2018-2019/2019-2020 Bargaining Update #4

Summary

  • District shared information on the higher quality air filters it would like to use and change on a 6-month schedule.
  • District shared information on the current cost to the district of the health benefits MOU, approximately double what it had anticipated when agreeing to the MOU in 2016. The continuation of this MOU is NOT assumed in the district’s multi-year projections and would have to be negotiated.
  • District shared the most current budget information. District recently revised the budget at the request of LACOE, further reducing spending (primarily by reducing the allocations for outside contracts, leaving some currently vacant classified positions vacant, and changing the funding source for most security contracts from the General Fund to bond funds).  Beside satisfying LACOE, this has actually increased the district’s reserve estimates for the next 3 years.
  • The LTA and district teams discussed options and challenges in further reducing elementary class sizes and alternatives to the current system of over-enrollment allowances and stipends. The main challenge is that the tighter the restrictions are on the district and the less flexibility they have to exceed class-size average targets, the more likely it is that they will have to create multi-grade combo classes, which everyone recognizes would be very challenging to teach.
  • No formal proposals were exchanged at this session.

Full Report

On Friday, January 25th, the LTA Bargaining Team – Lisa Rubio (Huerta), Gary Moore (LMS), Jim Nadler (LMS), Justin Catalan (TOSA), Andrew Staiano (CTA staff), and Bargaining Chair, Brian Guerrero (TOSA) – met with the LSD team – Hiacynth Martinez (Personnel), Kevin Franklin (Fiscal Services), Lissett Pichardo (LMS principal) and Steve Andelson (attorney) – for a half day of bargaining.  This was the fourth meeting between the two teams this bargaining cycle.

The meeting began with the district sharing information it owed LTA from previous meetings about air filters and the cost to the district of the current MOU on health benefits.  With regard to air filters, Dir. of Facilities Carlos Avalos joined the meeting and explained that what the district would like to do is move from using moderate-quality air filters (costing approx. $3 each) that have to be changed every 3 months to using high-quality air filters rated for 12 months of moderate use (8 hours/day) or 9 months of heavy use (24 hours/day, like in offices and hospitals; costing approx. $5-7 each).  The district feels there would be an overall cost savings along with an improvement in air quality.  It would also free up custodian and maintenance team time for other projects and would enable them to do more routine maintenance and cleaning of air conditioning units (and ducts) rather than just rushing to swap out filters.  Avalos will supply the LTA Bargaining Team with documentation and technical specifications on the existing filters versus the proposed new filters in the next week.

With regard to the current MOU on health benefits (which shifts the 100%-district-paid plan from Kaiser Plus employee only to Kaiser Base employee+1, and then raises the district contribution to all other plans to the same level), when this 3-year MOU was negotiated in 2016, the district estimated that the cost would be approximately equivalent to a 1% salary increase and LTA opted for the benefits increase along with a slightly smaller salary increase (+2%; CSEA, by the way, chose not to go with the benefits increase and took a +3% salary increase instead.  The LTA Bargaining Team still feels LTA made the right choice because this MOU has saved most members between $2,000 and $3,500/year).  Now, looking back, the district estimates that the actual cost to the district of the MOU has been closer to the equivalent of a +2% salary increase, mostly because of the large number of employees who switched to the now-free Kaiser Base employee+1 plan to insure previously-uninsured family members.  This is a wonderful thing, but it does mean that if we are going to want to continue this MOU, now that the district has a better idea of the true cost, it will be a more expensive trade.

IMPORTANT CORRECTION – In Bargaining Update #3, the LTA Bargaining Team reported that the district’s multi-year projections included cost assumptions as if all 4 MOUs would continue and still allowed the district to increase its reserves.  In discussions with the district on January 25th, it was clarified that only MOU cost assumptions included in the MYPs are MOU staffing levels, i.e., that class sizes and number of teachers would remain about the same and that planning time at elementary schools and LMS (and the number of additional teachers needed to make this possible) would remain about the same.  The continuation of other non-staffing costs – the voluntary paid PD MOU and the increased health benefits MOU – are NOT included in the current MYPs.

