Berkeley teachers’ bonus plan rebuffed by district

Edible schoolyard Malcolm X

Students at Malcolm X Elementary. Teachers from Malcolm X will walk through the Lorin District this afternoon to talk about contract negotiations. Photo: Rivka Mason

In commercial districts across Berkeley this afternoon, teachers will be speaking to Berkeleyans about the current state of contract negotiations between the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and Berkeley Unified.

According to Cathy Campbell, president of the BFT, negotiations are “not going smoothly” and teachers want to explain the situation “before we turn to more high stakes actions (such as ‘working to rule’), which hopefully we will not have to do.”

The teachers’ contract expired in June 2012, but that contract was just an extension of the July 2008 agreement, which was intended to last two years. Both the teachers union and the BUSD agreed to extensions with no salary increases during the worst of the economic recession. In this year’s negotiations, the BFT proposed a one-time 10% bonus, paid from part of the BUSD’s $8.7 million ending fund balance.

“We’re in a really good position,” Campbell said. “We should be happy that we have this $8 million. Most of that ending fund balance comes from teachers picking up the cost of benefits. We have enough to do a variety of things.”

The BUSD, however, last week rejected the bonus proposal, and offered a 1% raise for 2013-14. According to the BFT, BUSD negotiators said they needed to “balance the factors” that insure the success of school programs and find the “proper mix” of program expenses and compensation. The BUSD declined to comment on the negotiations.

“Employees have been making sacrifices for the last four and a half years,” Campbell said. “Teachers in Berkeley pay the entire increase whenever the cost of health goes up… [As a result,] they’ve had decreases in take-home pay.”

Campbell said negotiators for the teachers were surprised by the outright rejection of the bonus scheme. “I’m wondering if it wasn’t a little bit of a flub up,” she said. “Maybe something just went wrong.”

“There’s a need to show people that they’re valued. To say you’re not going to share any of it with your teachers and therefore with your employees, has been really alarming,” she said. “Infuriating is the right word to use. We’re much farther apart than I thought we would be.”

The contract negotiations resume next week, on March 14. In response to the BUSD’s 1% wage increase proposal, teachers are proposing an increase of 5.2% of current salaries, retroactive to last July. According to the BFT, that increase would still leave about $4 million in the district’s ending fund balance for program needs and future uncertainties (the ending fund balance is the surplus above the 3% reserve required by law).

“[Former district superintendent] Bill Huyett brought energy and vision and cohesion to this district and said we need to do more, and we have embraced that as teachers,” Campbell said. “Teachers are feeling unappreciated and undervalued, and that capacity to go above and beyond is in danger. It’s causing extreme concern among teachers.”

School board launches new superintendent search [02.13.13]
Fight relaunched to save school nutrition programs [11.19.12]
Berkeley schools show gains on standard tests [10.12.12]

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  • Cjw

    I am an hourly employee at the Independent Study Program, and after nine years in the district, my pay scale has reached its maximum. Teachers at the Adult School are also treated as hourly employees. As a part-time employee, my health care options are dreadful.

    It seems that most residents of Berkeley value public education, but it’s clear that the state of California does not. The unions constantly have to fight to improve wages and earn COL (Cost of Living) adjustments because the state never gives anything in our direction. We are pitted against the bureaucracy from the beginning and are denigrated when we ask for more resources. When I’m ready to have children, I will need to find a new job on health care alone. What I find telling is not that unions ask for raises, but that the state and their supporters expend so much effort fighting them.

  • taxpayer

    they don’t like to remind us that their salaries come out of our pockets

  • taxpayer

    the teacher’s union doesn’t like to remind people about pensions because when you add in the pensions and the platinum health care the teacher compensation doesn’t look bad at all

  • guest

    Berkeley’s teachers are a mixed bag, but their union is top class in getting the most for the least for their members. They’ve carved their initials into every board member for decades, recently snuffing out Heatly’s nomination (Broad Academy graduate) at the first whiff of reform . They’ve banished ‘test results’ from teacher’s performance reviews. They’ve intimidated the board into retaining vile staffers.

    Why do we see a precisely calculated rainbow of little faces eating kale, heading an article about a LABOR DISPUTE? That photo selection alone proves how pervasive and deeply effective the union’s propaganda has become. Wake up B.side and cover this story with some objectivity.

  • guest

    How much was that?

  • a. guest

    The Adult School is redundant and should be shut down.

  • The_Sharkey

    I’m not arguing anything, I’m just asking questions.

    I know teaching is hard (I have teachers in my family) but a lot of people who live in Berkeley make the same or less than BUSD teachers do and don’t get pensions. You and the union keep saying that teachers deserve to be paid more, so I’d like to know what dollar amount you think BUSD teachers deserve to be paid.

    The range is about $38k-$80k for pre-K through 12th grade teachers. Do you think the range needs to change? Or do you think the median wage should be higher? I’d like to look at and talk about specific numbers.

