BREAKING: Teachers declare impasse over pay proposals

BREAKING: Teachers declare impasse over pay proposals

Michele Ellson

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.

Comments

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Fri, Jan 25, 2013

It seems a bit hasty and irresponsible for the AEA to declare an impasse so quickly (and, by implication, one might assume, reject the AUSD's latest salary offer) if the union really understands basic math.

With the courts ruling against AUSD so far on the lmore-than-ikely payback of $7.4 million in parcel tax revenues, the district does not seem to have a lot of extra cash sitting around to fund the teacher's proposed 4.5% pay increase over two years as well as absorb the significant (probably 15-20%) increases in health care premiums.

This impasse is yet another symptom of local conflicts created by the state's long-term draining of local resources in order to balance its broken and red-inked budgets.

Until some substantive rebalancing and replacement of the local tax revenues are achieved, the local financial pot is growing smaller and less stable. The AEA's declaration of an impasse and its presentation of unrealistic and unsustainable salary demands on the AUSD seems irresponsible under the district's uncertain financial circumstances.

I would love to support a significant rise in teacher salaries but the AUSD's school funding situation is still too shaky thanks to all the years of Sacramento-engineered blood-sucking.
And that has to be fixed for stability and normalcy to return to the bargaining table.

Submitted by Sylvia Gibson on Fri, Jan 25, 2013

"Additional pay will be offered to teachers who agree to participate in a pilot program aimed at boosting student acheivement"

If higher test scores are an accurate measure of student achivement, then Alameda teachers have already earned this additional merit based pay. With larger class sizes, fewer resources, and a reduction in support staff, Alameda teachers have nonetheless raised student test scores.

Let's honor teachers for what they've done and how they've done it. The hoop has already been jumped through-- it's time for applause.

Submitted by frank on Sat, Jan 26, 2013

I've never seen a community or School Board treat Teachers so poorly!!!! If the School Board is in such 'dire straits' why are they buying a new building. It seems they will ALWAYS have some excuse. If you listened to Gov. Brown's speech the other day he stated correctly that it is the teachers (not the bureaucrats) that ignite the fire of learning. It is NOT the Teachers fault that this money MAY have to be refunded. It is AUSD 's mistake.

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Sun, Jan 27, 2013

No one disputes that Alameda's teachers have done very well by our community and our students. But that does not mean that the money is there for bigger teacher pay raises right now--even if the new office building is more than questionable.

And you cannot blame AUSD for making the best attempt it could to craft a reasonable parcel tax--forced into a corner by state irresponsibility, spinelessness, recklessness, and theft from local jurisdictions. (Parcel taxes are, by nature, regressive, but they are about the only option available to cash-strapped districts like AUSD statewide.)

Having enemies of AUSD in the business community who would apparently rather die than pay taxes to support the community schools does not help, either. (i do not understand why some people will not support public schools...)

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Sun, Jan 27, 2013

No one disputes that Alameda's teachers have done very well by our community and our students. But that does not mean that the money is there for bigger teacher pay raises right now--even if the new office building is more than questionable.

And you cannot blame AUSD for making the best attempt it could to craft a reasonable parcel tax--forced into a corner by state irresponsibility, spinelessness, recklessness, and theft from local jurisdictions. (Parcel taxes are, by nature, regressive, but they are about the only option available to cash-strapped districts like AUSD statewide.)

Having enemies of AUSD in the business community who would apparently rather die than pay taxes to support the community schools does not help, either. (i do not understand why some people will not support public schools...)

Submitted by Anne DeBardeleben on Mon, Jan 28, 2013

Frank, this community has always come together to support its schools, teachers and most importantly, its students. This community overwhelmingly supported Measure A and is paying $12M annually into the AUSD budget. This community ensured approximately 75% of Measure A went to teachers through the prevention of school closures and salary rollbacks and through the reinstatement of furlough days. This community continues to give tens of thousands of dollars and volunteer hours annually through the PTA’s and organizations like the Alameda Education Foundation. This community will be called upon again to solve the problem of our aging school facilities. Perhaps it would be important to recognize and respect what the community has done, and continues to do, and keep the inflammatory rhetoric to a minimum.

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