Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, April 11. We have three remaining bargaining sessions this school year, and we are beginning to put together a tentative agreement for you to vote on in late May. In addition, we are reviewing all of our current MOUs to adjust and renew as needed. We also continued to discuss issues related to all-day K, special education, long-term independent study, medical benefits for retirees in special circumstances, bargaining release time, CUTA trainings at District-wide staff development days, coaching stipends, and MAA.
We opened the session by sharing the specific feedback we received from all-day K teachers at the meeting we held in January. The District listened closely to the K teachers concerns about the training of aides. They have ideas about how to get the aides more training in classroom management and other important skills. We also shared some teachers’ concerns with the age-appropriateness of the prep lessons being provided, while recognizing that the District has control over what is delivered during prep time. We also shared that one site did not get to choose whether or not the all-day schedule would have a delayed start. The District is in full agreement that the default position is a two-week delayed start for the all-day schedule and that all teachers and admin would have to agree to start the schedule earlier. This MOU will govern all-day K next year, and we will begin writing contract language during 2019-2020.
We have been discussing how to clarify the process by which special education teachers can get support based on both caseload and class size. We have also expressed an interest in establishing class sizes for RSP teachers. These discussions are on hold until the District receives a report on the special education program from School Services of California. Once that report has reached a final draft stage, we will continue our conversation.
We are also trying to clarify the procedures for how the state can grant the District a waiver to increase an RSP teacher’s caseload from 28-32. We have received conflicting information from the California Department of Education. We have been told that the RSP teacher must agree to the waiver by one expert, and we have been told that the RSP teacher can register their disagreement on the waiver form but the District can get the waiver anyway. We are exploring the issue further so that we can be sure that we are following the law.
We are still working on the details of the long-term independent study MOU, focusing on caseload numbers.
CUTA shared an interest with the District to allow members to receive retiree health benefits from the District if they resign from teaching and meet contractual age and length of service requirements for receiving retiree health benefits, but are not yet drawing STRS benefits. Our current contract language states that a member who has been with the District at least 10 years, is 55 or over, and “qualif[ies] and [is] in the process of receiving retirement benefits” from STRS will receive health care benefits from the District until the member is eligible for Medicare. We can imagine occasional situations in which members might want to resign from teaching but not yet be ready to begin drawing STRS benefits for financial reasons. With tight parameters, this could be a net savings for the District and benefit a member in this somewhat unique situation. The District is running numbers on various scenarios and they are also considering the philosophical question of whether it is right to pay benefits to someone who no longer works for the District and may actually be employed elsewhere. We are also checking to see whether SISC would allow this. This is a scenario that is unlikely to impact many members, but it could help some.
A recent court case upheld the position that school districts have to cover the costs for a “reasonable” amount of time for union negotiations teams to meet and prepare for bargaining. Since the word “reasonable” is undefined, we are working with the District to come to an agreement on a specific number to add to the contract.
Next, we moved on to a discussion of the menu of options available to staff on District-wide staff development days. CUTA offered to provide a training class on STRS, and the District has expressed an interest. We are working on the possibility of offering a STRS training session on the District-wide day on the first day back after the summer and potentially again at one of the later District-wide days, as well.
The District has agreed to add a stipended position for a girls wrestling coach. It will be a varsity coach position in category 3 in the contract.
Lastly, we discussed the MAA program. Currently, there is no MAA funding coming into the District, but it may resume at some point in the future. Our contract says that eligible MAA reporters who are CUTA members will receive 50% of CUTA’s portion of MAA dollars. The District wants to find out if those members would rather use that money for program needs, perhaps by working on committees to choose specific, potentially large-dollar items. CUTA will discuss the District’s ideas with eligible MAA reporters.
Our CUTA president, Kevin Moretti, sent out an important email yesterday. CUTA will hold a vote this year on a very small dues increase. The proposed dues increase for next year is $0.76 per month. CUTA has not raised dues for more than eight years. During that time, we have negotiated nearly 20% in raises along with negotiating countless smaller items with the goal of improving your working conditions. The small dues increase will allow us to continue to provide the support you deserve. We are proposing a formula that would link very small dues increases to raises. Kevin’s email explains it very well. Please take the time to read his email. Our bylaws state that any vote on an increase in dues must take place at the site level.
If you would like to look at our contact, you can find it here. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
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Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.