The Sacramento City Teachers Association is seeking a 5 percent retroactive salary raise, saying an increase is necessary to retain and attract teachers in an increasingly competitive hiring market.
Sacramento City Unified Superintendent José Banda responded Friday, telling all employees the district had offered 2.5 percent on top of the 3 percent granted over the last two years. He added that the district was willing to pay 5 percent but only in exchange for limits on post-retirement health care benefits for future hires.
The contract dispute comes as Sacramento City Unified prepares to reduce class sizes to an average of 24 students in kindergarten through third grade in the fall, and the state is facing a teacher shortage as more teachers take retirement and fewer enter the profession.
“We need to have the best teachers we can find for our students and our district. And I honestly believe that a great benefit package and strong salary are vital,” said district Trustee Jay Hansen. “We provided a 3 percent raise. And when we talked about further increases, which I think are merited, we need to look at the total compensation and stop pretending that the rest of the benefits aren’t compensation, because they are.”
Talks broke down Monday. On Tuesday, SCTA asked the Public Employment Relations Board to declare an impasse “because of the regressive nature of the district proposal” and the district’s bid to link salary bargaining to health care benefits, said SCTA Executive Director John Borsos. If the board grants the request, the issue would go to mediation.
That’s fine by us. That will work out great for both sides.
Superintendent José Banda on the possibility of mediation
Borsos said SCTA had a “conceptual understanding” with Banda in December for a 5 percent increase with no strings. “We don’t understand why they couldn’t get that passed at the (school) board,” he said. He said the district “never made any proposal tying wages to benefits until Monday.”
Banda was unmoved. “There is no such thing as conceptual understanding in negotiations,” he said. “You either have an agreement and move it forward or you don’t.”
Contract talks began last fall after the district received more money from the state than expected. A provision of the existing two-year teacher contract allows for new negotiations in that instance. The district said it is receiving $12.2 million more in ongoing funds this year than projected.
“We think we need an immediate 5 percent” to attract and retain teachers, said SCTA President Nikki Milevsky. “And right now, only wages are open. We have to hire teachers in the spring if we’re going to have (new) teachers at all.”
Banda said wages and health care benefits are open for discussion.
“We want the same thing. We want teachers to be well compensated and attract the best and the brightest.” Banda said. “But we have a responsibility to maintain fiscal solvency in the district.”
SCTA reports that its members are behind in salaries paid to credentialed teachers at San Juan, Elk Grove, Folsom and Roseville High districts in a comparison at every experience level this school year. The district counters that in terms of total compensation, including benefits, the district’s teachers fare better than most other teachers in the region.