Next, the district provided an update on the budget.  When the district submitted its First Interim Budget Report to LACOE in December, LACOE returned it and requested revisions.  Among other things, the county disallowed the way the district had amortized the cost of several large purchases (like the 2016 ELA textbook adoption) over several years.  This practice had been allowed by the county in previous years, and assuming the full cost of these purchases now, all in one year, left a $900,000 hole in the district budget.  As previously reported, the district’s reserves for this year were estimated at 3% (the legal minimum) and a $900,000 hole would have dropped them to less than 2%, so immediate action was required on the part of the district and School Board.  The School Board met on January 9th and passed a resolution trimming the 2018-2019 district budget by another $1.2 million, pushing the reserves back up over 3% and satisfying LACOE.  The Board trimmed the budget in 3 ways:

    • Reduction in contracted services, books and supplies – The district looked at all open contracts with outside vendors and service providers. In some cases, they canceled contracts for redundant services or contracts for service and programs that weren’t returning enough benefit, and in other cases they reduced the allocated amounts on contracts which may have been overestimated (most contracts are written as costing “up to” a certain amount.  That “up to” amount may never be reached, and most contracts don’t end up costing as much as they could if they were maxed out, but that full amount is “encumbered” in the budget as long as it is authorized under the contract.  By lowering the “up to”s on a number of contracts, the district un-“encumbered” some money, releasing it back into the General Fund).
    • By the way, the LTA Bargaining Team heard some concerns from members who have looked at the district budget about line 5800, “Professional/Consulting Services and Operating Expenses.”  In the original July budget it estimated about $5.2 million in line 5800 spending this year, reduced to about $3.9 million by the First Interim, and then further reduced to about $3.5 million with the January 9th resolution.  The LTA team asked Kevin Franklin why line 5800 seemed so high.  He explained that, although the title of this line says “consults,” line 5800 really includes a lot more than just consultants; line 5800 is where all costs associated with programs and people who are not actual employees of the district go, things like: translation and interpreting services; extra crossing guards and sheriff patrols above and beyond what the county provides; Raptor (visitor ID check system), SchoolDude (maintenance and tech work order system), PeopleSoft (LACOE’s budgeting, purchasing and HR software system) and other systems the district is required to use; ASCIP safety programs, CPR classes and liability insurance; programs schools bring in like Playworks (playground coaching), guest art teachers and coding classes, and non-Title I assemblies; SWUN math coaching, AVID and LMU trainings, and curriculum/program consultants; college fieldtrips; as well as attorney and auditors’ fees.  CTA staff person, Andrew Staiano, confirmed afterwards that line 5800 does normally include a lot more than just “consultants,” that both the programs/people Lennox is spending on and the amounts Lennox is spending are typical of districts in the area, and that Lennox actually spends a lot of money on direct services to students versus “behind-the-scenes“ office type support.
    • Reduction in staff due to vacancies – The district isn’t laying anyone off but they are (at least temporarily) not filling a few vacant classified positions.
    • Transfer of security costs and technology lease agreements to bond funds – In addition to LMS security staff, who are actual Lennox School District employees, the district contracts additional security for each campus during the day and after school and pays the Sheriff’s Dept. for additional patrols in the community after school as students walk home. This is usually paid for out of the General Fund, but to cut General Fund costs in response to LACOE, the district will pay for most security this year with monies from existing voter-approved bonds instead (Measure CL, specifically; the Measure CL bond authorization was always written to allow money to be spent on security, the district just hasn’t used it for that purpose in the past).  The LTA Bargaining Team asked, if money can be freed up by paying for security with bond money this year, why can’t security always be paid for with bond money?  The district responded that 1) this will delay some technology purchases the district was planning on making later in the year.  Delaying those purchase won’t cause too many problems, but if security were always paid for with bond money, those technology purchases would be in jeopardy.  And 2) the School Board feels that using bond money, which the community subsidizes through their property taxes, to pay for school security is like double taxing them because they already pay taxes to support the Sheriff’s Dept. and other county services.  So this is intended to be a 1-year short-term solution only.

Overall, if the district can tighten contracts and free up additional money for General Fund as planned, without reducing staff, cutting beneficial programs or significantly impacting classrooms, this whole process should end up being a net positive for the district and our contract negotiations.  The district’s 3-year estimates of their reserves have now gone from 3.01% in 2018-2019, 6.14% in 2019-2020 and 6.45% in 2020-2021 to 3.65% in 2018-2019, 7.44% in 2019-2020 and 8.13% in 2020-2021.  Not a huge increase, but every little bit helps.

The rest of the bargaining session was spent discussing options and challenges in further reducing elementary class sizes and alternatives to the current system of over-enrollment allowances and stipends.  The LTA Bargaining Team reiterated that teachers feel the current over-enrollment allowances have gone from being an occasional remedy as they were originally intended to the new normal and an unfair burden on students and teachers.  The two teams then shared a number of possible ways to modify the current system (brainstorming, NOT proposing), including:

      • No overage flexibility, the district must meet all grade-level span averages with no exceptions;
      • Continuing to allow some flexibility, but lowering the cap on over-enrollment to +2 or +3 students over the target averages instead of the current +4;
      • Continuing to allow some flexibility, but having different caps on over-enrollment at different grade spans, or at different time points in the school year, or different caps for classes for continuing students who promote from one year to the next versus new enrollees;
      • Increasing grade-span average targets by +1 at all grade levels;
      • Allowing the district to calculate grade-span averages as a district rather than at each school, or in 2 grade-spans (TK-3 and 4-5) rather than the current 3 (TK-1, 2-3 and 4-5);
      • Maintaining the current over-enrollment stipend system but with a later start date, or with different triggers (like over-enrollment for at least 2 day instead of just 1 day);
      • Maintaining the current over-enrollment stipend system but with increased over-enrollment stipends;
      • Replacing over-enrollment stipends with other non-stipend ways to compensate teachers for additional students, like additional paid time for planning and grading, extra money for classroom budgets, or additional aide time to help with instruction;
      • As well as considering the impacts of implementing the Class-Size Committee’s recommendations on calculating the average class sizes of DL and SEI classes separately.

Each of these ideas could help bring down elementary class sizes, but each could have other consequences, too, some positive and some negative.  Declining enrollment remains a danger.  While enrollment in Lennox has been steady, enrollments in several neighboring districts has begun to decline.  We wouldn’t want a “solution” to the class-size issue that turns away new students and puts Lennox on a similar downward path.  Likewise, one probable result of taking away all flexibility with regard to class sizes would be forcing the district to form multi-grade combo classes.  At some point, in some situations, combo class may be mathematically impossible to avoid, but we need to think carefully before implementing any “solutions” that make combos more likely.  The LTA Bargaining Team is carefully analyzing current enrollment, what enrollment will look like next year when students advance a grade, and what class sizes may look like next year under different models of class sizes, class-size averages and over-enrollment.  The team’s goal is to continue working the math, considering different possibilities (including district suggestions), and make a formal proposal to the district on a successor class-size MOU at the next bargaining session.  Please, feel free to reach out to members of the Bargaining Team or the Site Reps to share your thoughts and continue the conversation on the best ways to maintain (and improve) the small class sizes that students and teachers deserve.

The LTA Bargaining Team did not respond to the district’s counterproposals on planning time or voluntary paid PD at this time.  Responses will be presented at the next bargaining session.

As always, the LTA Bargaining Team is committed to improving the learning environment for students and the working conditions for teachers.  We understand the district’s budget constraints and applaud the ongoing cost-cutting efforts.  We believe the bargaining process can, with members’ continued support and participation, result in achieving the results teachers want and students need.  The two teams have scheduled their next bargaining session for Monday, February 11.

Members of the LTA Bargaining Team will visit each campus during lunch sometime in the next 2 weeks to provide teachers with an opportunity to ask questions and provide input on the bargaining process in person.  The schedule of visits will be:

    • Buford – Thursday, January 31, 11 am – 1 pm
    • Jefferson – Monday, February 4, 11 am – 1 pm
    • LMS – Tuesday, February 5, 11 am – 1 pm
    • Moffett – Wednesday, February 6, 11 am – 1 pm
    • Huerta – Thursday, February 7, 11 am – 1 pm
    • Felton – Friday, February 8, 11 am – 1 pm
Posted in bargaining, benefits, class size, district budget, health benefits, planning time, professional development, salary, School Board, school bond | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018-2019/2019-2020 Bargaining Update #3

Summary

LTA and district bargaining teams reviewed the district’s most recent budget, district counterproposals on MOUs, recommendations from the Class-Size Committee, and discussed why LTA feels current methods of calculating class sizes and class-size averages are having a negative impact on students and teachers.

Report

On Thursday, December 13, the LTA Bargaining Team – Lisa Rubio (Huerta), Gary Moore (LMS), Jim Nadler (LMS), Justin Catalan (TOSA), Andrew Staiano (CTA staff), and Bargaining Chair, LTA VP of Contractual Affairs, Brian Guerrero (TOSA) – met with the LSD team – Hiacynth Martinez (Personnel), Kevin Franklin (Fiscal Services), Lissett Pichardo (LMS principal) and Steve Andelson (attorney).  This was the third meeting between the two teams this bargaining cycle.

The meeting began with a review of the district’s First Interim Budget Report (presented to the School Board at the Tuesday, December 11, 2018 School Board meeting).  This district’s stated goals for this year’s budget and the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 budgets included in the Multi-Year Projection are to reduce expenditures, avoid deficit spending, and increase the reserves from the current 3% (the minimum allowed by law) to between 6-7% (a number CTA has described as a reasonable buffer against economic uncertainties).  Notably, the district is now including in its projections a decline in student enrollment (and a corresponding drop in ADA revenues), mostly because it is no longer automatically assuming Virtual Academy enrollment.  This could mean the district is reconsidering the VA, or it could just mean that it doesn’t want to plan on those students/that money until the legality of dual-enrolling private school students in a public independent study program has been determined once and for all (LACOE and the state still haven’t said it’s okay… but they haven’t said it isn’t, either).  Also worth noting – unlike in past years, when the district has only included expenses in its budget projections after they have been negotiated, this year’s First Interim assumes that all four current MOUs (improved health benefits, paid voluntary PD, elementary and middle school planning time, and lower class sizes) will continue in some form, and the estimated costs of continuing the MOUs have already been included in the MYP.  So, when they project a 6.14% reserve in 2019-2020 and a 6.45% reserve in 2020-2021, the district is acknowledging that they can achieve an increase in reserves with the MOUs in place.  The district says they are doing this because they, too, are interested in maintaining lower class sizes, planning time, paid professional development and better health benefits, BUT, they argue, if any new expenses were added to the budget (like a salary increase), the balance would break down and something would have to give.  We’ll see.  Your LTA Bargaining Team will continue to analyze the district’s budget, and in mid-January LTA will be sending a team to hear an overview of Governor Newsom’s proposed 2019-2020 state budget.

After reviewing the budget, the district team presented its initial counterproposals to LTA’s proposals on MOUs #2 and #3.

District Counterproposals

MOU #1 – Health Benefits

  • No counterproposal yet as the district is still analyzing the cost implications of the MOU (over and above costs of regular, contractually-guaranteed health benefit levels) in light of 2018-2019 enrollment patterns.

MOU #2 – Paid Voluntary PD

  • District proposes extending the MOU for 1 additional year (as opposed to 3 years as proposed by LTA).
  • District proposes reducing the number of paid voluntary PD opportunities to 2, both in summer, and eliminating the 2 paid voluntary PD opportunities on Saturdays in fall/winter.
  • District agrees that the LTA Instruction and Professional Development Committee (IPD) should give input on what professional development is needed and what topics would benefit teachers most.

MOU #3 – Planning Time, Elementary and Middle School

  • District proposes extending the MOU for 1 additional year (as opposed to making planning time permanent as proposed by LTA).
  • District agrees to add language guaranteeing SpEd preschool teachers the same amount of planning time as kindergarten teachers.

The two teams also reviewed the final recommendations of the LTA/LSD Class-Size Committee.  Formed after negotiations concluded last year to continue the discussion on how programs like Dual Language and the effort to increase the time students with special need spend in general ed classes (i.e., “inclusion” and SAI) impact class sizes, the Class-Size Committee consisted of 5 teachers and 5 administrators and met a total of 4 times.    The Class-Size Committee had no authority to reach any “agreements” but was tasked with trying to come to consensus and make recommendations on the DL and SpEd issues to the actual LTA and district bargaining teams.  With regard to DL, the committee succeeded in reaching consensus and recommended that, at the elementary level, class-size averages for classes within the DL program and for those not in the program should be calculated separately (as if they were two distinct schools) and both should meet negotiated class-size average targets.  Unfortunately, the committee was not able to reach consensus on SpEd issues.  The administrators on the committee argued that, at the elementary level, only students who spend 50% of the day or more in general ed should appear on general ed teachers’ rosters, and that to put all students on general ed rosters, as suggested by teachers, might somehow reduce the services students with special needs receive or reduce the number of special ed teachers a school is allocated.  Teachers continue to argue that services are determined by students’ IEPs, not which roster they appear on, and that by not including all students with special needs on general ed teachers’ rosters, the district is artificially pushing up class sizes in the very classes where students need the most individualized attention.

