SCUSD petitions Public Employment Relations Board for independent review of its contract offer after teachers’ union leaders delay approving the district’s offer to award pay raises and free health insurance for teachers
SACRAMENTO, CA – After almost nine months of teacher contract negotiations, including four unsuccessful mediation meetings with the assistance of a State Mediator, the Sacramento City Unified School District today filed a request with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to conduct an independent and unbiased review of its contract offer to the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA)—the union representing the district’s 2,400 teachers and other employees. For the past six months, the district has been trying to finalize a contract that would award pay raises and continued free health insurance coverage to teachers. However, it cannot do so until the union approves the contract.
District officials are in a prolonged labor negotiation with the union and seek answers for why SCTA leadership has delayed approving the district’s contract offer. The district has offered up to 6 percent in pay raises over two years, while continuing to preserve teachers’ free health insurance coverage—a special benefit that is only provided to SCUSD’s teachers, enabling them and all of their dependent family members to see a doctor without having to pay expensive health insurance premiums that are continuing to rise. The offer comes on the heels of prior district decisions to award 8 percent salary increases to teachers in the previous two years. Teachers working in the district also receive automatic annual salary increases of approximately 1 percent. Union leaders’ decision to delay approving the contract at a time when all other school districts in the region do not offer free health insurance to their teachers and are also offering very little or no salary increases at all, is delaying pay raises for hard-working SCUSD teachers. The union’s delay also puts students at risk, as the district’s ability to retain and recruit high quality teachers for the next school year is impacted every day pay raises do not take effect.
“The mission of our school district is to serve students,” said Jay Hansen, President of the Sacramento City Unified School Board. “And the time to focus on staff issues like our contract dispute is over the summer when attention will not be diverted from students. That is why we have requested an unbiased, external review of the finances of our contract offer. We want to make sure our offer is fair and financially sound so we can finalize our staff contracts before the start of the next school year. I am particularly proud that in the past, we have been able to complete negotiations in a timely manner with our other four labor union partners.”
Of the five labor partners with bargaining units in the district, only the teachers’ union has been engaged in a prolonged and disputed contract negotiation with the district. Other labor partners—SEIU 1021, United Professional Educators, Teamsters and Classified Supervisors’ Association have recently engaged in similar contract negotiations. The district has never had to go to impasse with other bargaining partners and other groups continue to work towards win-win agreements.
To assess whether teachers in the district are being compensated fairly, the Sacramento City Unified School District recently conducted a review and analysis of its total compensation package for teachers and how it compares with the compensation packages offered by all other nearby districts within the region. The findings of the comparative analysis show SCUSD offers the highest total average salary and benefit compensation package in the region—with SCUSD teachers on average earning $91,238 in salary and benefits for a 181 day work year.
For months SCTA leaders have delayed approving a contract while they are running a full-fledged information campaign to their members and the community claiming the district is sitting on $98 million in savings and can afford more than what it has offered in its contract proposal. During the negotiations process, the district has repeatedly provided SCTA with evidence showing the money it has available for teacher salaries and benefits is far less than what SCTA claims. That is because the union’s calculations do not factor in long-term costs the district has to pay that are rapidly increasing. These include the cost of pension payments and benefits to the district’s retired employees (PERS and STRS), as well as rising health insurance premiums and other costs. Union leaders have continued to not factor in these costs in their calculations despite recent media coverage highlighting the issue and the Sacramento County Office of Education Superintendent warning that these costs are impacting school districts’ ability to pay their bills.
The Public Employment Relations Board’s independent review and ‘fact-finding’ process will help provide accurate information about the facts disputed by the union. The district believes teachers, parents and the community deserve full transparency so they can have an unbiased assessment of the district’s finances and its contract offer. For more information about this issue and to follow the status of negotiations and the independent review, visit the district’s bargaining page at: www.scusd.edu/bargaining-update