Alpine Teachers Strike After Union-District Negotiations Fail
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Aired 2/21/14 on KPBS News.
Alpine Union School District's 91 teachers hit the picket lines Thursday after salary negotiations failed.
ALPINE — Alpine Union School District's 91 teachers are on strike after contract negotiations stalled Tuesday.
The district, which has an operating budget of about $14.7 million, imposed a contract at the end of January that cuts teach pay by 7.58 percent and caps the district's contribution to employees' health benefits at $8,000 annually. Teachers had taken a 4.73 percent pay cut each of the last three years under their previous contract. That cut was restored at this fall when that contract expired.
Negotiations stalled Tuesday when district leaders and teachers could not reach a new agreement. The district is proposing reducing teachers' pay cut to 6.58 percent, with the possibility of another 3 percent reduction if funding included in Gov. Jerry Brown's January budget proposal comes through. That proposal would also increase the district's benefits contribution to $8,500.
Teachers believe the district can do better. A state fact finder recommended continuing a 4.73 percent salary cut for this year and capping the benefits contribution at $12,000. Those recommendations included preparing to layoff 10 teachers next fall.
In front of Alpine Elementary School, approximately 20 teachers carried signs Thursday morning urging people to call the school board. They were joined by Alpine Teachers Association President Gayle Malone, who said the district spent more than it could afford, "like on a credit card."
"Now [the board is] trying to pay it back on the backs of teachers," she said.
An example of this, she said, was the addition of a new vice principal at Joan McQueen Middle School, when the institution already had an adequate administrative staff in place.
In an interview with KPBS media partner 10News Thursday morning, Superintendent Tom Pellegrino said he's waiting for the teachers union to come back to the negotiation table.
"A strike is where the teachers are in the driver's seat," he said. "If we had the money, we would fulfill their proposal. We simply do not."
The district said it hired 122 substitute teachers to keep schools open for the 1,700 students in Alpine.