At the middle school, ever since QEIA ended, the district has been calculating the average class size by dividing the total number of classes offered each period by the total number of teachers teaching that period, excluding only 1 “functional skills” (SDC) class and 1 special ed teacher from the calculations.  There are, however, several other special ed classes being taught each period (sometimes as many as 5), but because the students in those classes may only have 1 or 2 special ed classes out of 6, the district’s practice has been to call those classes “RSP” and include them in the overall class-size calculations.  LTA has argued since this practice began that, because they tend to be much smaller than general ed classes, including these special ed classes in the overall class-size calculations unfairly inflates the size of all the general ed classes.  LTA proposed correcting the way special ed classes are handled last year during bargaining, and we’d hoped to use the Class-Size Committee to demonstrate how the current practice negatively impacts both general ed students and students with IEPs, but administrators on the committee continued to argue that, because most students in special ed classes only have 1 or 2 special ed class, they’re RSP, not SDC, and their classes should be part of the overall average.  Further, they argued that when a general ed teacher and a special ed teacher co-teach, both of those teachers should count toward the class-size average, despite the fact that one of those teachers is there specifically to support students with IEPs and their needs.  The teachers on the committee continued to argue that all special ed classes – functional skills, SDC, RSP, etc. – and special ed co-teachers should be excluded from overall class-size average calculations because of the nature of their program and because of their necessarily small size, which, if lumped in with all the other classes, unfairly drives up the size of general ed classes and has a negative impact on students and teachers across the middle school.  LTA absolutely supports efforts to create a more inclusive environment for students with special needs, but it cannot come at the cost of larger classes for general ed students, not at the elementary level and not at the middle school.

Finally, no proposals were exchanged regarding class-sizes (MOU #4), but the two teams engaged in an open discussion of the challenges in maintaining smaller class sizes, particularly in an environment where ongoing open enrollment is necessary to mitigate the threat of declining enrollment.  The two teams discussed LTA’s feeling that the current over-enrollment flexibility has gone from an occasional remedy as it was originally intended to the new normal and an unfair burden on teachers, as well as other ways to add flexibility to the system without compromising instruction and the fact that, while mathematically it solves a lot of problems, no one thinks grade-level combos are a good idea (or even feasible) under the current standards and testing paradigm.  Each team agreed to work on alternative models that might deal with their concerns and to share them at the next bargaining session.  The teams will also have to consider the recommendation on DL made by the Class-Size Committee and how it would impact different class size models, and the outstanding issues around SpEd that the Class-Size Committee was unable to make recommendations on.

As always, the LTA Bargaining Team is committed to improving the learning environment for students and the working conditions for teachers.  We understand the district’s budget constraints and applaud the ongoing cost-cutting efforts.  We believe the bargaining process can, with members’ continued support and participation, result in achieving results teachers want and students need.

The two teams have scheduled their next bargaining session for Friday, January 25.

download Bargaining Update #3

download the LSD Counterproposals on MOUs (12/13/18)

download the Class-Size Committee Recommendations

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2018-2019/2019-2020 Bargaining Update #2

On Wednesday, November 28, your LTA Bargaining Team – Lisa Rubio (Huerta), Gary Moore (LMS), Jim Nadler (LMS), Justin Catalán (TOSA), Andrew Staiano (CTA staff), and Bargaining Chair, LTA VP of Contractual Affairs, Brian Guerrero (TOSA) – met with the LSD team – Hiacynth Martinez (Personnel), Kevin Franklin (Fiscal Services), Lissett Pichardo (LMS principal) and Steve Andelson (attorney).  This was the second meeting between the two teams this bargaining cycle.

The meeting began with a review of the district’s three proposals – prorating starting sick days for teachers who begin working after the start of the year, moving the deadline to notify teachers of evaluation from the end of the 2nd week to the end of the 3rd week, and changing the requirement that classroom air filters be changed 4x per year to 2x per year using higher quality air filters.  Your LTA Bargaining Team said they would need to see the technical specifications of the new air filters (vs. the old air filters) before even considering a change to the air filter change schedule, and also pointed out that it’s not just air filters, that the vents and air conditioner housing need to be cleaned regularly as well.

Next, your LTA Bargaining Team informed the district that – based on feedback from the membership – LTA has an interest in continuing all four current MOUs (improved health benefits, paid voluntary PD opportunities, elementary and middle school planning time, and class sizes) with a few revisions, as well as achieving a fair, reasonable and sustainable salary increase for our members.  Given that there wouldn’t be any updated information on the district’s budget until the 1st Interim Report is published in mid-December, the two teams agreed to review the MOUs and the aspects LTA proposed modifying.

