San Diego Unified, Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement on New 3-Year Contract. Here’s What’s In It

The proposed contract would give teachers raises of more than 15 percent over two years and boost schools’ nurse and counselor staffing. A ratification vote by union membership will begin Thursday.

San Diego Unified School District and its teachers union have reached a tentative three-year contract agreement that would give teachers raises of more than 15 percent over two years and boost schools’ nurse and counselor staffing, the union announced late Friday, after months of negotiations.

Teachers would get 10 percent raises retroactive to July 1, 2022, with the retroactive wages paid in a lump sum later this year. A 5 percent raise would follow next year, and the 2024-2025 school year would bring a wage reopener, when possible new raises would be bargained.

The proposed contract would also double paid maternity leave to six weeks, allow more teachers to be paid for their work with schools’ after-school activities and have a specialized team again perform private-school assessments for students with disabilities — assessments that schools’ special-education teachers had been performing themselves in recent years, said Kyle Weinberg, the union president.

“We were able to have a very ambitious platform and achieve almost everything in that platform,” Weinberg said.

The contract would also require full-time nurses in every high school and full-time counselors at every elementary school with more than 500 students enrolled.

Nurse and counselor staffing had been a key bargaining goal of the union. Weinberg called the boost important to address the impact of trauma from the pandemic and students’ growing mental health needs.

Currently, dozens of San Diego Unified schools are still making do with a counselor or nurse on campus a few days a week, a recent San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of staffing data found.

Click here to read the full article in SD Union Tribune

Randi Weingarten Only Taught for 3 Years. She’s Getting 15 Years of Public Pension Anyway.

Despite only spending a few years in the classroom, taxpayers could end up shelling out over $200,000 in a public pension for AFT president Randi Weingarten.

Randi Weingarten has spent only a small portion of her career in the classroom despite leading the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second-largest national teachers union in the United States. Trained as a lawyer, Weingarten taught full-time for just three years and was a substitute teacher for three more.

However, according to a report by Freedom Foundation, a think tank, she will collect over 15 years’ worth of public pension when she retires. That sum could total well over $200,000.

Weingarten worked as a per diem substitute between 1991 and 1994 and then became a full-time teacher for three years. Weingarten was also employed as legal counsel for United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Sandra Feldman until 1998, after which Weingarten became union president.

But according to public records, Weingarten is listed as having collected over 15 years of “service credit” as a teacher—meaning she can expect the pension benefits of someone who worked in the classroom for well over a decade longer than Weingarten has.

How has Weingarten earned 15 years’ worth of pension benefits? Per Freedom Foundation’s Maxford Nelsen, it’s due to the UFT collective bargaining agreement, which allowed her to have over 11 extra years counted toward her “service” even though she wasn’t in the classroom. This likely came from “time spent…on union leave as treasurer and then president of UFT from 1997 until her election as AFT president in 2008,” Nelsen notes.

“Employees who are officers of the Union or who are appointed to its staff shall, upon proper application, be given a leave of absence without pay for each school year during the term of this Agreement for the purpose of performing legitimate duties for the Union,” the collective bargaining agreement said. Public records from November 2022 show that Weingarten was one of several dozen such “teachers” out on union leave.

While Weingarten’s union leave is unpaid, the New York City Department of Education used tax revenue to pay her pension contributions for over a decade.

Weingarten wouldn’t have been eligible for a pension in the first place without the extra service credit from her union years, as teachers need five years of service credit to be eligible for a pension. Including 12 months of credit she received from substitute teaching, Weingarten only had four years of service credit from her time actually spent teaching.

It’s unclear how much taxpayers will shell out for Weingarten’s pension. Assuming her average salary was $60,000 (public records show that her last salary as a New York City teacher was $64,313) and she collects her pension for 15 years, taxpayers could end up paying Weingarten $230,000 total, Nelsen estimates—not including any cost-of-living adjustments.

Weingarten has disputed this, telling the New York Post that his calculation is “completely wrong,” adding that “I would have to check with UFT and TRS [Teachers Retirement System] on the other or find a quarterly statement, none of which I have right now.” UFT did not respond to a request for comment.

Students are hardly Weingarten’s top priority. Despite recent attempts to rehabilitate her image, Weingarten was a vocal supporter of extended COVID-related school closures, advocating for such ridiculous policies as forgiving all teacher student loan debt and suspending teacher evaluations as requirements for “safe” reopening.

Click here to read the full article in Reason

School Choice Rejected by California Legislature

Across the country, states are embracing the concept of education savings accounts as a means of empowering parents to decide where to send their children to school.  In the California Legislature, though, the idea is a nonstarter.

