Teachers and Students Deserve Better: Why We’re Recommending a “No” Vote on the Tentative Agreement

By Matthew Schneck, SDEA Board
with
Michelle Sanchez, SDEA Vice President
Monique Anderson, SDEA Board
Stephanie Marble, SDEA Board
Kim Oliver, SDEA Board
Jenny Rivera, SDEA Board

Like many of you, I opened the e-mails from SDEA and Superintendent Marten last Thursday with excitement.  After more than a year of bargaining, a deal had been reached between SDEA and the District.  I read gleeful promulgations of “a fair salary settlement,” “lower class sizes,” and “more counselors, nurses, and special education support.”  But then as I read into the details of the Tentative Agreement (TA), my heart sank.  It was readily apparent that SDEA and Superintendent Marten were using hyperbole to creatively spin a mediocreTA that doesn’t meet the priorities set by members in the Fight for Five campaign.

On Salary:

SDEA has been telling members for more than a year that the District can afford our demand for a salary increase (which is worth recalling started at 10.25 percent), on top of our delayed salary restorations that were bargained back in 2009.  But the 5 percent raise in the TA ignores the budgetary facts that are in our favor!

At the April 14th rally, SDEA flyers were handed out that said “SDUSD’s budget is the best it has been in years…receiving over 125 million over three years in new money.” Our Executive Director Tim Hill, the lead negotiator on SDEA’s bargaining team, told us at the April Rep. Council that “SDUSD has deficit spent by expending more than received for five of the past six years, but has never had a deficit.”  We were also told that SDEA’s then-current 7.5% wage proposal for 2014/15 and 2015/16 is an approximate expenditure of $40 million for SDEA and $67.5 million for all employee groups.  These were our union leadership’s own words, just a few weeks ago, about why our much higher raise demand was completely reasonable. How can the bargaining team justify dropping from 10.25 over two years to 5 percent over three years with numbers like these?!

Even SDEA’s April 9 bargaining update derided the District’s offer as not good enough (a 1% off-schedule increase and a 4% increase over 2015/16).  Yet somehow, 21 days later, the TA has the District offering essentially the exact same increases, with the only exception of the 1% now being on the salary schedule.  How did a bad deal suddenly become a good one in three weeks?

The three-year length of the TA is just as concerning.  A reopener clause provides no guarantee of a salary increase in the third year.  Sure, negotiations open, but the District doesn’t have to agree to any increases.  Realistically, we will be stuck at a 5 percent increase for three years when even more Prop. 30 money is coming into the District. Recall that when we opened negotiations on the last contract, the District offered us 0%.  What’s to say they won’t do the same thing again in the third year?  Except this time we can’t legally strike because we will be under contract and will have hardly any bargaining leverage.

On Class Size

SDEA’s April 14th rally flyer also told us that “when the budget is up, class size should be dropping for all grades.”  Yet the TA only significantly reduces class sizes for grades TK-3 (24:1 average). Teachers in all the higher grades will continue to see ballooning class sizes.  Elementary grades 4-6 will see only one fewer student, with a class size cap of 35, and not until the year after next.  Middle and High School teachers will see absolutely no change, continuing to deal with unwieldy class sizes of 36. We were able to get the community on board with the Fight For Five because we promised to deliver a better classroom experience to students.  This TA hardly makes a dent in class-size reduction.  We know the District will never reduce class sizes on their own accord.  Contract negotiations and organizing are the only way we are going to see classroom sizes conducive to good teaching and learning.

On Our Other Fight for Five Priorities:

Wages and class size are not the only places this TA falls short in our Fight For Five.

  • Nurses: There are NO guaranteed increases in school nurses.
  • Counselors: Elementary schools will see NO extra counselors.
  • Special Ed. support: One of the biggest problems for Special Ed. right now is the District reclassifying Education Specialists (20:1 caseload) to Resource Specialists (28:1 caseload) to increase caseload in order to reduce the number of teachers allocated. Our goal was to make both caseloads 20:1 to remove the incentive for the bait-and-switch. But RSP caseloads will remain higher, at 24:1, with no clear definition of their job.
  • Elementary prep time: Elementary prep remains basically the same. The 45-minute weekly cap stays the same for TK-3. The upper grade cap would now be 55 minutes a week, but most schools already receive more than this anyway, so it’s essentially a “win” only on paper. No actual elementary teachers will receive more prep time because of this TA. The TA also opens the door to taking away an elementary modified prep day, allowing a simple majority vote at a school to give it up. All of the other parts of our contract can be waived only by a 2/3 majority vote, making it harder for a bully principal to coerce staff into giving up our rights.

Ultimately, to get a real fair contract, more organizing is needed.  The first major action of the Fight for Five campaign happened over a year ago during a May Day rally downtown that had maybe 10 SDEA members in attendance.  As SDEA Board members, we demanded a stronger organizing campaign. As a result, the actions this year have slowly worked. We’ve had rolling rallies and two rallies at the Ed. Center, and they HAVE produced movement on the District’s side.  Why stop now when we haven’t reached our goals? In fact, a major organizing wave was even about to kick off this past Tuesday, with commitment cards asking members to work to rule scheduled to roll out across the union. But SDEA abruptly cancelled the action Tuesday morning.  Why we couldn’t wait to build more pressure to leverage a better deal is beyond my comprehension—and I’m a Board Member!

This Tentative Agreement is full of settling for less than we deserve.  I am very appreciative of all the hours the bargaining team members spent away from their classrooms and families to negotiate with an intransigent district.  And we need to send the bargaining team back to the table to negotiate a better deal.  By voting “no,” we are saying we will stand behind our bargaining team and fight to help them win a deal teachers and students deserve.

One thought on “Teachers and Students Deserve Better: Why We’re Recommending a “No” Vote on the Tentative Agreement

  1. Pingback: Which Side Are They On? | The Breakfast Club Action Group

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s