LTA Proposals

MOU #1 – Health Benefits

  • Maintain the current MOU language as-is for an additional 3 years (i.e., district would continue to offer one Employee + 1 plan 100% district-paid and would continue to contribute that same $ amount to all other plans).

MOU #2 – Paid Voluntary PD

  • LTA Instruction and Professional Development Committee (IPD) should give input on what professional development is needed and what topics would benefit teachers most.
  • Otherwise, maintain the current MOU language (i.e., 4 paid voluntary PD opportunities, 2 in summer and 2 on Saturdays in fall/winter; 3 hours PD, 3 hours planning time; paid at $350 each) for an additional 3 years.

MOU #3 – Planning Time, Elementary and Middle School

  • Move planning time, both elementary and middle school, to the Contract as permanent language.
  • Add language guaranteeing SpEd preschool teachers the same amount of planning time as kindergarten teachers.
  • Otherwise, maintain the current MOU language (i.e., at elementary, 75% of planning time would continue to be teacher-directed and no more than 25% can be principal-directed, and at LMS, teachers would continue to have a daily [or once-per-cycle if on block schedule] planning period).

MOU #4 – Class Sizes

  • This MOU is the most complicated and needs (from LTA’s perspective) the most revision.
  • No specific proposals were made, although your LTA Bargaining Team discussed its concerns regarding class sizes and the current MOU language with the district’s team:
    •  The base class-size ratios (20:1 in TK-1, 24:1 in 2-3, 27:1 in 4-5, and 29:1 in 6-8) are okay.
    •  The district may need some flexibility regarding grade-span averages, but the current maximum class sizes (+4 if the grade-span average exceeds the grade-level class-size target) are too high.
    • The current over-enrollment stipend system seems to encourage the district to maximize enrollments from Day 1 rather than leaving space to grow as new students enroll throughout the year.
  • Apart from negotiations, the LTA/LSD Class-Size Committee has been meeting on specific issues that impact class sizes (the impact of the dual language program on non-DL class sizes, and the impact of increased inclusion of students with IEPs in GenEd classes at elementary and middle school). This committee will make recommendations to the two bargaining teams, who will consider those recommendations when revising the Class Size MOU.

As always, your LTA Bargaining Team is committed to improving the learning environment for students and the working conditions for teachers.  We understand that the district’s budget is tight and we continue to applaud the district’s cost-cutting measures to grow the reserves and make funds available for programs and initiatives that have a direct impact on teaching and learning.  We believe the bargaining process can, with your continued support and participation, result in achieving the result teachers want and students need.

The two teams have scheduled their next bargaining session for Thursday, December 13.

download Bargaining Update #2

download District Initial Proposals (on Articles 10, 11 and 12)

download LTA MOU Proposals

 

Posted in bargaining, benefits, class size, district budget, health benefits, IPD, LCAP, Local Control Funding Formula, planning time, professional development, RIFs, salary, special ed, state budget | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018-2019 Bargaining Update #1

2018-2019 Negotiations Begin

Summary

  • District budget is very tight – 3% reserves, increased state funding but decreased federal funding, increased mandatory contributions to employee retirement plans (STRS and PERS), flat enrollment; district has responded with $2 million in spending cuts.
  • Any discussion of salary increases for 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 will have to take place in the context of expiring MOUs on class sizes, middle school and elementary planning time, paid voluntary PD days, and better health benefit rates.
  • 2018-2019/2019-2020 Bargaining Survey will go out to the membership soon to help establish priorities for the rest of the bargaining cycle.

Report

On Thursday, October 11, the LTA Bargaining Team – Lisa Rubio (Huerta), Gary Moore (LMS), Jim Nadler (LMS), Justin Catalán (TOSA), Andrew Staiano (CTA staff), and Bargaining Chair, LTA VP of Contractual Affairs, Brian Guerrero (TOSA) – met with the LSD team – Hiacynth Martinez (Personnel), Kevin Franklin (Fiscal Services), Lissett Pichardo (LMS principal) and Steve Andelson (attorney).  This was the first meeting between the two teams this bargaining cycle.

