San Carlos School Teacher Contract Negotiations: Two Sides to the Story.
February 24, 2010
If you are on the San Carlos School District email distribution list, you most likely received the following email that announced that negotiations between the San Carlos School District (SCSD) and the San Carlos School District had reached an impasse:
Dear San Carlos Community Members,
I write to give you an update on the status of negotiations for the 2010-2011 school year between the San Carlos School District (SCSD) and the San Carlos Teachers Association (SCTA). As of this week, the parties have reached “Impasse” in the negotiations. I want to give some context to what this means and describe for you our next steps.
Many of you have heard me say these are extraordinary times and resolving our current financial crisis will require extraordinary measures. It is understandable, therefore, that this year’s negotiations would require much discussion and debate. It was evident in our last negotiating session, however, that no new ideas were being exchanged, and it became clear that these discussions would not yield results. Because of this, the District decided to file paperwork stating that the parties had reached Impasse. This is a required step to move the process to the next phase.
I realize you will likely have a number of questions regarding this matter, so I have put together a fact sheet to address a few questions you may have:
What is the reality of the current budget situation in our school district?
The California state budget situation has gotten progressively worse throughout this year. When we approved this year’s budget in June 2009, we believed we had at least a $700,000 budget shortfall for 2010-2011 that would have to be addressed in order to continue to stay above our required 3% reserve level and to stop deficit spending. That $700,000 problem has now grown to a $2.8 million problem, as per the governor’s latest budget proposal.
Because of the severity of this problem, the Board voted earlier this year to accept my recommendation to immediately eliminate five administrative positions at the District Office. I was deeply saddened to see these wonderful people and highly valued positions go; but given the magnitude of the crisis, this move was necessary to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. In addition, at the School Board Meeting on January 26, the administration and the Board discussed the prospect of additional revenue enhancements and restructuring of some programs. These program changes would include reducing the elementary music program, cutting back library support, reducing time for Middle School Vice Principals, just to name a few.
The combination of the central office staff reduction (approx savings: $650K), the restructuring of out-of-classroom programs (approx savings: $750K), and additional revenue enhancements (approx: $250K) will take care of nearly 60% ($1.6 million ) of our total budget problem, but it still leaves us with a $1.2 million shortfall.
Since roughly 80% of all district expenses are personnel-related, the only significant area for reduction the District has left to consider is compensation. This could include a combination of salary reductions (including some furlough days), or the elimination of certain positions across all employee groups, including further cuts to district administration, to teachers and/or classified staff.
What was the substance of the negotiations between SCSD and SCTA?
SCTA and the District have been meeting over the past several months to negotiate changes to existing labor contracts. The parties had already negotiated wages and furlough days for the current school year. Therefore, the District’s proposals have been focused only on next school year (2010-2011).
Given the magnitude of our current budget crisis, the District’s proposal to SCTA had to amount to the equivalent of a 7% reduction in total costs/compensation, across the board. This could come in many forms and combinations, including salary reduction, furlough days, elimination of positions (increasing class sizes), and freezing expected salary increases for next year (also known as “step” raises). While these are certainly painful cuts, the total compensation reduction to teachers would represent only 35% of the total budget problem.
The negotiating teams of the District and the SCTA last met on February 8th. The SCTA repeated its last offer that there be no compensation changes in the 2010-2011 school year, and rejected the various proposals brought to the table by the District. Without an exchange of proposals for 2010-2011, the District’s next step was to inform the state that the parties have reached Impasse.
What does Impasse really mean?
“Impasse” is a defined step in a process required by California Government Code to begin a process to resolve disputes in negotiations between a school district and any bargaining unit (union) representing employees of that district. As part of the Impasse process, the State assigns a mediator to bring the parties together and attempt to mediate negotiations and look to find agreement. It will take some time for the State to assign a mediator and additional time to have the required mediated negotiations. Due to the fiscal crisis, a large majority of school districts in California will reach Impasse with their bargaining units this year.
What happens next?
Either the mediator will bring the parties to agreement or he/she will fail to do so. If the mediator determines that a settlement is unlikely to be reached, he/she will move the process to the next stage, known as Fact Finding. In Fact Finding, a neutral third party will be appointed by the State to conduct a series of sessions with all parties and gather all relevant information. After his/her study of the issue, the Fact Finder will present a recommendation to the School Board. Such recommendation could be close to either party’s position or somewhere in the middle. This is not, however, a binding recommendation – the School Board can ultimately accept or reject such implementation. If the School Board rejects the Fact Finding recommendation, the District has the ability to implement its last and best offer to the bargaining unit.
What are other issues with the timeline?
These processes (Impasse and Fact Finding) could continue well into summer. In the end, the District is still required to meet its statutory obligations such as delivering a budget by June 30, 2010, and, most importantly, being ready to open the schools in late August. Given this, it was important that the parties either make immediate progress or act swiftly to move the process forward, in order to reduce uncertainties for all concerned– the District and its employees, community members, and students– and develop a prudent and realistic budget for next year.
What can you do?
I encourage you to attend future School Board meetings where the budget will be discussed. Although specific discussions about negotiations will happen in “closed session,” all general budget discussions and recommendations, as well as approval of any final employee contracts or lay-offs will happen in open sessions. A schedule of future Board meetings is posted on our Agenda Online site at http://sancarlos.csbaagendaonline.net.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craig Baker, Superintendent
San Carlos School District
The SCTA's Position:
Yesterday, the San Carlos Teacher's Association issued the following update on the negotiation session:
Dear San Carlos Parents and Community Members,
The 2009-2010 Teachers Negotiations Team met with the San Carlos School District on Monday, February 8, 2010. In that negotiations session, the District made the following proposals:
- Reduce all teacher’s salaries 4.08% 2010-2011 (in addition to the furlough days)
- 4 furlough days for 2010 – 2011, resulting in an addition 2% reduction in pay.
- Increase class sizes, K-4 (unspecified time period)
- Make all 5th and 6th grade classes self-contained
- Retirement incentive
- Freeze contractual step increases 2010-2011 (increases gained through professional development and years of experience)
San Carlos Teachers are concerned about the proposals for the following reasons:
- Raising class size is detrimental to students and is unacceptable to the community.
- Self-contained classes at the middle school would create more problems than it would solve: requiring teachers to teach outside of their area of specialization and training.
- The district is seeking cuts based on hypothetical projections about next year’s budget. We are bargaining for this year, 2009-2010.
- Teachers should not be asked to take salary cuts when administrators have been offered bonuses for this year and next.
- Teachers agreed to take 0% salary increase for ’08-’09 and are willing to accept 0% increase for this year.
We have shown our willingness to compromise by taking a salary reduction in the form of 2 furlough days for our current school year. The district walked away from the table, refusing to discuss these matters further. To our disappointment, they served SCTA with impasse papers.
We remain focused on settling this year’s contract before we move forward to solving the crisis we face in education for the 2010–2011 school year.
From Dr. Baker's memo to the parents, he pretty clearly outlines what the next steps in this process will likely be. Note that these discussions could last well into the summer, casting some shadow on the status of the 2010-2011 school year in San Carlos. I'll be watching this closely and will update the site as more news becomes available.