LCTA recently reported to the press that “the school district moved the bargaining process from Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) to adversarial, positions based bargaining.” In fact, the district did request that the parties move to traditional bargaining because the IBB process was not moving forward. Significant work has been accomplished by the parties, but given the ground rules of IBB, nothing about that work could be shared with the community. As such, frustration and misinformation was prevalent and the shift was intended to lighten the negative impacts currently being experienced by our school district community. Traditional bargaining is used by most districts when it comes time to negotiate on salary, it can be a collaborative process and progress can be shared out from the table.
LCUSD did not engage in an unfair labor practice with its request for the process change. The District, per Governing Board direction, articulated an offer that had been fully vetted over the course of a 9 hour IBB session and confirmed that offer in a formal communication to the LCTA President the next day. That is what is required. At that point, the offer may be shared out publicly. LCTA understood this because even before the District posted information on its website, LCTA Leadership engaged in two communications regarding events at the table – one to its members and one to the press. Those actions demonstrate a clear understanding that IBB was closed. The district’s release of information was a positive statement, it contained only limited talking points from the current offer in deference to the work that will continue at the table, and it clearly supported the on-going and productive efforts of the bargaining teams.
In its statement issued April 28, 2016, LCTA casts a negative light on the collective work of both parties and counters months of joint communiques released after IBB negotiations. For example, the joint communique on April 14, 2016 states: “The teams continue to make progress to significantly close the salary schedule gap with comparable districts. The teams are working to assure all cells benefit from squaring the salary schedule.” As a collaboratively created salary schedule, LCTA’s statement that it does not meet the common interests of the parties – to increase lifetime earnings, recruit and retain high quality professionals, and develop a salary schedule that is consistent and deliberate – is concerning, it appears a rejection of their own work and false rhetoric designed to mislead.
In LCTA’s most recent news correspondence they cite promises that have been made to the teachers. Last year when the Association accepted a 4% increase we knew that more work needed to be done on salaries, and I promised that work would be done. At no time was it ever contemplated or authorized that the District would offer a 0% increase to our valued teachers. This unfortunate piece of misinformation was spread throughout our community and caused a great deal of unnecessary ill will among teachers, parents and administrators. Recruiting and retaining the highest quality teaching, support and administrative staffs is the #1 Local Control and Accountability Plan Goal. The creation and development of a salary schedule working committee was realized as a 2015-16 Superintendent’s Goal, and the negotiations subcommittee convened in October of this school year. The Governing Board has revisited and redefined decade-long budget assumptions in efforts to make progress on salaries. The promises are being kept, we are closing gaps with comparable districts. These adjustments to assumptions have allowed the parties to craft a new salary schedule that will put LCUSD within 2% of our elite comparable districts – all within one year. In the past we were 5 – 7% behind. Two of our comparable districts have yet to settle, but these are significant gains and meet the common interest. However, targets will continue to move and efforts to achieve our goals will be continuous.
Beyond the negotiated increases to the salaries of teachers, there are annual increases based on years of experience and additional education. These annual costs create an average increase of about $225,000 per year in what is called Step and Column movement. These are deserved increases, but they are also actual expenses. Many of our LCTA members are beyond these regular increases, and the restructured salary schedule took this into consideration as the teams developed the new format.
Pension reform has also impacted expenditures. LCTA is correct that individuals will see an increase in pension contributions – from 8% to 10.25% next year. The district also will experience increased pension contributions – from 8.25% - 19.1% by the end of the decade. By the end of the current budget cycle (2018-19) the annual rate will be 16.28% and teacher pension costs are estimated to be $1,279,000 more than the original rate of 8.25%. Essentially, by 2018-2019 district expenditures to teacher pension increases will have consumed over $3,400,000 of the ongoing dollars from the state.
LCUSD feels the current proposal directly addresses the common interests of increasing lifetime earnings, recruiting and retaining high quality professionals, efficient targeting of top candidates, and creating a salary schedule that is consistent and deliberate. The version the District presented in its proposal was jointly developed, and the fine tuning was done by the LCTA President. It is a good document, and it is one which can be built on going forward.
The LCAP currently has 8 priorities designed to serve students by providing a world class education. That is its purpose. In it, LCUSD is accountable to them. At some point we will reach a settlement. If not, we will declare impasse and mediation will ensue to assist the parties with the process. But when the dust settles, there’s still school. And “school” is all about community and relationships. I ask that we move forward and let the work be done at the table and communicated out transparently and appropriately. Take the discussion out of the classroom where it does not belong. When adults discuss issues, let’s talk face to face on issues and positions from a place of reason and respect, not sound bites and emotionality. There’s too much at stake and too much work to be done – together.