Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for our first negotiations session of the school year on Thursday, September 12. We discussed a wide range of topics that will occupy much of our bargaining time this school year, with an emphasis on special education, all-day kindergarten, elementary assessment and employee compensation.
We are entering the final year of our three year wage agreement, and this year the per ADA percent change for Chico Unified is 3.47%. With a tiny adjustment based on changes in last year’s number,this means our raise this year is 3.48%. This 3.48% increase will be applied to the salary schedule, the District health benefits contribution, and all other compensation related dollar amounts in the contract. With this final raise in the three-year agreement, we have earned a 13.42% total compounded raise over the three years. In addition, the District covered their portion of the increased contribution to STRS without passing those costs on to us. We will explore future compensation increases over the course of this school year. The District was a willing and generous partner in negotiating these wage increases. We appreciate the District’s commitment to making compensation a top priority.
We structured the wage agreement to wait until September to get the most accurate percentage possible from the state. Your September check will include the 3.48% raise, and you will receive a small retro check in mid-October for the 3.48% missing from your August check. In October, the new health benefit premiums go into effect, and they did go up this year, so you may see a slight decline in your check from September to October.
Here is the link to the new CUTA salary schedule on the District website.
Negotiations for 2020-21
The Camp Fire was a disaster on a historic scale. We will feel the fallout for years to come. One way in which Chico Unified has been impacted is through increased enrollment. Welcoming new students to our District can make staffing difficult to plan at times, and the permanence of the enrollment increases from the Camp Fire have been hard to judge. Our special education programs have been strained in some areas by these enrollment increases, and this has been coupled with a shortage of teaching candidates for these positions. The District is working hard to find a solution for overages in caseload and class size in SDC at the junior highs. The high schools appear to be adequately staffed for the moment, but the numbers continue to change. CUTA will discuss the District’s options with affected members in the coming days.
Special education in general appears to be an increasingly complicated and difficult position. Our special education teachers work with some of our most vulnerable students, and many feel increasingly overwhelmed by the needs of their students and the requirements of the job. We are planning to spend a lot of time this year working with the District on ways we can relieve some of the pressure on our special education teachers. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes. The issues are multiple and diverse. I will not try to list them all here. We spent time in negotiations reviewing and adding to our list for the school year. Thank you to members who have shared their concerns with us.
In addition, we are continuing to expand our all-day K program through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the District. As new schools transition to all-day K, new issues and unintended consequences crop up. This is why we are using an MOU. We hope to resolve as many issues as possible before committing to permanent contract language. We will begin work on permanent language this year.
We also are considering adding an additional step in the grievance process. Currently, there are no active grievances, and it is a testament to the close and transparent working relationship between CUTA and the District that we have had no grievances for several years. When a grievance does occur, CUTA and the District share an interest in adding a mediation step before the grievance goes to arbitration. Arbitration is a very costly process with a long timeline. Adding a mediation step--in which a state-appointed mediator reviews the issue and attempts to solve it--could be a cost and time effective way to resolve a grievance. We are currently studying mediation contract language in nearby districts.
Lastly, CUTA and the District are working with STRS to provide employee retirement training sessions at two of the Districtwide staff development days this year. Our goal is to provide a training targeted towards teachers in their mid-careers and a training targeted towards teachers at the end of their careers. Thank you to the District for enthusiastically agreeing to allow these trainings to occur during their staff development days.
As we open negotiations for the 2020-2021 school year, CUTA looks forward to continuing to grow the positive, transparent and productive relationship with the District that has developed over the last three years.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you would like to look at our contract, here is the link.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
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Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.