Tentative Agreement Reached
Tuesday, March 3rd, 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 full session of bargaining. This was the sixth meeting between the two teams this bargaining cycle and concluded with a successful, signed Tentative Agreement.
LTA pursued a number of objectives based on member input this year during negotiations and this Tentative Agreement achieves many of them – some completely, some partially, and some in the early stages of works-in-progress. All-in-all, it amounts to a significant step forward for teachers and students and maintains the momentum we have been building over the last few years. First, we will share specifics regarding what the Tentative Agreement includes, and then, further below, we will provide additional details on district finances and explanations of key features of the Tentative Agreement.
Summary of the March 5, 2019 Tentative Agreement
- MOUs #2 and #3 below (Planning Time and Class Sizes) require the district to continue employing addition teachers, so (assuming stable enrollment) the district will need approximately the same number of teachers next year as this year and will, therefore, not issue March 15 RIF notices or consider layoffs.
- This does not directly apply to teachers on temporary contracts, who have already been given precautionary notices, but it does mean that the district will now be able to offer them positions once staffing needs have been determined for next year.
PERMANENT CONTRACT LANGUAGE
Article 10: Leave Provisions
- Teachers employed for less than 75% of a full year (for example, new teachers hired after about October 15th) will have their sick leave days prorated based on the number of months they work (i.e., someone who only works for 4 months would only get 4 sick days). Note – This does not apply to teachers on leave.
- Updated language on Child Bonding Leave to meet new Labor Code requirements. Teachers who have exhausted all accumulated sick leave days and meet California Family Rights Act requirements may choose to remain on leave for the purpose of child bonding for up to 12 weeks and receive sub differential pay or 50% of salary, whichever is greater.
Article 11: Evaluation
- Change teacher evaluation notification deadline from the end of the 2nd week of the work year to the end of the 3rd
MOU #1 – Professional Development – 1 year
- 2 paid voluntary professional development days offered in the summer, right before school starts, paid at $395 each. Structure of the days would remain the same (3 hours PD, 3 hours planning time).
- LTA Instruction and Professional Development Committee (IPD) will give input on what professional development is needed and what topics would benefit teachers most.
MOU #2 – Planning Time – 2 years
- Maintain current MOU language for an additional 2 years.
- At elementary, 75% of planning time will continue to be teacher-directed and no more than 25% may be principal-directed.
- At LMS, teachers will continue to have daily [or once-per-cycle if on block schedule] planning periods.
- Add language guaranteeing SpEd preschool teachers the same amount of planning time as kindergarten teachers, regardless of PE schedule.
MOU #3 – Class Sizes – 1 year
- Maintain current MOU grade-span target averages (20:1 in TK-1, 24:1 in 2-3, 27:1 in 4-5, and 29:1 in 6-8) and current over-enrollment maximums in TK-5 (up to +4 additional students).
- Change over-enrollment stipend structure to:
- Adjust requirements for over-enrollment stipends: over-enrolled students must be enrolled for 2 or more days, starting after Labor Day, and teacher must be present for at least 50% of the month to qualify.
- Dual Language/Structured English Immersion – DL and SEI class-size averages will be calculated separately and classes in both programs must follow all class-size and grade-span average requirements.
- Special Education/Specialized Academic Instruction – At the elementary level, all students with special needs in SAI will be placed on GenEd rosters for the purpose of calculating enrollment and determining class sizes. Note – This does not dictate the % of SpEd services students will receive, just which roster they’ll be on.
MOU #4 – Salary – 1 year
- Teachers employed by the district as of November 30, 2019 will receive a one-time, off-schedule salary increase of 1%, to be paid in December 2019 (but see MOU #5 below).
MOU #5 – Re-Openers – 1 year
- Upon ratification of the Tentative Agreement by the membership of LTA and the School Board, the Association and district will immediately resume negotiations on salary, benefits and class sizes for the 2019-2020 school year, with the goal of reaching further agreement on salary and benefits by June 30, 2019.
MOU #6 – School Safety – 1 year
- District will replace classroom air filters 2 times/year using MERV 8 air filters rated for a minimum of 6 months heavy usage or 1 time/year using MERV 9 air filters rated for a minimum of 12 months heavy usage; 12-month air filters will still be checked after 6 months of use to ensure proper functioning. District and Association will review air filter performance at the end of the year and consider possible permanent language changes.
As you know, our bargaining priorities this year have been renewing our 4 expiring MOUs with the district on paid voluntary PD, planning time, class sizes and health benefits, as well as trying to secure for teachers the salary increase they deserve. Failure to renew either the planning time or class size MOUs would have resulted in disastrous layoffs, sky rocketing elementary class sizes and the loss of the planning period LMS teachers have benefited so much from for the last 5 years. The challenge is and always has been that the district’s reserves were depleted during years of recession and then were never restored because the district chose to rebuild structures and develop new programs, and that, once LCFF was fully-funded last year, the district is getting very little “new” money this year. The state economy is strong and Gov. Newsom’s proposed state budget for 2019-2020 directs considerable funds toward education, but those go primarily toward early education (preschool and school readiness), special education and community colleges, with not a lot of additional money going toward K-12, and much of what does go toward K-12 will get eaten up by districts’ increasing obligation to STRS and PERS contributions (currently equal to 17.1% and 20.7% of employees’ salaries, although there is a proposal to halt STRS contribution increases for 2 years, which would free up funds equal to about a 1% salary increase… but that proposal hasn’t been approved yet and districts aren’t allowed to put it in their budget projections yet).