As you will recall, the LTA Bargaining Team recently concluded negotiation for the 2017-2018 school year, resulting in a modest salary increase (+1% permanent, retroactive to July 1, 2017, plus a one-time 1.5% bonus) as well as improved contract language in a number of areas (assignment notification, moves and transfers, evaluations, etc.).  The original plan for this year was to conduct a very focused bargaining cycle with the goal of negotiating another salary increase for the 2018-2019 year, and then a second, more extended bargaining cycle beginning in January 2019 focused on renewing (and improving) our MOUs on class size, elementary and middle school planning time, paid voluntary PD days, and improved health benefits rates for 2019-2020 and beyond.  Remember, all of those MOUs, negotiated in 2016, only have a 3-year life-span and all are due to expire on June 30, 2019.  Without those MOUs, class sizes will revert to contractual TK-8 schoolwide averages of 29:1, LMS teachers will lose their planning period, elementary teachers will lose the guarantee of at least 75% of PE planning time being teacher directed, we will all lose paid voluntary PD opportunities in summer and on Saturdays, and we will revert back to the district health benefit contributions specified in permanent contract language (i.e., the higher rates classified employees have been paying for the last 3 years).  We will also risk a new round of RIF notices and layoffs in the spring because lower class sizes and the LMS planning period require additional teachers who would become unnecessary if those initiatives were to end.  You can see why the LTA Bargaining Team is motivated to get started negotiating for 2019-2020 as soon as possible.

So, that was the original plan heading into 2018-2019 negotiations.  However, once the LTA Bargaining Team started to analyze the district’s 2017-2018 Unaudited Actuals (the almost-final look at last year’s account balances) and the 2018-2019 Budget, they knew they were going to have to modify those plans.  The district began this school year with 3% in reserves, the minimum allowed by the state.  State LCFF funding increased again this year, reaching 100% of final funding targets 2 years early, but federal Title I funding for low-income students decreased, and the district’s required contribution to the State Teacher Retirement System (STRS) also increased by +1.85%, to 16.28% (whatever a teacher’s salary is, the district must contribute an additional 16.28% of that amount to our retirement, up from 8.25% in 2013[1]; mandatory employee contributions have gone up, too, from 8.15% to 10.25% in the same amount of time).  Enrollment is uneven – higher at some schools and grade levels, and lower at others – but flat overall (increasing enrollment would be great but just not-declining is good).  And last year’s salary increase and bonus were paid out in July, meaning they came from this year’s budget.  Bottom line, there was very little wiggle room in the district’s budget and no money that wasn’t already committed to some ongoing expense, leaving nothing extra for an additional salary increase this year and putting the possibility of continuing our MOUs on class-sizes, planning time, voluntary paid PD and health benefits in question.

The district’s response to this budget situation has been to identify and cut $2 million in non-essential spending, drastically reducing the use of subs for pull-out PD and meeting coverage, further reducing the number of outside consultants and contractors employed by the district, cutting back on security spending, and eliminating conferences almost entirely.  These cuts will bring the district’s reserves up to about 5% by the end of the year.  CTA’s guidance to locals on reserves is that districts should spend this year’s money on this year’s students and not build up unnecessarily large reserves, but that reserves of 5-7% are reasonable to give districts flexibility to deal with unexpected costs.  CTA suggests that there’s nothing wrong with dropping down to the minimum of 3% for short periods of time, but that running a district at 3% for too long is ultimately not fiscally responsible or healthy for the district, employees or students.  Bargaining Team members Gary Moore and Jim Nadler (and LTA President Priscilla Avila) attended a week of intensive CTA training on budget analysis this summer and have reviewed the district’s budget with CTA staff person Andrew Staiano and the rest of the Bargaining Team.  They found no irregularities, bogus projections or suspicious transfers meant to hide money.  When the two bargaining teams met on October 11, they reviewed the district’s budget thoroughly and the district answered LTA’s questions regarding revenues (state, federal, lottery, local sources like Measure CL monies and rental income on the LMSTA campus, the Virtual Academy, etc.) as well as expenses (health benefit cost projections, classified and management salaries, special ed encroachment, construction costs, etc.).  In the final analysis, the district’s cuts have given it a bit more flexibility, but money is still tight and it’s not unreasonable for the district to want to build its reserves back up a little.

