PUSD responds to latest twist in teachers union negotiations

Julie Reichle

The school board listens to community remarks at the Feb. 28 meeting

In a letter to the PUSD community on April 16, the Piedmont Board of Education responded to APT’s call for factfinding as labor negotiations between the two groups drag on. PUSD says it’s not in a position to cover the teachers’ demands because a large portion of its operating budget is not tied to cost of living increases. “This fact hinders our ability to offer teachers more money, and distinguishes Piedmont from the vast majority of districts in the state,” the school board said in the statement released on Tuesday.

Prior to this latest action, the school board agreed on Feb. 28 to look into adding a parcel tax measure on the November 2024 ballot as a means to increase revenue to pay for teacher raises. The district also conducted a modified round of budget cuts in March in the hopes that a parcel tax increase could offset further reductions in coming years.

Dear PUSD Families and Community Members,

Recently, the District and the teachers union moved into a new phase of the labor bargaining process, and we want to be sure to keep families and community members, who are always so supportive to our schools, informed. 

You may recall, negotiations last fall stalled and the union declared an impasse. This triggered a move to mediation, a process overseen by a state-appointed mediator who presided over several meetings this winter and into the spring  in order to reach a deal. Then, about 10 days ago, with no agreement reached, the union requested to move to factfinding, a process involving a panel of three people-two appointed by the District and the union, and the chairperson appointed by the state. The panel will review proposals from both sides, examine background materials, and then issue a report. Negotiations may continue during this phase and it is possible that a deal may be reached. 

While we respect the right of the union leadership to make this choice, we find this step to be truly unfortunate. Throughout this school year, we have been hopeful about reaching agreement on a new three-year deal that would provide our teachers with increases in salary and health benefits. Before impasse began, the District proposed a 9 percent salary increase over three years. The union declined the offer. 

Teachers are asking for a raise of 8.22 percent, the same increase that the state set for its cost of living adjustment to the Local Control Funding Rate Formula for this school year. Frankly, we understand their demand. Teachers work incredibly hard for our children and for this District, and they deserve a raise that reflects that. The issue, however, is not whether we want to pay teachers more. The issue is that we simply don’t have the money to cover the increased level of compensation that teachers are asking for because a large portion of our operating budget is not tied to cost of living increases. This fact hinders our ability to offer teachers more money, and distinguishes Piedmont from the vast majority of districts in the state. 

As CBO Ruth Alahydoian regularly says in presentations, a large chunk of our District budget-37 percent-is funded locally and does not get much bigger year-to-year. We rely on you, our parents and Piedmont community, to support this portion of the budget through parcel taxes and through your generous donations. The rest of our budget-63 percent-comes from state and federal sources, but even then, we don’t receive the full COLA increase because these dollars are allocated based on enrollment and ours, like most others across California, has steadily declined in recent years. 

Next year, the state is projecting a COLA increase of less than 1 percent, an amount that wouldn’t cover the cost of the automatic pay increases that are built into the teacher pay scale, much less a raise. In fact, to cover the cost of the District’s offer of a 4 percent raise in 2024-25, the District had to cut $1.4 million from the upcoming school year budget, painful decisions felt by everyone in our school community. 

We understand that all of these budget and negotiation details are a lot to digest. But given the level of support this community provides for our schools, we believe that you deserve to have this information. 

These are tough times. The Board and the District are working continuously to find solutions and come to a long-term agreement with the teachers union. Our goal is to resolve any differences and agree on a contract as soon as possible. 

Thank you all for the support you give to our schools. We will update you on future developments as the information becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to contact any one of us to answer any questions you may have.

Piedmont Board of Education
Veronica Anderson Thigpen, President
Lindsay Thomasson, Vice-President
Hilary Cooper
Ruchi Medhekar
Cory Smegal

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