Sweetwater school district denied negotiations
The district says the union appears more interested in drawing this out through the mediation impasse process rather than coming to an agreement through negotiation. At the news conference, District Superintendent Ed Brand was clearly appealing to the teachers. He believes the union leadership is not communicating his latest offer to the rank and file.
“We've made that offer public,” said Brand. “We're acknowledging that we're close, and our people deserve to have an answer upon their return from spring break.”
Which is April 7th. But the union has refused to meet again until April 8th, after rejecting the latest offer last Friday. Union President Roberto Rodriguez says some of his negotiating team is unavailable until then.
“Our bargaining team is made up of teachers in the classroom. Many of them are out of town right now on spring break and you know, they're volunteers,” explained Rodriguez.
There are three unresolved issues: salary, class size, and health care.
“A family member right now is paying out of pocket about $750 a month for health benefits.”
A married couple, no children, pays $450 a month.
“Under our proposal they would pay $90 a month,” stated Brand. “A single person would pay nothing before and nothing currently, and the one that's become the issue, which about 30% of our faculty and staff are married with children, goes from $930 to $473.”
80% of district employees are on the Kaiser 10/10 plan which includes dental, vision, and life insurance. On the salary issue, the union had asked for a 3% increase. The district is offering a 2% increase in retroactive to January 1st, and a 3% increase effective in July.
“Maybe, and they're getting $21 million more next year as well,” said Rodriguez.
He's referring to the new Prop 30 funds which were $10 million this year, and eaten up by this contract offer.
“The average teacher in the classroom, working hard, doing the right thing, probably isn't aware of the offer,” said Brand.
“We're still not where teachers want to be,” stated Rodriguez.
School Board President Jim Cartmill, with sleeping bag in hand, says we're ready for all-night sessions if necessary.
“I'd like both sides to come back to do what it takes to get a contract, and we're willing to go the extra mile to do that,”
On class size, the district is offering a one student per class reduction. That comes at a cost of $3.5 million.