District and Kern High School Teachers Association Labor Negotiations Updates
The Kern High School District (“District”) and the Kern High School Teachers’ Association (“Teachers’ Association”) are continuing to negotiate a contract for this year, despite the Teachers’ Association filing an impasse petition with the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”). The District has prepared this update to provide information to our employees, staff, parents, and the community.
The District and the Teachers’ Association began bargaining for this year’s contract on April 30, 2018. Only two bargaining sessions were held before the Teachers Association declared impasse on May 24, 2018. Impasse means the Teachers’ Association decided the differences between its position and the District’s position were so substantial that future meetings would be worthless. The Teachers’ Association filed the paperwork for impasse with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). After reviewing the impasse declaration, PERB sent the District and the Teachers’ Association back to the bargaining table to negotiate further, finding that a true impasse had not yet been reached. The District and the Teachers’ Association have met twice this school year in negotiations. The District continues to try to negotiate in good faith with the Teachers’ Association hoping to reach a final contract as soon as possible.
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions:
Q: What are the issues between the District and the Teachers’ Association preventing a final agreement?
The District and the Teachers’ Association have tentatively agreed on everything except for increases in compensation. In other words, how big is this year’s raise?
Q: What is the salary increase the District has offered the teachers this year?
The District’s last proposal to the Teachers’ Association was valued at 6%, spread over two years, as follows: (1) a 2% salary increase, on the salary schedule, for 2018 – 2019, retroactive to July 1, 2018, (2) a one-time bonus of 2% in July 2019, (3) a 2% salary increase, on schedule, for 2019 – 2020.
Q: What does “retroactive to July 1, 2018” mean and what are “off-schedule” bonuses?
A retroactive salary increase means that after a contract is final, each teacher will receive a lump sum equal to what they would have earned had the contract been in effect on July 1, 2018. For example, if a teacher currently earns $6,500 per month ($71,500 per year) the 2% salary increase being offered by the District would increase that teacher’s current monthly earnings to $6,630.00 – a difference of $130.00 per month. If a contract is ratified by all parties in December, that teacher could expect a lump sum of $650 being paid in January, representing the increased salary from July through December, as part of their monthly check.
The 2% off-schedule bonus payable in July 2019 means that the same hypothetical teacher will also receive a one-time lump sum payment of approximately $1,458.00 during the summer. In August 2019, the next 2% on-schedule raise would occur, making that same hypothetical teacher’s monthly salary $6,762.00 ($74,388 per year), an increase of an additional $132.00 per month.
Q: What salary increase does the Teachers’ Association want?
The Teachers’ Association has requested a 6% raise for 2018 – 2019 (The Teachers’ Association has requested this 6% be placed “on the salary schedule” or “on schedule” so that it is considered “continuing compensation.”)
Q: When was the last time the teachers received a raise?
Over the past five years the District has increased the salaries for teachers by 12.5%, broken down as follows:
During this same time period, the average teacher’s salary has increased by more than 22% as a result of these salary raises, longevity payments, and completing continuing education units.
Q: Have the teachers received any other compensation increases recently?
Yes. In addition to the District raising salaries each year since 2014, the District continues to fully pay for every full time teacher’s heath care benefits as well as the teacher’s spouse/partner and all eligible children (until age 26). These health care benefits are provided without any monthly out of pocket cost to the teacher or family members. The District’s health care plan provides medical, dental, vision, and pharmaceutical coverage. These benefits cost the District over $52.7 million dollars last year, or approximately $17,300 per employee.
Q: The Teachers’ Association says that the District has been hiding rebates for the premiums the District pays for health insurance. Is this true?
No. The District does not pay insurance premiums to Self-Insured Schools of California (SISC). The District pays for all of the health care bills submitted for each employee, and their family member, and pays a third party plan administrator to process its employees’ health care claims. Each year the District transfers millions of dollars into a fund to cover the cost of the health care claims and that of the third party administrator. Last year the District funded $52.7 million in health care claims. It is anticipated that in the current year the District will pay $54.5 million. If the District over-funds the health care account because the actual claims that year are actually less than the projection, that money is returned to the District and accounted for in the bottom line of the District’s annual budget. There are no rebates.
