Negotiations between the Cabrillo Unified School District and Cabrillo Unified Teachers Association have reached an impasse and will go to mediation this week. The union notified the state’s Public Employment Relations Board that it believes additional bargaining sessions would be futile. The labor board accepted that view and agreed to help mediate.
A mediator appointed by the state will now review the issues. The neutral third-party appointee will attempt to find areas of agreement between the two sides. Any recommendations the mediator makes are not binding.
If mediation does not resolve the differences between the district and teachers, the contract dispute goes to a fact-finding phase during which a three-person panel examines the claims of each side and produces a report with recommendations for resolution. The recommendations are also not binding on the school district. If the teachers still believe the contract offer is not fair, their only remaining recourse would be to call for a strike.
Following an increase of $5,000 in each step of the teacher salary scale and a one-time bonus of $2,000 for all employees last year, salary negotiations for the current and subsequent years have not produced an agreement.
The teachers proposed an additional increase of $10,000 for each cell on the salary scale that would amount to a raise of about 9 percent. Increasing salaries by a fixed dollar amount results in higher percentage increases for new teachers at the lower end of the scale who typically face greater financial challenges than more experienced teachers.
Increasing teacher salaries by 1 percent costs Cabrillo Unified about $150,000. The teachers also put issues of school safety and opportunities for leaves of absence on the negotiating table.
Teachers say the starting salary of $58,000 in the district is too low to attract new teachers when other districts on the Peninsula offer $5,000 to $15,000 more.
Cabrillo Unified says it cannot afford any raise this year.
The gulf between the two sides emerges from their disagreements about available funding and spending priorities. In an email to the Review, CUSD Superintendent Sean McPhetridge wrote that the district realized it could not afford the raises provided last year because state funding came in below early projections.
Due to state funding formulas, Cabrillo Unified is a so-called “flipper” district that fluctuates between relying exclusively on local property tax income and receiving supplemental state support because local funding falls short. Either way, the amount available per student ends up lower than in many other districts throughout the county and state.
The teachers point to details in the budget to highlight what they view as misplaced priorities. For example, the interim budget figures released in March show the district expects to spend $427,000 more on consulting and other non-employee services than the amount approved by the board for the current school year. Last year the expenditures in this category exceeded the budget by even greater amounts.
The interim budget also shows that the district planned on spending another $2 million from restricted funds on services, books and supplies in the last five months of the current school year. McPhetridge told the Review that some of these expenses are for replacing outdated textbooks and adopting new curriculum materials based on input from teachers and district leaders.
Formulas governing availability of certain restricted funds make the discussion more complicated. At a recent meeting new board member Carmen Daniel described viewing budgets as “a new and exciting journey” and said she is looking forward to learning more about the budget process. “It’s easier to create a drug to cure cancer than it is to sort through a school budget,” said board President Sophia Layne.
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