Another new “twist” on the state budget and negotiation this year is the increasingly active role the LA County Office of Education (LACOE) is playing. In the past, LACOE had to give school districts a positive budget certification if they could show 3%+ reserves for the current year and 2 years into the future. But after the passage of AB 1840 last year to help bail out Inglewood and Oakland school districts, county offices of education statewide received new oversight powers and can now negatively certify school districts for a number of reasons, including deficit spending (spending more in a year than the district brings in), AND a negative certification now gives county offices the authority to come in and dictate aspects of school districts’ budgets, taking away local control. In Lennox’s case, LACOE sent the Supt. and School Board a letter in January approving the district’s First Interim Budget report but stating that, in order to receive a positive certification on the Second Interim Budget in March, Lennox would have to: 1) increase its reserves beyond 3%, 2) not deficit spend for any of the years in the 3-year projections, and 3) avoid transferring money between accounts to cover expenses while waiting for state payments to other accounts. Those restrictions, particularly #2 (no deficit spending) have severely limited the district’s ability to make long-term financial commitments. The district has decided to end its experiment with the Virtual Academy in its current form, which means the 2020-2021 budget will show a drop in enrollment of almost 250 students and a corresponding loss of revenues (about $1.5 million); reserves will be strong by 2020-2021 (over 8%) but decreased revenues will only leave a positive fund balance of about $325,000. So, given LACOE’s prohibition on deficit spending in the out years, even though the district’s reserves will be much healthier, LTA was forced to scale back some of our more expensive, long-term demands like further improving class sizes or making planning time a permanent part of the contract. Likewise, the district could not commit to any on-going, permanent salary increases or continuing the current health benefits MOU at this time, but MOU #5 allows LTA to reopen negotiations on salary and benefits for next year this year before we even go to summer vacation. We will be able to take advantage of any improvements in the final state budget when we talk about salary again (when things like the proposed reduced STRS contribution increases become bankable facts rather than just possibilities) and actually know next year’s insurance rates when we discuss benefits.
Focusing, then, on teachers’ other top priorities (thank you, again, to everyone who responded to surveys or talked to us during a school visit), the LTA Bargaining Team was able to ensure that class sizes didn’t revert to the across-the-board 29:1 in permanent contract language. As we discussed during our last round of school visits, further reducing class sizes beyond what we have in the current MOU is challenging because too-tight restrictions will force the district to open grade-level combo classes in order to meet class-size limits and – especially with the loss of Virtual Academy enrollment – the district is unwilling to risk losing new students by turning them away from their schools of choice. Fine tuning enrollment policies and trying to push class sizes down further is going to be an on-going project and an on-going conversation between teachers and the district over the next several years. The LTA Bargaining Team was able to fine tune the over-enrollment stipend structure to better compensate those teachers and classes that are most impacted by over-enrollment, and gains regarding Dual Language and Special Education were hard-fought and long sought by teachers. With regard to Dual Language, because the program restricts schools’ ability to distribute students evenly across a grade-level, situations sometimes arose where some classes (sometimes DL classes, sometimes SEI classes) would be much larger than classes at the same grade-level in the other program. LTA has been demanding for years that class sizes in the two programs be calculated separately, first, so that the problem isn’t masked by overall averages, and second, so that whatever solutions that are offered (like additional teachers or even just over-enrollment stipends) can be allocated fairly. We’ve had both DL and SEI teachers present to the School Board on this topic, we’ve presented district with detailed statistics on how the current practice of lumping the two programs together is unfair to students and teachers, and we’ve made bargaining demands for years, and this year the LTA Bargaining Team was finally able to get the district to agree to calculate class size averages in the two programs separately.
