Is a strike looming? Rocklin teachers union authorizes that option as negotiations stall

The Rocklin teachers union has been authorized to strike if a contract agreement isn’t reached with Rocklin Unified School District by the end of impasse proceedings.

General members of the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association voted last week to authorize the potential strike, RTPA announced Wednesday in a news release.

RTPA and Rocklin Unified reached a formal impasse in contract bargaining Oct. 12.

The impasse means the two parties are now turning to mediation, starting Thursday morning and continuing in meetings scheduled for Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, according to the release.

The mediator will be provided by the state, in accordance with California’s Educational Employment Relations Act.

“We are working on an expired contract and we’re at impasse on special education language, class size, preparation time and other important contract language items,” RTPA President Colleen Crowe said in a prepared statement. “ ... We need a contract that offers a competitive salary and a medical benefits cap that will help attract and keep the best teachers for our students.”

The RTPA is asking for a 14.7 percent increase in total compensation, including increased salaries and an additional $200 in monthly district contributions to health care benefits. The district is offering a 4.65 percent total compensation increase, 4 percent of which would go toward salaries, along with minor increases in special education stipends and health care benefits, according to the district.

The teachers’ proposed raises constitute $13 million in costs over the course of the upcoming school year, while the district’s more modest proposal would cost $4.1 million over the same period, according to the district.

Rocklin Unified’s figures suggest that if the RTPA’s proposal were to be accepted, the district’s reserves would be depleted and the Placer County Office of Education would give it a negative financial certification, according to the district.

Although negotiations have been going well so far, the district is “disappointed” that the RTPA authorized a strike, according to a district news release.

In September, RTPA and Rocklin Unified reached an agreement for the current school year allowing for a 1.95 percent salary increase. This enabled negotiations to proceed for the 2018-19 contract. September’s agreement averted another possible teacher strike, about a month into the academic year.

Following the 2017-18 contract resolution, Crowe said special education and safety issues were top priorities for 2018-19 negotiation. She said Rocklin Unified seemed to be “on board” with the topic of safety, but still lagging in special education.

Superintendent Roger Stock at that time said the district had looked at options for increased safety and had recently approved $535,000 for measures such as classroom locks and surveillance cameras. He said the district was collaborating with the Rocklin Police Department.

Rocklin Unified in August sent a notice saying it was willing to pay substitute teachers $425 a day in the event of a strike.

RTPA represents more than 600 teachers.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee