Teachers in the National School District are now working with a new contract after they ratified a tentative agreement last week.
“We got an agreement, we thought it was OK,” said National City Elementary Teachers Association President Linda Cartwright.
“We didn’t think it was great because we didn’t get some of the language that we thought was really important but it was a compromise.”
The three-year contract calls for the 320 union members in National City’s elementary schools to receive a 1.5 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2013, with a 3.5 percent salary increase for the next school year on July 1, 2014.
National School District Superintendent Chris Oram said a pay raise for teachers is long overdue.
“It’s nice to offer our employees a raise after so many years of having to ask for sacrifice,” Oram said. “It’s nice to be able to reward our teachers and employees with a well deserved raise.”
The contract also reduces health care costs for teachers as the district’s contribution to health insurance bumped up from $10,000 to $10,300 annually.
Health costs will also be retroactive from Jan. 1 so that teachers who paid out of pocket for their dependants will be reimbursed.
Despite the pay raise and drop in health costs, the teachers’ union said class size remains a concern for future negotiations.
Cartwright said teachers wanted class sizes to remain with a ratio of 24 students to 1 teacher. However the district said if they do not have funding to maintain that ratio they would reserve the right to increase it. ,
The funding, Cartwright said, would have to come through the Grade Span Funding in the Local Control Formula for the 2014-2015 and the 2015-2016 school years.
Should the district not receive this funding then class sizes can increase, Cartwright said.
Cartwright said she didn’t want that language in the contract because it gives the district a loophole to bump class sizes.
Oram said the stipulation was added in case the district’s financial situation changes.
Teachers also wanted the ability to consult with the district when it comes to purchasing new computer programs and textbooks. The district did not grant that demand.
Cartwright said teacher consultation could make the district spend wisely.
“Because what they’ve done in the past, they see some program they think is great then they spend a lot of money on it then it just sits in teachers’ closets because they haven’t talked to teachers first,” she said. “With the common core coming up we don’t want them wasting all this money on things that are not going to be good for the kids.”
Cartwright said the district gets to maintain its current heat policy. She said only two out of 10 schools in the district have adequate air conditioning and she said that can pose a problem during the summer.
Cartwright wanted early release for students on hot days.
“The district just pretty much wants to call the shots and decide in their air conditioned office when it’s too hot for us,” she said.
Although an agreement was made, there were minor bumps in the bargaining process.
The National School District wanted to go to impasse but the Public Employees Relations Board said they felt enough movement was being made in negotiations that both parties could negotiate.
“The district actually declared impasse, we went to PERB and they said that ‘the union feels like they would still like to talk’ so we ended up going back to the table.
“And I think like two or three sessions later we ended up with an agreement,” Oram said.
Cartwright and Oram agree that their bargaining issues were not as strenuous as the Sweetwater Union High School District’s.
The teachers’ last contract expired June 30, 2013.