With regard to Special Education, as the district has (appropriately) sought to increase the amount of time students with special needs spend in General Education classrooms, the impact of these students on elementary class sizes has increasingly been felt. Historically, if a student’s IEP said that he or she was to spend more than 50% of his/her day in GenEd, then he/she was listed on the GenEd teacher’s roster. But in the Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) model, more students who didn’t quite reach the 50% threshold are spending significant amounts of time in GenEd classes. This is fantastic, but if these SAI students are not on GenEd teachers’ rosters, a number of negative things can happen. Socially, despite teachers’ best efforts, it can be hard for SAI students to be “part of” the GenEd class – they aren’t included in counts by the office so they don’t always get notes and letters home sent to their GenEd class, they aren’t always included in book counts or field trip plans, they might miss out on assemblies or library time or computer lab, etc. If the goal of inclusion is to place students in the least restrictive environment possible, they also need to be part of GenEd classroom communities, and that is more likely when they are on GenEd teachers’ rosters. With regard to class sizes, if students aren’t on their GenEd teacher’s roster, then no space is reserved for them when the office builds classes and enrolls students, so a class might be filled to the grade-span average, or even over-enrolled to class size maximums… and then additional students push in. Ironically, the students who often need the most individual attention can end up in some of the largest classes. As with Dual Language, we’ve had both SpEd and GenEd teachers present to the School Board on this topic, we’ve presented district with detailed statistics on how the current practice of not placing all students on GenEd rosters is unfair to SAI students and teachers, and we’ve made bargaining demands in the past, and this year the LTA Bargaining Team was finally able to get the district to agree to put all SAI students on GenEd rosters. Please, note, that this agreement does not attempt to dictate what percentage of SpEd vs. GenEd services students receive – that continues to be the purview SpEd teachers and SpEd teams and is based on the needs of each student; it only concerns rostering and enrollment practices and the calculation of class size averages.
The LTA Bargaining Team was not able reach an agreement with the district yet regarding the way SpEd enrollment is handled at the middle school, but “class sizes” is the 3rd element of MOU #5 that LTA will re-open and continue negotiating immediately after this Tentative Agreement is approved. Right now, when the district calculates average class sizes at the middle school, it simply adds up all the students and divides by all the teachers, without regard for the fact that some of those students are in necessarily small SAI classes or that some of those teachers are SpEd teachers pushing into GenEd classes or co-teaching with a GenEd partner. This has the negative effect of increasing class sizes for everyone else, depending on the period, sometimes by as much as 2-3 students per class! Again, students with special needs deserve small classes where they can get the attention and accommodations they need, but GenEd students and teachers shouldn’t have to pay for that with larger GenEd classes. LTA has proposed that average class sizes at LMS should be calculated excluding SAI and Functional Skills classes and teachers and that SpEd co-teachers should not be counted against class size averages because their role isn’t to teach 50% of the class, it’s to support the needs of SAI students. The LTA Bargaining Team will continue working on this issue this spring and as long as necessary until we achieve a fair and equitable method of calculating class sizes at the middle school that meets the needs of students with special needs and their teachers as well as the needs of GenEd students and teachers.
By reaching an agreement now on class sizes and planning time (as well as professional development and the district’s proposals for minor changes to Leave and Evaluation language and the way air filter changes are handled), the LTA Bargaining Team was able to achieve another priority in this year’s negotiations – avoiding RIFs and layoff notices. As LTA President Priscilla Avila stated in her recent message to the membership, the LTA Bargaining Team was highly motivated to reach an agreement with the district and avoid putting teachers through the stress and anxiety of an unnecessary RIF process caused by uncertainty regarding staffing levels next year. As she also stated, we hoped to reach an agreement last Tuesday, but were not willing to do so at the expense of giving up on important bargaining objectives. We believe we have achieved those goals with this Tentative Agreement. This Tentative Agreement secures the planning period at LMS and the amount of teacher-directed planning time at the elementary level for another two years. It maintains the current smaller class sizes and makes major improvements to the way the district handles the Dual Language program and the rostering of students with special needs. It continues to provide teachers with the opportunity for paid voluntary professional development, paid at a higher rate, and planned with more teacher input. It guarantees teachers a small pay increase for next year, and more importantly, it leaves the door open to improve on this pay increase, and/or to make it permanent if the state and district budgets improve, and to continue negotiating improved health benefits for next year. The LTA Bargaining Team has worked tirelessly to research and analyze and write proposals and counterproposals on complicated issues like enrollment policy, class sizes and district and state budgets. While not 100% satisfied with every part of the Tentative Agreement, negotiations is a process of argument and compromise and the LTA Bargaining Team is in unanimous agreement that this is overall a good deal that benefits students and teachers and is the best deal we could reach at this time and in this economic environment. And for those topics where we are less satisfied with the outcomes… negotiations reopen immediately upon approval of this Tentative Agreement.
Now that a Tentative Agreement has been reached, the next step is for teachers and the School Board to review the details and vote to approve it. The county office of education will also have to review the Tentative Agreement and certify that it is sustainable and won’t cause the district any future financial hardship, a process called an “AB1200 review. The LTA Bargaining Team will hold information meetings at each school site over the next two weeks to answer members’ questions about the Tentative Agreement and provide additional insight into the negotiations process. The information meeting schedule will be as follows:
- Jefferson – Monday, March 11, 3:15 PM
- LMS – Tuesday, March 12, 3:15 PM
- Felton – Wednesday, March 13, 3:15 PM
- Moffett – Friday, March 15, 3:00 PM
- Buford – Monday, March 18, 3:15 PM
- Huerta – Tuesday, March 19, 3:15 PM
Voting to ratify the Tentative Agreement will be conducted at school sites Thursday, March 21st through Friday, March 22nd. Votes will be counted and results announced/posted the evening of Friday, March 22nd.