Q: Do the teachers also have a government pension?
Yes. Commonly referred to as a “pension” the teachers receive a defined benefit retirement plan administered by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and the District must contribute monthly to each teacher’s retirement fund. While contributing to every teacher’s retirement fund, the District has continued to increase teachers’ salaries and fully funding health care for teachers and their families. The District must legally contribute a fixed amount per employee to CalSTRS each year. Required District contributions increased from 8.25% of each teacher’s salary in 2013-2014 to 16.28% per year currently. The contribution will continue to rise each year until the District pays 19.1% of each teacher’s salary to CalSTRS in 2020-2021 to fund the teachers’ pension plan. Using the same teacher example, making $6,500 per month from above, the District currently pays approximately $11,640 per year to fund their individual retirement plan. The District will contribute approximately $26 million to the teacher retirement system in 2018-2019, an increase from about $20 million in 2017-2018.
Q: The Teachers’ Association says their requested 6% salary increase will only cost the District $12 million, is that accurate?
Yes and no. The Teachers’ Association is not the only collective bargaining group in the District. The District has historically given the same raises to all employee groups. Therefore, the actual total cost of a 6% on-schedule raise over all bargaining groups is $18 million per year.
However, the true price tag of any cost increase is really a multi-year issue. The increase of salary of $18 million dollars for a single year raise must continue to be paid every year in the future. So, when the District makes a three year budget projection, the Teachers’ Association’s request for a 6% raise actually totals $54 million.
Q: The Teachers’ Association says that the District has a huge cash reserve that should be spent on salaries. Is this true?
Every school district maintains a “reserve” or savings. This is because schools are expected to be able to cover its monthly financial obligations in the event state funding is not received or there are other funding problems. The District’s reserve is currently $54 million. Every month the district has payroll obligations and operating costs that can be as high as $40 million. The current reserve represents less than two months of the District’s operating costs.
The District’s reserve ensures that it can meet its obligations without having to take out a “pay day loan” from another agency. By avoiding borrowing money, and paying the associated fees and interest, the District actually saves money, which can then be returned to the classrooms for our students. The District’s current salary increase offer to the Teachers’ Association is budgeted to decrease the District’s reserve by approximately $8 million in 2018-2019.
The reserve also helps the District and its employees during down economic times. The last time the state of California cut education budgets and deferred making payments to schools (not sending money to schools on time) the District was able to avoid laying off teachers and taking out costly short term loans because of its reserve fund. The District was one of only a few districts throughout the state that avoided cuts such as shrinking the school year, lowering salaries, or laying off large numbers of employees.
Q: How does the District balance teacher salary increases with student class sizes and increases in student enrollment?
The District has seen an increase of 9.01% in the number of students enrolled at its schools over the past five years. This is approximately 3,300 more students. This increase in the number of students has resulted in the District hiring more teachers in order to meet the needs of the students. Currently, the District employs 1,900 teachers, which is 350 more teachers than it had in 2013 – 2014. The District has devoted funds and staffing to continue to reduce class sizes (the number of students in each classroom per period with a single teacher) while also hiring more teachers to address increased enrollment.
Q: Should teachers discuss union negotiations with students during class time, or with each other in scheduled staff meetings?
No. Teachers should use class time to teach students and staff meetings should be used to discuss student needs and academic progress, as well as school-site initiatives, programs, and services. Classroom time and staff meetings are not appropriate times for teachers to discuss union negotiations.
Q: What is next in this process?
As stated above, the District and the Teachers’ Association continue to meet. We are next scheduled to meet and negotiate on December 19, 2018. The District will update this webpage with information from that meeting as soon as it is available.