The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) have reached tentative agreement on teacher contracts for 2015-16 and 2016-17. As a result, teachers should see a total compensation increase of 8% over two years.
The 8% hike comprises a 5% increase that includes a 1% increase to the district’s contribution to health benefits, and a 3% one-time bonus paid in 2016-17. An additional 2% increase will occur in the second year of the agreement, contingent on state funding, according to a press release jointly issued by BUSD and BFT on Friday, May 29.
The agreement also provides for renewed discussion in 2016-17 regarding issues of teacher instructional time and support, as well as compensation.
“We’re really happy with the agreement,” BFT vice-president John Becker told Berkeleyside on Monday. “It’s the kind of agreement that will help keep BUSD competitive.”
Becker is especially pleased that the agreement will “help Berkeley teachers keep up with the rising cost of living in Berkeley,”a major concern among teachers and families.
Berkeley’s K-12 teacher salaries in the current academic year range from about $40,000 to $85,000 depending on qualifications and experience, according to data published on the BFT website.
Still up in the air is whether or not BUSD will receive at least $2 million in additional state funds for adult education; if this is the case, staff for the the 2016-17 school year would receive an additional on-schedule compensation increase of 2%.
BUSD teachers have been calling for a district solution to the affordability crisis they say is hitting teachers hard in Berkeley. “The cost of teacher’s health benefits have also skyrocketed, in some cases as much as 40%… and this only deepens the affordability crisis,” Dana Blanchard, BFT member and teacher at LeConte Elementary wrote in an op-ed to Berkeleyside in March 2015. “Teachers in Berkeley need to have compensation that makes it possible for them to stay in our schools.”
With a noticeably larger wage increase than in previous year’s contracts, the agreement “respects the dignity and professionalism of educators” who deserve to be recognized fairly, Becker said.
”I’m happy to reach this tentative agreement with our Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT),” Superintendent Donald Evans said in a prepared statement after the successful conclusion of negotiations at 1 a.m. Thursday, May 28. “Our teachers provide the foundation for our children to excel, and it’s important to keep in mind that we must continue to attract and retain highly qualified teachers to challenge, inspire and motivate our students.”
Becker said that, while the agreement is a “win-win” for the district, teachers and families, there is more work to be done regarding pertinent issues such as teacher health benefits. “We’re doing what we can with the school district, and we’ll continue to work on these issues statewide.”
For the last academic year, teachers received a 2% wage increase, a 1.5% backdated increase, along with a one-time, 2% bonus equal to the teacher’s 2013-14 salary.
In 2012, after stalled negotiations and protests rallies, BUSD and BFT agreed to a 2.5% wage increase and a one-time payment equal to 2.5% of the teacher’s salary in addition to a 1% bonus for all employees.
Op-ed: We must address the affordability crisis faced by Berkeley teachers (03.26.15)
Berkeley teachers, district, reach tentative agreement (03.26.14)
Berkeley teacher’s bonus plan rebuffed by district (03.07.13)
Berkeley teachers, district, agree on 2.5 wage increase (05.31.13)
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Emily Dugdale, a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is a summer intern at Berkeleyside.