Sac City Unified proposes new teachers union contract, earlier school year start

The Sacramento City Unified School District, facing a host of budget issues and a fraught relationship with its teachers union, submitted a contract proposal to the Sacramento City Teachers Association Friday, hoping to reach an agreement before the school year begins.

The district’s proposal, sent to SCTA president David Fisher, called on limiting the district’s contributions to health care insurance premiums, set ground rules for negotiations and called for an earlier school year starting date, moving it up from its current late August date to August 12 and 11 for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 years respectively.

“With the first day of school less than a month away, our students and families are counting on us to work together with SCTA’s leaders to resolve our labor dispute and avoid any further distractions that take us away from meeting the needs of our students,” SCUSD Board of Education president Jessie Ryan said in a prepared statement. “Many parents and community members have repeatedly called for round the clock negotiations and the Board agrees that our students deserve nothing less.”

SCUSD leadership pointed to data from 2017-2018 that showed it spent significantly more per student on employee benefits than other local school districts, and suggested placing a cap on its health care costs.

In its proposal, the district said it is the only large urban local school district in the area that pays 100 percent of premiums on its HealthNet family plan, at an annual cost of about $31,492 per teacher, which leadership said was unsustainable.

It suggested capping district contributions to premium costs for some health care plans, which the district said would be similar to other nearby district contribution levels, and said SCTA members should increase their monthly health care contributions.

“The proposed premium contribution structure is essentially the same as the structure used in San Juan Unified School District and is comparable to or even more generous than what is provided by Elk Grove Unified and the State of California to their employees,” SCUSD leadership said in its proposal. “Given the critical importance of fulfilling this important commitment to our valued employees we must finally act on this critical issue.”

The health care proposal is meant to address the district’s unfunded liability for retiree health care costs, which is currently $726 million, according to the district.

“Our bargaining team stands ready to meet with SCTA leaders to reach an agreement that allows for increased opportunities for students, is fair to our educators, addresses our fiscal challenges and prepares for future economic downturns,” district superintendent Jorge Aguilar said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to SCTA leaders’ feedback on our proposal.”

SCTA leadership, in a statement emailed to The Sacramento Bee, said they were looking forward to negotiating on the new contract after first following through on previous agreements.

Teachers with SCTA organized a one-day strike in April, arguing that the district had failed to uphold a 2017 collective bargaining agreement that included pay raises.

“The latest ‘proposal’ from the District is yet another publicity stunt from a District that has been described by State officials of having no credibility and is fiscally mismanaged,” SCTA said in its statement. “Rather than address the serious concerns raised by the State, the District will grasp at any straw to try to change the subject.”

An independent fiscal adviser recently blasted district leadership in emails revealed by public records requests, voicing concern over its leaderships ability to manage its finances.

“In the meantime, we think the District should focus on getting its financial house in order, beginning with complying with the terms and conditions of our current contract thereby increasing services to students,” SCTA said. “Unfortunately while the District continues to play games and mislead the public, our students suffer.”

District leadership said in its proposal that they hoped to “avoid another school year consumed by contract negotiations and labor unrest rather than focusing on student achievement.”

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Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.