New law could give teachers bargaining chip |

New law could give teachers bargaining chip

Mary Thompson

Lake Tahoe Unified School District, which has been at a contract negotiations impasse with its 296 teachers since May, could receive additional state funding to help boost its entry-level teacher salaries.

A new law, passed by the Assembly and Senate on June 16, provides $50 million of incentive funding to California school districts to raise beginning teacher salaries to $32,000 per year. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

The money can be used for fully credentialed teachers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. School districts which choose to participate must designate $32,000 as the lowest on the salary schedule for a certificated employee who meets the standards.

The raise would be significant to first-year LTUSD teachers who currently earn less than $26,000 per year, said Mike Patterson, president of the South Tahoe Educators’ Association union.

“We have teachers that have been here for six years who don’t make $32,000,” he said. “No matter how you look at it, straight salary or with benefits packages, the teachers are paid very poorly in this district.”

Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis said whether or not LTUSD implements the additional funding source will be an issue discussed in mediation.

“That is all a bargaining issue,” she said. “It’s not something (the district) can do on our own.”

The $50 million is allocated to participating school districts at the rate of $8.50 per student, based on average daily attendance, or ADA, Patterson said. According to the LTUSD budget, ADA for the 1999-2000 school year is expected to be 5,339 students.

Patterson said the additional state allotment is a step in the right direction but not enough to cover salary increases for all the teachers in the district.

“The whole salary schedule needs to be tweaked. You can’t raise the beginning teacher salaries and not the top teachers,” he said. “We wouldn’t be willing to do that at the cost of our more experienced teachers – we want to raise salaries for all our teachers.”

The district has already accounted for the additional funding in its 1999-2000 budget, even though the realization of the money hinges on the negotiations process – which has carried on for almost two years.

“The money is available in our general fund. It’s written into the budget because it is available income,” Davis said. “But what the state is allocating doesn’t pay for the readjustment of our salary schedule.”

Patterson said no offers have been made by the district regarding the additional funding. Mediation will likely resume in January.

Other new laws concerning education:

n AB 15: School bus seat belts. Requires school buses manufactured and sold in California on or after Jan. 1, 2002 to be equipped with seat belts.

n AB 387: School facilities site contamination. Establishes a process, prior to the acquisition of a school site, to determine whether the site poses a health threat to children. Establishes procedures for insuring appropriate toxic contamination remediation of the school site.

n AB 1113: School safety. Creates the “School Safety and Violence Prevention Act.” Provides $100 million for school safety block grants to be used in grades eight through 12 for school safety equipment, trained school counselors and cooperative agreements with law enforcement or other school safety needs.

n AB 1114: Teacher performance incentives. Provides $50 million for one-time bonuses for teachers in low-performing schools in which student achievement increases substantially over the prior school year.

n AB 1475: Safe routes to school. Requires a portion of federal transportation safety funds California receives through the federal Hazard Elimination/Safety Program to be used by local governments to improve school area safety by installing new crosswalks, building bicycle paths and lanes, constructing sidewalks and implementing traffic calming programs in neighborhoods around schools.

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