District, teachers settle disputes

Rhett Acosta, Staff Writer

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At two in the morning, after years without a contract, and months of negotiations and passionate debates,  last month the LUTA and the district reached an agreement on a new contract. While the contract was good for teachers, it did not satisfy all of what LUTA was asking for.

Richard Vargas, a teacher at Lincoln High School and LUTA member explains what the contract gave teachers and what it left out. He says that some of the key parts of the settlement were wages, classroom funds, and new teachers will no longer have to pay the expensive induction fee, it will be covered by the district.

[The settlement means] “that new teachers will be relieved with the burden to pay for induction, like other districts in the area.  Music education will be expanded.  There will be a more equitable distribution of classroom funds.  Teachers will see some relief with the cost of healthcare.  And, teachers will see an increase in wages.”

Another thing teachers got was the ability to offer input on professional development days as well as the expansion of kindergarten days. Teachers had been asking to help oversee and plan the expansion for kindergarten, and the new contract offered that.  While these are big parts of the contract, and what many of the teachers wanted, there was a lot that teachers felt was left out in the contract.

Vargas said that while the contract was approved, teachers still feel that the school district doesn’t fully appreciate or value the teaching staff.

…”For the moment teachers are happy with the current agreement. Yet, [LUSD staff]  continues to hold the feeling that the district has once again failed to respect its educators in any meaningful manner” Vargas said. “LUTA overwhelmingly approved the contract.  The tenor, however, was a mixed feeling of achievement and disappointment.”

 

Vargas mentions that the dissatisfaction with the contract is not with the LUTA bargaining team but instead with the district. “On the one hand the majority of the members were grateful for the work LUTA put into negotiating a contract that would improve both the students’ and teachers’ educational environment.” Vargas mentioned. “At the same time, however, there remains a feeling that the district does not value its educators.”

He said that teachers saw how hard the district fought, and for how long, and felt that the negotiations were no longer about substance but principle. “That the district fought tooth and nail to deny its educators better health care benefits, more music instruction, social workers to meet the growing social and mental health needs of its students, school nurses, and more physical education,  all to maintain an inflated budget reserve for future projects. Projects they continue to keep any knowledge from both Lincoln Unified teachers and the public.”

Vargas says the school district fought to protect reserve funds that they have for future projects, yet they have not told the teachers union nor the public how much money remains in the funds and what the funds are intended for.

Teachers settled, but neither the teachers union or the district walked away from the bargaining table feeling victorious.