Searching for Answers

— by Carol Shamrock, La Jolla High School

Like many, I hoped at the very least to have my pay reinstated this year, after the two years of salary cuts we took based on the 2010 contract in the form of furlough days, which is what we fairly bargained in 2010. Over the last few days I have reviewed the 2008-13 contract and the TA from June 19, 2012. I am somewhat awed by how vague it is, and wonder how it could even be binding as written. That impression has been reinforced by the information shared at the November Rep. Council, where SDEA Executive Director Tim Hill acknowledged that we might not see any raise or furlough restorations until July 1, 2014 (read more HERE).

This is particularly worrisome for those of us who had hoped to retire soon. Although we hope that we that we will eventually receive a retroactive salary payment in the form of a “retro” check for the first “up to” 2% raise effective January 1, 2013, that retro will not benefit anyone’s retirement because it will occur after the fact. In fact, if we don’t receive any of the raise restorations until July 1, 2014, none of those raises will benefit retirement calculations for the 2012-2013 or 2013-14 school years. Even the promised 1% increase to Step 17 won’t take effect until July 1, 2013, yet again having no STRS benefit for those who retire this year.

If you might be inclined to postpone retirement and stay through to 2015, keep in mind that the $25,000 Retirement Incentive will be off the table after June 2013. Talk about a rock and a hard place. There are some major issues with the incentive, too. Unlike previous golden handshake deals that SDEA negotiated, this one is just a one-time payout that also will not impact your lifetime STRS benefit. But even though STRS won’t count it, the IRS sure will. Because it is a one-time payout, the $25,000 will be taxed incredibly heavily, because your last year of income will look $25,000 greater.

Even if you plan to wait, it seems risky to assume the raises will actually take place at all. With the 2014 being the start of negotiations for a new contract, and the kick-in date for deferred raises, based on the SDUSD-SDEA history of teachers not receiving what was promised, I am worried that we will once again see these salaries used as leverage and will be asked for further sacrifices.

For those of us who have given many years to this profession, and have only asked to be able to plan for retirement based on negotiated contracts and salaries, there has been little consideration or regard for where all of this has left us. We have been asked to sacrifice for the teachers who were laid off, but essentially have had no raises or even the opportunity of offsetting some of the cuts because while others were able to keep advancing on the steps, we were and remain frozen.

This should be even more worrisome for younger teachers, because this is the behavior we’re training our District to continue for the rest of your career. What happens when we leave? You need to envision a future when contracts are no longer honored. Envision a future where whatever security you might have gained in the short term may never really protect your jobs or salaries in the future. How many more concessions will you be willing to make, just to feel like you have nothing better than a year-to-year contract anyway?

The bottom line is that something was taken from all of us, we were lied to, and we deserve to be repaid fairly. Not only were we asked to sacrifice temporarily, but this sacrifice has far reaching implications well into the future, especially for those of us who don’t have the time to make it up.

How can we fix this? Now that Prop. 30 has passed, SDEA should be fighting as hard as possible to see every cent of our raises reinstated this year, not saying we should sit around and wait patiently for another year and a half. The District absolutely has the reserves to pay us our raises and stay solvent until the new tax revenues start pouring in next year. And if they did, a lot more of us would be able to retire, meaning that the District could decrease the number of teacher without even considering layoffs.

Isn’t it time SDEA started fighting for all of our interests?

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