Last week, the California Senate’s education committee rejected Senate Bill 292 by a vote of two in favor and five opposed.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, proposed offering parents who wish to opt their children out of the government school system the equivalent of what the state spends per student. Parents would then be able to use that money to educate their children as they see fit. Such funds could be used to pay for a private school education or other related education purposes.

According to reporting by Elissa Miolene from the Bay Area News Group, under the plan parents would be able to receive around $17,000 per K-12 student, based on per pupil state funding in the current school year.

“California’s government-run schools are failing too many students,” said Sen. Grove. “Any company that failed 84% of its customers would be run out of business, but in California the legislature rewards failing schools with even more funding. The government focuses more on funding institutions than students, and most parents have no other options.”

Indeed, as this editorial board has long written, California’s K-12 educational system consistently underperforms the rest of the country on standardized national tests.

Most students in recent years have failed to meet the state’s own standards in mathematics, English or science.

Troubling racial and economic disparities have long persisted in educational outcomes in California, despite continuously rising education spending.

In recent years, the state has curtailed alternatives to traditional government schools, namely charter schools, and has seen greater and greater spending on teacher pensions and other post-employment benefits.

Despite this, as this editorial board has noted before, the concept of providing funds directly to parents has widespread support across California. In 2017, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that 60% of Californians supported the idea of “providing [vouchers] to parents for use at any public, private, or parochial school.” Support was even higher among Black Californians (73%), Latinos (69%) and public school parents (66%) of all backgrounds.

You would not know that though based on the behavior of state politicians, many of whom are ideologically aligned with and/or financially tied to the state’s teachers unions.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Teachers union considers boycotting LAUSD’s voluntary learning day for students

UTLA demands that district negotiates with it first, before adding four days to year for students behind after pandemic

The union representing Los Angeles Unified teachers is weighing whether to ask its members to boycott an extra day of work planned for October, in a dispute over whether district officials had the right to tack on four days of voluntary paid teaching aimed at helping children who fell behind during the coronavirus pandemic.

The so-called “Student Acceleration Days”, scheduled for four Wednesdays during the school year, are voluntary for both students and teachers, and are intended to help students who struggled academically during the pandemic to catch up.

Teachers aren’t required to work these days, and those who do will receive extra pay.

Despite the days being optional, United Teachers Los Angeles filed an unfair practice charge with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board this month, alleging the district was wrong to unilaterally alter the school calendar without first making a good-faith attempt to negotiate with the union.

The district said in a statement last week that the days are “purely optional” and would allow teachers “the opportunity to work with small groups of students who may need additional instruction” while receiving extra compensation. It further stated that it has and will continue to meet with the union.

Still, UTLA maintains that the extra days should have been negotiated since it impacts employees’ work volume and schedules. Adding the extra days means the school year will end four days later in June, the union has said.

On Friday, Aug. 12, the union sent a memo to its members, which the Los Angeles Daily News has reviewed, announcing it will poll its members next week about potentially boycotting the first of the four “acceleration” days, scheduled for Oct. 19.

Rather than encourage employees to work it, UTLA officials are considering calling a downtown rally for that day to promote the union’s “Beyond Recovery” platform, which lays out issues it wants to address in its current contract negotiations with the district.

The memo said UTLA’s bargaining team will continue to try and resolve the dispute with the district over the four extra days.

“However, if the district and (Superintendent Alberto) Carvalho proceed in unfairly implementing their new schedule, the UTLA Officers, Board of Directors, Bargaining Team, and Chapter Leaders who met at the Leadership Conference recommend that C-Basis employees unionwide boycott volunteering for October 19 and instead hold a rally downtown in support of the Beyond Recovery platform,” the union stated in the memo.

About 80% of UTLA members are classified as “C-Basis” employees, meaning they have the option of working on Oct. 19. If the union proceeds with the boycott, the other 20% of UTLA members who must work that day would be encouraged to pass out leaflets and engage in outreach with parents before and after school, according to the memo.

UTLA represents about 34,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses and other certificated employees.

Meanwhile, until decisions are firmed up regarding the boycott, the union is asking its members not to sign up to work the optional day in October.

“It is critical that you protect your right to boycott by NOT signing up to volunteer for October 19,” the memo stated.

The district, which did not respond to a request for comment about the potential boycott, has described the “acceleration” days, which will be structured differently from a regular school day, as opportunities for students to receive support to catch up and meet grade-level standards, earn a C or better in their courses, or to get ahead.

It’s unclear what would happen if few teachers volunteer to work these days.

Students who don’t attend the extra days may be dropped off on campus by their parents for daycare during the regular school hours.

UTLA has questioned whether the four days will do much to help students. Instead, the union has said that money being set aside for these four days would be better spent on reducing class sizes; hiring more counselors, psychiatric social workers and psychologists; and investing in teacher development.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News