Given this reality (the limited funds available for a salary increase for 2018-2019, the urgency of renegotiating MOUs, and the fact that both of these will have to come out of the same funds), the LTA Bargaining Team has decided that it would be best to begin the discussion and renegotiation of all MOUs immediately.  Each year, before negotiations can begin, both the district and LTA must “sunshine” the articles they plan to negotiate, and the public must be given the opportunity to comment.  Because LTA originally planned to focus on salary first, we only sunshined Article 6: Compensation and Benefits and Article 9: Class Size.  LTA will now add Article 7: Work Year and Hours of Employment to our sunshine, allowing the Bargaining Team to begin the work on renegotiating all MOUs.  Negotiating for an additional salary increase and the MOUs at the same time will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome that we can all be happy with, but it will also require a certain amount of reflection and prioritization by the membership.  All these things still come out of the same pot of money.  If, in the end, there isn’t enough money available to fund all of them, it will be important to know which teachers feel increases their quality of life and benefit students the most.  Class sizes?  Planning time?  Professional development?  Better salaries and more affordable health benefits?  All of them, obviously, which is why we bargained for them in the first place, but after 3 years with the MOUs, where does the membership want to see the Bargaining Team concentrate their efforts and where might they be able to flex a little?  The Bargaining Team will be sending out the first 2018-2019/2019-2020 Bargaining Survey soon to ask the membership important questions about how the MOUs have (or haven’t) benefited teachers and students and about what they feel the Bargaining Team’s priorities should be.

Besides the conversations about the budget, salaries and the MOUs, the district also sunshined 3 articles where they hope to modify the existing contract language:

ARTICLE 10: LEAVE PROVISIONS

  • Add language specifying that teachers who work less than a full year (mid-year new hires, for example) will not receive 10 sick days, rather they will have the number of their sick days prorated for the number of months they work.

ARTICLE 11: EVALUATIONS

  • Change the evaluation notification deadline from the end of the 2nd week of the work year to the end of the 3rd week.

ARTICLE 12: SAFETY CONDITIONS

  • Change the requirement to replace air filters from 4 times/year to 2 times/year because better, more efficient air filters are now available.

As always, the LTA Bargaining Team is committed to improving the learning environment for students and the working conditions for teachers.  We understand that the district’s budget is tight and we applaud the district’s cost-cutting measures to grow the reserves (a little) and make funds available for programs and initiatives that have a direct impact on teaching and learning.  We believe the process we’ve begun can result in achieving the things teachers want most and continuing the most beneficial aspects of the MOUs we negotiated 3 years ago.

The two teams have scheduled their next bargaining session for Wednesday, November 28.

[1]  Believe it or not, teachers have actually gotten an additional +8% in raises since 2013… it’s just all gone into supporting our retirements.

Posted in bargaining, benefits, class size, district budget, health benefits, Local Control Funding Formula, planning time, professional development, RIFs, salary, state budget | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lennox Teachers Endorse 3rd School Board Candidate – Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez!

The Lennox Teachers Association hosted a hugely successful 2018 Lennox School Board Candidate Forum the evening of Wednesday, September 26th in the Lennox Park Community Room.  Of 7 candidates running for School Board, 6 were invited to participate in the Forum (the 7th did not make available any contact information with his application to the LA County Registrar of Voters), and 4 made it a priority to participate and introduce themselves to the community – Alexis Aceves, Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez, Sergio Hernandez and Shannon Thomas-Allen.  All participating candidates did a great job answering teachers’ questions about their beliefs and priorities, and the voters of Lennox had a chance to get to the the folks who want to represent them on the Lennox School District Board of Education.

After the Forum, the LTA Rep Council met to consider giving the union’s endorsement to a 3rd candidate.  The LTA Rep Council had voted unanimously back in June to endorse the 2 incumbent candidates – Shannon Thomas-Allen and Sergio Hernandez – in recognition for their hard work in support of students and teachers during their first terms, and only wanted to endorse a 3rd candidate if one of the newcomers really distinguished themselves during the forum… and that is exactly what happened.  Ms. Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez impressed the teachers with her blend of experience (she’s worked with local government in her home town in Mexico and has served as DELAC President here in Lennox) and fresh ideas, with her sincerity and humility, and with her desire to bring all stakeholders together (particularly parents who have not been as involved in the past) to participate in school district decision making.  With her perspectives as an active parent and community member, and as an immigrant and English-learner herself, we believe she would make an excellent addition to the Lennox School District Board of Education and compliment the talents and view-points of the the other Board Members well, allowing the Board, the district, teachers, and parents to continue the work of making Lennox the best place possible for our students to learn, grow and thrive.  Congratulation, Ms. Gonzalez!

 

Posted in elections, PAC, parents & community, School Board | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment