to pay commercial property owners $7.4 million in Measure H parcel tax funds if a state appeals court’s determination that the district had no right to charge them more than homeowners. The district has appealed the ruling and state Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, has put forth a bill that would effectively nullify any ruling that the funds must be repaid.
The district could see the amount of money it gets for each student rise by roughly $86 per student next year, a presentation on Governor Brown’s budget to be offered at Tuesday’s school board meeting shows, though it’s not yet clear what impact his proposal to simplify the way funding is handed out to schools and focus additional money on English learners, low-income students and foster children will have.
Unaudited financials released by the district at the end of the last school year showed the district’s combined reserves and fund balance topping $21 million.
Alameda teachers' last contract with the district expired in 2008, though the union agreed to a three-year memorandum of understanding in 2009 that continued most of the contract's provisions and temporarily allowed bigger class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. Teachers rejected a tentative contract deal last March, and the contentious negotiations that followed produced a class size and calendar deal but no contract.
District officials declared an impasse in negotiations in November 2011 when administrators and teachers were unable to reach a deal on class sizes. A three-person panel drafted recommendations - known as a factfinding report - and the district and its teachers ultimately settled with an agreement that essentially mirrored its findings, which supported the district's contention that it didn't have the money to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to 20 students per teacher.