- 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.
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