Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, September 25. We discussed a wide range of issues, and we agreed to set aside large chunks of this year’s bargaining sessions for the purpose of improving working conditions for special education teachers and the overall efficiency of special education programs.
Over the past three years of negotiations, we have consistently added challenges faced by special education teachers to the agenda. Despite hours of discussion, both CUTA and the District felt that we were continually adding new agenda items without effectively solving previously added items. The list of challenges for special education just got longer and longer. Special education is challenging as it is dictated largely by underfunded federal mandates. Still, we believe that we can work together to make positive change. We will share more specific information about ideas for moving forward as we move through the interest based bargaining process (IBB). The IBB process emphasizes finding common interests on issues to facilitate making solutions. CUTA and the District share an interest in improving working conditions and increasing efficiency in the special education programs.
We also discussed the progress being made with innovative scheduling at the high school. Since the interested parties (teachers and administrators) have settled on some form of an eight period block, we can begin discussing what contract language would be needed to represent that schedule. We can also begin negotiating student contact numbers. Your bargaining team wants to make it clear that we are waiting for a clear sign from the high schools that there is significant support for making a change of this magnitude. We don’t feel that has been demonstrated yet. Until we see that a specific schedule has been chosen and that teachers have come to a rough estimate for the number of student contacts they are willing to accept, we can’t move forward in negotiations in anything other than a hypothetical way. A multi-year test of a different high schedule will require new processes for CUTA. We need to be sure there is strong support for a specific approach among teachers at the high schools.
As Kevin noted in an email last Thursday, Greg Ford, a PV math teacher and bargaining team member has spearheaded the effort to bring a STRS (State Teachers Retirement System) training to our next district-wide staff development day on Tuesday, October 15. The District has enthusiastically supported this idea. If you are interested in attending this training, you can sign up with the link below. As Kevin said, “Signing up doesn't mean you are obligated to go nor will you be turned away if you don't sign up. We are just trying to get a rough head count so we can reserve a big enough room and tell STRS how much material to bring.” The training is geared towards teachers in the early to middle parts of their careers. Here is the link.
We moved on to a discussion of elementary assessment. The District has developed a new assessment continuum which they believe will lessen the burden of assessment in K-5. This continuum is being piloted by special education teachers this year. There was some confusion among elementary teachers about whether they were supposed to be using the continuum this year, and the District confirmed that the continuum is only being piloted by special education. Confusion may have stemmed from a link on the District site that displayed the continuum of assessments if you clicked on elementary assessment. That has been changed. The District has made CBM testing optional, and they have replaced the CCCS assessments with interim assessment blocks after teachers indicated their dislike for the CCCS assessments. The continuum of assessments will also eliminate baseline testing for most students. We hope that this will make elementary assessment more manageable. Your bargaining team brought up the idea of returning to the model in which each teacher had a small assessment budget to allow for two sub days for assessment during the year, but the District is not interested in moving in that direction at this time.
Lastly, we discussed the possibility of having one stipend per CTE pathway at the high schools. Originally, the three stipends per high school in the contract was enough to cover the need, but these programs have expanded significantly. We will return to this discussion at our next session.
Wage Agreement (repeat information from the last bargaining update)
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 is 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.
This wage agreement is structured 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.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you’d like to look at our contract, here is the link.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.