Fact Finding

Yesterday, three hundred or so teachers picketed another school board meeting. Much has happened in the last five months. Last month the district and union had another round of mediation. At this round the union made several concessions, attempting to meet the district in the middle. However, the district came back with an offer that was WORSE then their last best offer. Instead of offering a 1% raise for 2004-05, they have changed it to a “one time payment” of 1%. What’s the difference? About $10,000 over the next twenty years. They also want to take health care and add it to the salary – which would increase our salary to one of the highest levels in the county, but no one else does this! So it may look like we are one of the best-paid districts in the county, but the reality will be much different. In fact my district pays one of the lowest amounts per employee for health care and as a result our actual compensation package, when you include health care, is one of the worst. The manipulation of numbers, the moving of funds from one area to another, and a blatant disregard for the people who are actually doing the work is going to kill this district.

Additionally, the district changed a several other elements of the contract in the “best, last, and final offer.” These items were added to this offer because after the non-binding fact finding decision is made, the district can (and probably will) impose their contract.

  • Removal of release time for the union president (who currently has three periods of release time)
  • Removal of the election process to select department chairs, instead giving the principal the power to appoint people to these positions
  • Removal of academic freedom. Any curriculum that may be deemed “controversial” will need to be approved by the principal.

All of these are punitive and show that this battle is not just about money. It is about teachers not being valued. It is about a small group attempting to infusive its values on the public school system. It is about teachers being marginalized or just plain cut from the process. I have a lot more to say about this, especially the third bullet. I am also working on letter to the board members, which I will post when it is done.

Most of the latest information and links to the news articles on the subject, can be found at GEA-Action.Org.

Really I have too much to do to think about this, but how can I not think about this. It is my livelihood. I live and breathe being a teacher. I feel like I what I do is not valued by this board and superintendent.

6 thoughts on “Fact Finding”

  1. As I have said before, WHY DO TEACHERS HAVE TO BEG AND GROVEL for every little scrap????

    I heard on the news today, Social Security is getting a cost of living adjustment of over 4%.

    I hope you GEA teachers can stick to your guns and NOT allow such losses of contract language to be tossed away for a paultry 1-2% raise…..And if you can keep them from combining salary and insurance, DO SO.

    Do your union leaders let you see the contract before the membership gets to vote on it? Ours just say, “Trust Us”. And we have gotten screwed over EVERY FREAKING TIME.

    Thanks for the update.

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  2. It seems to me that this is the era for education labor disputes. My district just finished a nasty negotiation cycle, as did several of our neighboring districts. It’s happening up north, down south, all around. (You and Post Hip Chick seem to be in about the same spot right now).
    What’s the reason for this, I wonder. Is it the state government and budgeting? Is it coincidential that so many districts have superintendents/boards who’ve gotten tight all at once? A new low in the status of the teaching profession?
    I think Polski would back me on this: Where’s CTA in all of this? Why are so many California teachers dealing with near-strike situations at the same time? What’s our uber-union doing to help us out?

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  3. CTA is right there behind us. We have two CTA representatives working with us extensively. In fact, I think one of them is working exclusively with us (the other one works with three other unions). I think the sense early on was that this was a distraction from the fight against the propositions (all of which I oppose), but that was short lived and now they are providing substancial support. Barbara Kerr even came and spoke to us regarding this current dispute.

    Our situation is as much ideological as it is fiscal. My district is in a very conservative community and the board is currently controlled by a group that seems to want to break the union and control everything that occurs within the classroom – to suit and fit their moral and religious beliefs.

    I’m all for freedom of religion, but please don’t force your beliefs on anyone else.

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  4. Soemtimes I wonder…what if we changed the playing field. What if teachers could claim their work was as technically demanding as surgeons? Would it be like this?

    There’s been an odd equation with teachers not demanding the specificity of surgeons, but assuming the routines were associated with autoworkers.

    I’ll be honest, I think the standoff with teachers as “labor” as opposed to skilled professionals and with administration as bosses, is just wrong. I don’t think picket lines will win this war. Maybe the battle, but not the war.

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  5. There’s little mystery to why negotiations have grown tense over the last few years. It boils down to one thing.

    Money.

    We have no national health care plan, except to promote the current situation where the people in the middle (the carriers) make all the money.

    Rising health care costs are taking money from what the districts can offer as salary raises. If healthcare goes up an average of 10% (numbers can go higher), then we are talking about $300 to $500 per employee that cannot go to a raise.

    State legislatures are filled with Republicans (there’s no nicer word to use) who 1)refuse to increase taxes to cover the health care increases and 2)refuse to address the health care crisis.

    Respect is part of the equation, but we can’t even get to that argument because there are no dollars to fight over.

    Negotiations for salary increases will always be seen as a “labor” dispute. The universal contract system for teachers (as opposed to “free agency” style contracts) forces our hand in this, as we must negotiate for everyone– including people who refuse to join unions/associations because they either see no benefit or are happy to reap the benefits without beloning and providing their resources.

    The simple solution would be to elect state and federal legislators who are not afraid to address health care at the national level and tax revenue so that we have enough funds for all of our public systems.

    Until then, we are simply left scratching our heads.

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