California Educator

February 2016

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Page 38 of 59

SOUTHWEST TEACHERS STRUGGLE FOR STUDENT RIGHTS It's no surprise that teachers in the Southwest Teachers Associa- tion (SWTA), San Diego County, have put students first at the bargaining table. They are nego- tiating improved access to counselors and nurses, smaller class size, and time to develop well-planned curricula. SWTA President Lorena Garcia explains, "We have been at the table since May 2015, and we will continue to make student learning conditions our priority." She says that increasing salaries will be necessary to attract and retain the best educators in a time of growing teacher shortages. But despite having a reserve fund in excess of six times the state-required amount to be set aside for economic uncer- tainties, South Bay Union School District responded to SWTA proposals with disinterest. Instead, SBUSD informed SWTA it was at an impasse with the chapter and requested that a state mediator be appointed. In January, SWTA members, parents and community mem- bers took to the streets for a two-mile March for Students. Then, at the SBUSD board meeting, board members tried to silence the approximately 275 in attendance, stating that the meeting was "to conduct the business of the board and not a public meeting." Garcia says SBUSD board members' actions make it difficult for all. "Such detachment shows a dangerously dismissive attitude toward the community that typically pro- duces poor results for all stakeholders." SWTA leadership says it will continue to focus on improv- ing students' learning conditions and achievement by negotiating for resources students and educators need. CHARTER SCHOOL VICTORY On Jan. 11, aer more than a year of bargaining, members of Family Partnership Charter Teachers Association unani- mously ratified a three-year agreement that calls for an 8 percent on-schedule increase in the first year. Negotiations had stalled over proposals by the charter's executive director that included off-schedule pay boosts tied to unreasonable attendance and testing goals, and a 30-min- ute extension to the work day. In December the atmosphere at the bargaining table changed when that director resigned and was replaced by an interim administrator who came to the table with far more reasonable proposals and a stronger sense of trust in teachers. The small nonprofit charter operates several sites along the Central Coast; its teachers have been represented by CTA since 2009. FPCTA president Michael Brajkovich credits member and parental support for the association team, as well as the better atmosphere dealing with the new administrator. "We gained better mutual trust with the new leadership," he says. "And our members showed that this really mattered to them by showing up at governing council board meetings and talking to parents." RIVERBANK TEACHERS PUSH FOR EXCELLENCE More than 60 teachers and supporters crowded into the Riverbank Unified school board meeting on Jan. 19 to pro- test the district's refusal to support educational excellence. Instead, teachers contend, district officials are inflating the district's reserve slush fund. Educators with the Riverbank Teachers Association are angry and frustrated over dis- respectful treatment at the bargaining table and the lack of teacher involvement in education decisions. They told the board, "We believe our children and our community deserve better. Teachers deserve better." Riverbank Unified School District, Stanislaus County, budgeted to raise its reserves to 30 percent, a $1.6 million increase. A 3 percent reserve is required by the state. In addition, RUSD saw an 11.5 percent, or $30 million, increase in funding because of the state's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which calls for new monies to be spent in the classroom. The district salary offer is 3 percent plus extra time worked each day, extra days worked each year, and extra meetings to attend on their own time each month — resulting in a pay cut for teachers. Bargaining Roundup Details of these stories at Jim Boling 37 February 2016

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