The Sacramento City Unified School District avoided a teacher strike last month after coming to a contract agreement, but now there's another bridge to cross.
In November, the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) demanded a 16 percent raise and pushed for smaller class sizes as well as better working conditions. With the help of a neutral third-party mediator and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the district and teacher union were able to agree on a $25.7 million contract offer which includes a 2.5 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2016 and another 2.5 percent raise retroactive to July 1 of this year. On July 1 of 2018, teachers will receive another 2.5 percent raise. An additional 3.5 percent raise will be also be added to the salary schedule, putting the total salary increase at 11 percent over three years.
Other highlights in the contract include the addition of two psychologists, a boost in pay for experienced teachers who move to the district and increased stipends for both teachers with doctorate degree and athletic directors.
In total, 1600 SCTA members voted by 98 percent to ratify the contract, according to the SCTA website.
The SCTA's initial proposal would have cost the district $86 to $93 million but after the mediator report found the fair cost to be $24 million, the $25.7 million offer was agreed upon, according to district spokesperson, Alex Barrios.
The three-year contract is nearly halfway through its course since it began retroactively in the 2016-17 year but the district still needs to make cuts in order to avoid a negative budget, according to Barrios.
The Sacramento County Superintendent, David Gordon-- who oversees the district's fiscal responsibilities-- found that the $25.7 million offer will leave the district with a negative balance of $4 million and without the two percent reserve required by state law by 2019-20, Barrios said.
In order to stay within budget, the district has to make more than $15 million in cuts.
But where would the cuts come from?
Slashes to school programs aren't necessarily guaranteed.
"[The district] can realize savings and wouldn't have to cut programs," Barrios said.
The main plan to save money is to cut down on teacher health care costs. By selecting a different health plan, the district can save $8 to $11 million and cover a major chunk of the recommended cut, according to Barrios.
The district is still looking into other cost savings options and is also waiting on Gov. Jerry Brown to announce next year's budget, which could help save costs if it turns out to be higher than estimated.
Although the district is hoping to work out savings through health care reductions and the SCTA has agreed to do so, members still need to "sign on the dotted line" once presented with new health packages in order to move forward.
"Pressure from parents for them to live up to that promise would be helpful," Barrios said.