2018-2019 Negotiations Begin
- 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.
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; 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.
 Believe it or not, teachers have actually gotten an additional +8% in raises since 2013… it’s just all gone into supporting our retirements.