  • Guest

    You exaggerate the typical teacher pension. You can work for 30 years and retire at age 65, and you will not get 100% of salary. Plus teachers forgo social security benefits. It is a not a sweet deal.

  • guest123
  • guest

    Among 2012 retirees, the average benefit is $3936/month. The median age is 62, and years of service is 24. Good luck paying for your golden years in the golden state on that.

    The maximum social security retirement is currently $2513. 24 years of teaching only nets you $1400 / month more.

  • guest

    Redundant with what? I have taken 4 Spanish classes at adult school, and it has benefited me greatly. It provides a unique, inexpensive, convenient opportunity for evening classes.

  • The_Sharkey

    Comparing the average to the maximum?
    Scoffing at $1400.00 a month?

    You’re not making a very good case for yourself here.

  • The_Sharkey

    There are also evening Spanish language classes at the Berkeley City College.

  • guest

    Berkeley teachers do not have platinum health care plan. Teachers contribute large amounts to the cost of their health insurance. The plans have deductibles, and the choices are modest. The district contribution is capped, and teachers for years have borne the cost increases.

  • guest

    Let me try it for you like this: I am a mid career worker in a STEM field with a masters degree, currently employed by a private company. I have about 15 more years to work. Allegedly, society wants folks like me to teach. However, to make that switch I would have to take a cut in salary of about 60%, a cut in health benefits, and a pension that wouldn’t amount to much in 15 years, and would be subtracted from social security. Not happening.

  • EBGuy

    While I appreciate the comparison, the $2513.24 SS benefit is based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after age 21. The max taxable amount currently stands at $113k (which is only the top 6% of all wage earners). I’m sorry, but SS is a pittance and I’m not planning on it being there for my retirement (though it’ll be a nice bonus if it is). What will be there (I hope), is whatever I can save up in my retirement accounts. A $50k benefit over 20 years is a million bucks; that’s nothing to sneeze at given most Americans near retirement age (50-65) earning more than $52k a year have an average of $105k saved up for retirement (median amount in retirement accounts for this age group is $52k).

  • The_Sharkey

    Yeah, not really. How many teachers do you think are actually anywhere near your level of experience, education, or age before they begin teaching? Some members of my family have done what you’re talking about but they’re in an understandable minority who feels a calling to be educators even though it means less income.

    If money in your pocket is the most important thing to you then you probably wouldn’t be a very good teacher anyway.

  • guest

    The trouble with relying on your own savings for retirement is that you cannot predict the time of your death. You will either spend it early, and suffer poverty afterwards, or leave it in the bank when you die. The beauty of a pension, and social security, is that it keeps paying as long as you live. It spreads the risk of living. Teachers do not have the option of saving large amounts during their careers – the salary is just too low for that.

  • EBGuy

    STEM guest, I don’t want to start talking past each other. My whole point it that a defined benefit plan is deferred compensation that is worth QUITE a bit of money. In fact, as you point out, the risk pooling may add even more value to this method of retirement. I know plenty of smart individuals who have done the math (for retirement planning) and have gone into government service. Salaries are only half the story. As a taxpayer with out a defined benefit plan (besides some SS), I want to make sure we look at the whole picture.

  • Curious about the Vagaries of

    Disqus question. I am still running an outdated version of IE on Windows XP. Most of the time when I check Berkeleyside, I cannot post comments from this computer, since, apparently, Disqus no longer supports my browser (the window to post comments does not appear at all).
    However, every now and then (quite rarely, in fact), inexplicably, I do have the option of posting comments (such as now). This seems very odd to me. Any explanations? I may not be able to follow up this question with any more responses, but I will read any replies posted.

  • boldmom

    I hope teachers bring up the attendance policy in negotiations and encourage parents to keep their kids home when sick. The way the attendance policy reads now is that bodies in chairs matter, not learning or health.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I too am wondering about Bside’s stance on BUSD issues. I’ve noticed that they run links to Berkeley Schools Report — a boosterish blog — with some frequency, but almost never link to Berkeley Accountable Schools, where critical questions are raised.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Bodies in chairs is how the district gets paid by the state — average daily attendance (ADA). So I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one.

    Incidentally, among out of district families, having one kid stay home sick can also mean that all kids stay home that day. If a parent has to stay home with a sick child in Pinole or Concord or wherever, that parent can’t also drive the not-sick siblings into Berkeley for school.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Teachers work year round, we only get paid for 10 months.

    The BUSD teachers I know do not work year round.

    How about answering The_Sharkey’s question? What specific numbers would you like to see?

  • Grateful Parent

    Dear Sharon Arthur: Thank you for your hard work and dedicated public service. Rest assured that most Berkeley parents support you and your fellow BUSD teachers and want you to receive fair compensation and benefits. Our teachers haven’t just been getting no pay raises; they have been seeing their pay actually cut every year by the impact of inflation. 5 years of no raises with 2% annual rate of inflation = a 10% pay cut. Hopefully some of that Prop 30 money will arrive soon. BUSD needs much more support from the State of California. We are now 49th of 50 in per student funding.