Union, District Negotiate Teacher Pay


Hank Larsen, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, April 17, the Acalanes Education Association and the Acalanes Union High School District held a school board meeting regarding an increase in teachers’ salaries. Though no final decisions were made, teachers were able to discuss their hard work over the past five years while dealing with increased costs of living.

Headed by Miramonte Latin teacher Nick Carpenter, the AEA includes teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, psychologists and speech therapists. As a local teacher’s union, members discuss education policies and negotiate contracts.

As AEA president, Carpenter has a big voice in the bimonthly school board meetings. With support of his fellow teachers, Carpenter and other teachers spoke specifically about the importance of higher wages at the most recent meeting. “It’s important to let others know how hard we work with such financial burden,” Carpenter said.

For nearly five years, teachers at Miramonte, Campolindo, Acalanes and Las Lomas have not received an increase in salary.  During these five years, the district’s ending balance has been saved and virtually untouched instead of being put towards salary and education. With the cost of living increasing, 99 percent of Miramonte staff members have agreed to be actively involved in a pay increase.

AEA members want to bring attention to the work they do that has led to increased API scores, more student services and keeping AUHSD the top district in California. Teachers are a key part of students’ academic careers and often go above and beyond their contract duties.

Writing letters of recommendation, meeting students at lunch and working on the weekend are not requirements; teachers do these on their own time. “Until a settlement is reached, it’s hard to tell how long this will last,” Carpenter said. “It may not be resolved until next year.”

Last week teachers closed their rooms at lunch and only worked from 7:30-3:20. Teachers’ contracts only call for those hours of the day for working, though most teachers work much more than that. This means no study help or grading outside of class for that week.

Last year, AUHSD had an end balance (amount left over after expenditures) of about $12 million from the original $52-53 million starting amount. The majority of these funds come from the state, parcel tax, and the Parents’ Club which accounts for 20 to 25 percent of district revenue.

“Full time teachers receive salaries between $40,000 and $90,000 depending on how long they’ve worked and what their credentials are,” Carpenter said. “But the average teacher makes about $70,000 to $75,000.” As the cost of living continues to increase, the same salaries do not fulfill basic necessities such as bills and mortgages.

If the district and teachers reach an impasse or stalemate (no progress is made) in the contract, the issue will go to a state mediator who will work towards an agreement. Appointed from outside the district, a state mediator will analyze both sides and make the necessary decision of where to go next.

Once this step is made, fact-finding takes place. Fact-finding involves three board members: one appointed by the district, one by the AEA and a “neutral” member. The district then has the right to accept or decline the offer given.

After a last and final offer is given by the district, AEA can choose whether or not to accept it. If these efforts fail to succeed, a strike is the last resort. “In the history of the district, we have always settled at mediation,” Carpenter said.

“I am optimistic about the situation at hand,” Carpenter said. “I feel the district and the AEA will make a peaceful decision that will satisfy both sides.”

Though many consider last week’s lunchtime activity a “strike,” it is more so a group of organized actions to bring attention to teachers’ vast improvement in performance considering their same low wages. One of teachers’ main concern is their continual loss in buying power; current salaries just aren’t cutting it.

Though the union’s top goal is for this issue to have little to no effect on students, events like closing classrooms at lunch could pose harm for students. “I hope the community will be in support of the AEA members,” Carpenter said. “It’s important to realize that we cannot continue to work as well as we have without a raise.”

On April 22, the teachers’ union and the school district met to further discuss salary issues and come to a conclusion in which both sides are satisfied. “Negotiations are ongoing,” Carpenter said. “But the issue should be hopefully be resolved by the end of the school year.”