School's Labor Relations
For last five (5) months, in ten (10) separate bargaining sessions, The School of Arts and Enterprise (The SAE) has been meeting and negotiating with the local chapter of the California Teachers Association (CTA) which represents our teachers.
At our most recent negotiations session, it became evident that the parties were still far apart. Accordingly, The SAE has requested that the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) appoint a mediator who can help us reach an agreement. Neutral mediators are well regarded for their ability to facilitate agreements that serve the best interests of students, employees, and the community. Not surprisingly, CTA did not oppose our request for mediation. The first mediation session is scheduled for Friday, May 10, 2019.
The major obstacle to agreement has been salary. CTA is holding firm to its demand for a retroactive two (2%) percent across the board pay increase. The SAE would like to increase teacher salaries but we must be cognizant of the fact that the School has been operating at a deficit all year due to lower enrollment. We are currently spending more than we receive from the State and other revenue sources including our own fundraising efforts. Aggressive budget cuts have managed to reduce the projected deficit from almost $300,000 to $202,393, but this is still uncomfortably high. Furthermore, rising retirement costs and the declining student population in LA County places additional strain on next year's budget.
Notwithstanding this deficit, teachers at The SAE received a salary increase for the current year (2018-2019) from step-and-column advances which represent an average pay increase of 1.49%.
In addition, The SAE has been absorbing annual increases for teacher pensions. Last year, the employer contribution increased from 12.58% to 14.43%, and rose again this year to 16.28%. Without these additional salary and pension increases, our deficit would be significantly smaller and more manageable
Meeting CTA’s current demand could harm the school in two (2) ways. First, it would not only increase this year’s deficit but cause the School to operate at an unsustainable deficit for the foreseeable future. This would jeopardize the School's ability to meet the full range of its needs (facilities, classroom resources, etc.) and could be viewed as “fiscal mismanagement,” negatively impacting our standing with the State Board of Education.
Second, it would place pressure on the School to increase class size or eliminate arts and academic programs, which is what many districts do. Neighboring districts have larger class sizes and lack, in particular, the outstanding arts programs we offer – the very programs that draw many students to The SAE.
Rest assured, we will act prudently and will not undermine the School’s financial health or the unique character that makes it so special. We are confident the school and the CTA can reach an objectively reasonable agreement on all issues. We believe that the involvement of a neutral mediator – who can and will analyze not only the proposals but the data and objective criteria that support them – is needed and will help us attain that goal.