Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District.
The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. The state steps in when regular negotiations break down.
“We’re filing the paperwork now to declare an impasse with the state,” said ARE President John Petersen.
Union officials say the contract talks broke down during the eighth bargaining session last Thursday. In an email to the teachers, Nadine Loza, bargaining chair, explained what happened.
“The ARE bargaining team was disappointed (but not surprised) when the district presented their counterproposal after lunch. The district’s proposal was not significantly different from their last proposal. Overall, the district has not moved significantly from their initial proposal especially on critical issues like salary, benefits, planning time, adjunct duties and combo classes.”
The teachers’ representatives say they declared a impasse and cancelled the next bargaining session set for Thursday.
“There’s a backlog for mediators, so we don’t expect the state to assign one for at least six weeks,” Petersen said.
This mediator will meet with both sides to try and work out the differences. Petersen insists the bargaining teams will not meet until the state assigns a mediator.
When asked if this breakdown could lead to a teachers’ strike, Petersen was reticent to say what can happen if negotiations worsen.
“There’s no trust there. It took six months to agree that seventh- and eighth-grade teachers belong in the secondary classification,” Petersen said.
But in its newsletter, the association was more candid about whether there would be a strike.
“That is really up to the district at this point. The process of mediation is designed to help avoid a strike by bringing both teams under a mediator to try to reach an agreement. The association is committed to parity and will pursue all channels available to achieve this.
“It is the sincere wish of ARE to avoid the damage to RUSD caused by a strike. Having said that, our commitment to justice is stronger than our commitment to peace and we will move forward towards the inevitable outcome of parity.”
District officials said the teachers’ union moved from 12.5 percent raise over two years to 10 percent over one year. The district moved its offer from 3.5 percent to a 4.5 percent salary increase over two years.
“I won’t get into specific figures because that makes negotiations very difficult,” Petersen said. “But I have all the facts and figures that prove our teachers are paid much less than other school districts.”
Beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience earn an annual salary of $45,180 at RUSD and is ranked 18th out of 47 school districts, according to a salary survey from the Los Angeles County Office of Education dated June 2013. Arcadia Unified was No. 1 with starting salaries at $49,874; Bassett Unified was near the bottom at $38,776. Charter Oak was last at $38,495.
Teachers with a master’s degree and listed as the maximum salary step for RUSD earn $69,216, for a ranking of 21 out of 34 districts for which there was comparable data, according to the LACOE report.
The district also proposed increasing its maximum health benefits contribution for teachers by $850 over two years.
“We’re still paying much more for health insurance than other districts,” Petersen countered. “I’m paying $1,200 a month to cover my family.”
Steve Scauzillo contributed to this story.