With negotiations between the Sacramento City school district and its teachers union apparently at an impasse, the two parties are poised to go into fact finding – the final stage of contract negotiations before a strike can be called.
The two parties have been stalled for some months over the details of the districts union contract, and a mediator was unable to bridge the gap. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has agreed that the two parties have indeed reached an impasse and the fact-finding stage might begin, said J. Felix De La Torre, counsel for PERB.
The two parties have until July 5 to agree to a fact finder who will hear each side’s evidence and testimony, consider it and prepare a report, a process that should take about two months. If they cannot agree on who should take the role of fact finder, PERB will appoint one. The outcome is non-binding.
Each side accused the other of foot dragging on resolution of the contract. Contract negotiations began last October, and by April, the parties went into mediation to try and bridge the gaps and reach common ground.
Sacramento City Unified School District maintains it has made a generous offer to district employees, offering up to six percent in pay raises over two years and continuing to provide free health coverage for employees and their families, the district said in a press release.
Over the past two years the district has granted eight percent salary increases to teachers, who also get automatic annual increases of about one percent. Sacramento city teachers earn on average $91,238 in salary and benefits, which is the highest among surrounding districts, according to SCUSD’s analysis.
However, the Sacramento City Teachers Association wants more than just higher pay for teachers; it aspires to make Sac. City the destination district in California, with smaller class sizes, more nurses and psychologists, more training for teachers and more art and music classes, said John Borsos, executive director for the teachers association.
“On that point, we have demonstrated to the district that they have the financial resources… to make Sac. City the destination district in the state,” Borsos said
The union claims the district is in the best financial shape of its history, with a massive cash reserve, partially by virtue of under spending on budgeted items like books and supplies, as well as salaries for 126 position currently not filled.
Alex Barrios, chief communications officer for SCUSD, disputed this characterization. The district has repeatedly provided the union with the financial information upon which it bases its position, to no avail, Barrios said.
“We should agree on two things: summer when kids aren’t in school is the right time for the adults to work these things out,” Barrios said. “Second: they don’t agree with us, we don’t agree with them, so it’s time to get the facts out there (via an independent investigation by an impartial party) so that it’s quite clear what should be done.”
Borsos said he “very much welcomes” fact finding.
About 25-30 of several hundred California districts request fact finding each year, De La Torre said.