First published in the Dec. 17 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
By Andres de Ocampo
The Glendale Teachers Association and Glendale Unified School District have reached an impasse in negotiations to settle a yearlong wage and contractual disagreement, resulting in expected state-appointed mediation sometime this month.
Multiple GTA members and parents associated with the union, which represents more than 1,250 full-time and part-time teachers, spoke on Tuesday at the GUSD Board of Education meeting to express their disapproval of district proposals.
Negotiations and proposals between the two parties began on Jan. 14 and continued for 13 bargaining sessions prior to the impasse. A collective bargaining agreement would outline salaries, benefits, rights and working conditions for teachers, but an accord has yet to materialize.
According to GUSD, a state-appointed mediator assigned by the Public Employment Relations Board will try to help forge a contractual agreement. The district recently defined an impasse as “a mechanism in the negotiations process by which a state-appointed mediator becomes involved in helping all parties reach an agreement.”
No specific date has been announced for the first meeting of the state mediator, teachers association and the district.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed negotiations for a new bargaining agreement, resulting in negotiations focused on contractual settlements for 2020-21 and 2021-22. The last bargaining agreement was effective July 2017 and expired in June 2020 — during the height of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, the district and the teachers association came to 18 memorandums of understanding that were primarily about health and safety and working conditions. Wage increases, along with a new bargaining agreement, would not begin until January 2022.
The two sides confirmed that a number of items initially proposed by the district in January have been settled; however, several items still require resolution. The current settled items outline stipends and certain hourly rate increases that would take effect retroactively once a contract is agreed upon, according to GUSD.
“Changes to over 30 articles and sections of our contract have been negotiated, and over 20 agreements have been reached. At this point, there are seven proposals remaining on the table,” GTA bargaining chair Sarah Morrison said in the association’s October newsletter.
Among the disagreements between the teachers association and school district, the primary concerns correspond to preparation times for elementary and secondary school teachers, 2020 to 2022 wage increases and the vote process for the agreement.
GTA President Chris Davis explained that, apart from wage negotiations, “The district has attached non-monetary contingencies that would change the contract and, ultimately, hurt students because it would impact the way that teachers teach and how they have prep and flex time in schedules. … It’s made it difficult for the teachers union to accept the [bargaining] agreement because it would hobble the ability for teachers to do their jobs,” he said.
Davis emphasized that the flexibility in scheduling for teachers is essential to properly prepare for classes, to meet with parents of students and other teaching responsibilities.
Andrea Reuter, who teaches 3rd grade at Thomas Edison Elementary School, spoke about the non-monetary contractual contingencies during the public comment portion of the school board meeting.
“We have very little time and way too much work to cram into our day. One thing I do like, and have liked in the past, is that I was respected as a professional and I could make the choice for how to use my time,” Reuter said.
“What I find discouraging and frustrating is the dishonesty. You’re saying that this is about safety, but it’s not — it’s about micromanaging our time and not respecting us as professionals to be able to use our time as we see fit,” she said.
Regarding the elementary teacher preparation times, the GUSD website states that the district “is focused on safety and has proposed that teachers notify their site administrator at least one business day before making a change in their schedule in order to ensure the school can meet the educational and safety needs of students, employees, and families. GUSD is not proposing to eliminate prep-period flexibility for elementary teachers.”
Davis said the teachers association would like GUSD to drop the several remaining disputed non-monetary contingency items and bring them up at a later time to focus on wage increases.
“Basically, there is an 8.5% total agreed-upon amount, but the association would like to see more dollars allocated to last year, not this year,” Davis explained about the wage disagreement.
The negotiations about wages would outline a three-year agreement, from 2020-21 to 2022-23.
The district’s wage change proposal for the three-year agreement is “a 4.5% one-time payment for 2020-21, a 3.5% ongoing raise for 2021-22, and a 5% ongoing raise for 2022-23,” according to the GUSD website.
The teachers association, however, would like to switch the raise percentages and have the 5% ongoing raise for 2021-22 and the 3.5% ongoing raise for 2022-23.
Davis explained that this has to do with the state cost-of-living adjustment paid to the school district. In 2021-22, the California Department of Education reported a compounded amount of 5.07% for schools, which would be the increase the district would receive from the state.
A GUSD Employee and Budget Compensation Report in February documents that the General Fund ending balance for 2021-22 was projected to be $78.55 million, whereas 2022-23 was projected at an amount of $28.44 million.
“The goal is, we want Glendale to be able to attract and retain high quality educators. Teachers already, given their amount of education, are not compensated as well as other teachers with the same education [in other districts]. Many work second jobs to make up that income,” Davis explained about the union’s wage demands.
The CDE documented that the average certificated teacher salary in Glendale was $86,125 in 2020-21, with the lowest salary being $49,917 and the highest being $106,430.
For reference, the CDE reported neighboring school districts like Burbank had a lowest teacher salary of $46,831, a high of $97,841 and an average paid salary of $82,724; La Cañada, on the other hand, had a low of $53,130, a high of $107,705 and average of $92,210 paid in 2020-21.
“GUSD just wasn’t able to meet the [teachers association wage] demand while maintaining a required 3% reserve that we need to have to demonstrate fiscal solvency,” GUSD Communications Director Kristine Nam said.