Teachers, PUSD to begin new round of salary negotiations this week


Teachers advocating for a COLA increase shared personal stories of hardship at a school board meeting in May 2022.

Piedmont Unified School District and the Association of Piedmont Teachers will begin a new round of salary and benefits negotiations starting Sept. 7.

Piedmont teachers and CSEA staff received 7.5% raises last year. In her remarks to the Board of Education on Aug. 23, APT President Dr. Elise Marks said that while staff were grateful for that raise, the money served only as a “life preserver” that bought time, and that more needed to be done in order to attract and retain teachers in the district.

APT voted to recommit to working with the East Bay Coalition for Student Success last March. The coalition is made up of 20 California Teachers Association chapters across the East Bay, including Lafayette, Orinda, and Moraga, and works to bolster and support teacher unions as they negotiate with their individual school districts over pay and benefits and other funding priorities.

Marks said that APT signed a commitment letter with EBCSS on March 27 to agree to not settling at the bargaining table — to the point of going to impasse — unless several standards are met. Those standards include giving teacher’s statutory COLA increases, making sure the Kaiser “full family low” health benefits are paid, eliminating the cap on years of service when veteran educators are hired, and, when the cap is eliminated, moving current teachers up in the salary schedule to where they would have been. “I recognize these standards seem like a very hard mountain to climb knowing what our budget looks like,” Marks said.

In standing with the coalition “we’re not trying to be oppositional,” Marks said. “We’re trying to send a call to the larger community so they will hear how dire the struggle is for so many.”

Marks said that overall, the percentage of the district’s budget that has gone to teacher salaries has fallen — in 2017-2018 it made up 40.5% of the budget but is now only around 34% of PUSD’s budget, she said.

“I’m calling on the larger community to engage in creative problem solving,” she said, acknowledging that given PUSD’s tight budget APT’s ask might seem impossible. Even with the school district’s $430,000 “breathing room” outlined by Chief Financial Officer Ruth Alahydoian this summer, a small 1% raise alone would cost $340,000 across all district staff.

In a message to the school community on Sept. 5, Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hawn wrote:

As PUSD begins the process of negotiations later this week with APT, the topic of how much we pay teachers is front of mind for me. The reality is that California has never paid teachers enough, and living in the East Bay reinforces this point with inflation currently listed at 4.9% as of April 2023. California school finance depends on the state budget for much of the funding that makes up school budgets; however, Piedmont USD is unique in that only 61% of our budget comes from state and federal sources. This matters because cost of living increases (COLA) included in the state budget impact our budget at 61%, with the remainder of the PUSD budget coming from local funding, thanks to the generous contributions of our parents. As I learn more about our current budget, I can see that the amount available for raises is fixed. You might wonder why this is the case. Schools build a budget the year before, and the majority of our budget is in people. No one wants to cut our amazing people, and this type of change would have to be decided the year prior to implementation.

Over the next 6-9 months, I will be analyzing all aspects of our budget and bringing updates to you regarding how we might look at our budget differently. If you wish to learn more about our budget or have ideas on how we might look at our budget differently, we have several ways to engage. First, our Board meetings feature regular presentations throughout the year on our budget cycle, including an update at our September 13th Board meeting on our unaudited actuals (a budget update that reflects how much we actually have in the budget as of the first 45 days of the fiscal year, July 1 – present). Second, we have a Budget Advisory Committee that meets monthly to review our budget and provide input on revenue and expenditures. Finally, I will be communicating budget information in my newsletter to keep families informed.

I will also share that I have learned that our teachers are interested in direct communication with our families. On September 7th, you may see teachers rallying in front of our schools during drop-off in the morning. You have probably already guessed that I am very interested in effective communication, and I support our teachers in their desire to create awareness around teacher compensation. To that end, I have offered our teachers’ union (APT) the opportunity to write a joint communication, which would be written by APT and PUSD (namely, Dr. Marks and myself). Until then, if our APT members are rallying at drop-off on 9/7, I encourage you to talk to them to hear their perspective. I will close by reaffirming my deep respect for our APT members and our commitment to collaborating with our labor partners to provide competitive compensation. We are in this together.

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *