Ongoing negotiations between Santa Barbara Unified School District administrators and union representatives for the Santa Barbara Teachers Association are in the midst of a balancing act between bolstering district reserves against economic down days and fairly compensating its 800 teachers. The district has offered a phased-in 2 percent raise and proposed increasing the work year from 185 to 188 days. The union countered with a 6 percent pay hike, retroactive to July 1, 2015.
Over the past few years, classroom workloads have ramped up considerably, with teachers having to adapt to technological advances while creating their own curricula as lesson plans evolve away from textbook traditions. On average, S.B. Unified teachers make 20-25 percent less than their counterparts in surrounding districts. Meanwhile, the district’s goal has long been to sock away 10 percent of its $120 million budget. Right now, it’s about $5 million shy of that mark. Complicating the equation is the 2019 sunset of funding from Proposition 30 — a sales-tax increase approved by California voters in 2012 — and projected retirement pension payouts. The next closed-door negotiation session takes place on January 19.
In related news on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), wherein 3rd grade teacher Rebecca Friedrichs of Buena Park wants to do away with the mandatory fees nonmember teachers pay to unions to help cover the cost of the collective bargaining that they benefit from. Friedrichs objects to the union’s political views, doesn’t want part of her paycheck to support it, and argues that the forced fee violates the First Amendment. CTA representatives counter that the case is really about weakening the political power of all public-employee unions, which traditionally lean to the left.
“If unions are stripped of their ability to collect fees from nonmembers, the CTA and its 325,000 members will take a hit,” said John Houchin, president of Santa Barbara Teachers Association. “In states that have already established laws prohibiting the collection of [these] fees, teacher unions lost about 15 percent of their membership in the first year, causing the unions to reduce spending on things like professional development for teachers and political lobbying.” The Supreme Court’s decision is expected by summer.