Teachers picket as mediation continues between PUSD, APT

Meghan Bennett

PUSD teachers take "work to rule" labor action and hold rally on Jan. 23

Update Jan. 24: APT President Dr. Elise Marks told the Board of Education on Wednesday night that 96% of APT membership voted to authorize a strike should mediation fail. Mediation is ongoing. The Exedra’s School Board recap to come on Friday.

PUSD teachers across all school sites held a picket rally after school on Tuesday, Jan. 23 to highlight what they say is a failure by the school district to fairly compensate them for their work. The picketing took place in conjunction with a two-day “work to rule” labor action on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 — where teachers will perform only their contractual duties but not any of their unpaid, after-hours work (i.e., writing recommendations, grading in the evenings).

PUSD and the Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT) have been at impasse since early December over salary and health benefits; they are currently in mediation with a state-appointed mediator. APT seeks an 8.22% increase in salary and a 25% increase in the district’s contribution toward employee health care. (Until 2011, PUSD paid the full cost of employee health benefits; since then PUSD’s contribution has been capped in a concession APT made due to the financial crisis that year. Kaiser health rates were expected to increase by 17% this month, according to PUSD last year.)

For its part, PUSD has said it can offer a multiyear increase of 9% over three years: 2% this year, 4% next year, and 3% the third year, to be used on salary or benefits, or a combination of both. PUSD teachers received a 7.5% raise last year, made possible mostly because of the passage of Measure H.

While neither side can discuss what’s happening behind closed doors, APT President Dr. Elise Marks told the Exedra on Monday that the union would announce the results of a vote to authorize a strike at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. (A vote to authorize does not mean a strike is imminent but it could go into effect if the mediation process fails to yield an agreement.) “We do not want to strike,” Marks said. “We want to be in the classroom.” But she said teachers are experiencing what amounts to a pay cut given the increase in healthcare costs this year — a situation untenable for many of the district’s current employees. “Either we need to make deep cuts to programming and services we care about — or the community has to figure out another funding source,” she said, noting that retaining and attracting good teachers will continue to be a challenge if nothing changes.

How does Piedmont fund its schools?

The majority of PUSD’s funding comes from the state. The Piedmont Education Foundation, which just concluded its annual Giving Campaign, has raised over $3 million dollars annually in recent years, of which almost 80% goes toward teacher salaries, according to the PEF website. However, parent funding (Giving Campaign, Spring Fling, plus other donations) only accounts for about 12% of the district’s budget. Piedmont residents also pay a parcel tax that funds 27% of the district’s budget.

Screenshot from Piedmont Education Foundation explainer of State Aid vs Basic Aid funding
Budget cuts are coming

PUSD has already started the process of identifying the $1.4 million cuts it would have to make in order to be able to meet its own offer, which is still short of what APT is asking for. In an email to the school community this week, Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hawn said that the district is facing even less funding than it had anticipated due to another shortfall in state revenues.

Specifically, state revenues have not come in at earlier projections, and we are faced with less funding in future years than we originally projected. For example, the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for next year was originally projected at over 3%, but we are now facing .76% for next year and 2.76% the year after. Because our costs amount to a little over 1% to maintain our budget (without any additional compensation increases), this means we are facing a loss of revenue next year. Moreover, because we are projecting declining enrollment in the years ahead, and revenue is based on enrollment, our loss of revenue is even greater.

The presentation deck from the recent PUSD budget study session is linked HERE. The slides highlight the programs and/or personnel that PUSD could cut but also explores ways to bring in extra revenue. (For example, create an independent study hybrid learning program at Millennium High School.) Hawn said a more refined list will be presented at a second budget study session with the School Board on Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.

The next Board of Education meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. You can attend in person or watch via KCOM or Zoom. The PUSD budget is on the agenda for discussion. (View the agenda HERE.)

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