District, teachers face off

OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Unified School District has declared an impasse in its contract talks with the teachers union after the two sides refused to budge from their latest proposals.

The teachers association rejected the school district’s offer of no raises for next year, countering with a proposal that would give teachers a 2 percent raise, which the district rejected.

Teachers have argued that they have worked for nearly a year and a half without a new contract, and that the district’s most recent $27 million carry over balance should leave money for them to give teachers a salary increase.

School district officials have said that they can’t agree to salary increases because of the district’s budget situation. During the latest contract discussions on Nov. 15, they provided the teachers association with letters from the county Office of Education and School Services of California that state that the district will exhaust its reserves by next school year if they don’t take action to cut spending.

“As you are aware, SDCOE has an oversight responsibility in supporting and approving district budgets. Should a district move toward negative certification, SDCOE has a legal responsibility to intervene on a much more serious level,” County Superintendent Paul Gothold warned in his letter to the district. “This is something we hope to avoid, but calls upon the district and Board to make some critical and tough decisions this year to avoid further budgetary shortfalls.”

The school district’s counter proposal also capped health care benefits and called for teachers to pick up any future increases. The teachers association countered with a proposal calling for a 2.06 percent salary increase and a $6,200 increase in retiree benefits, which would increase spending about $2 million, according to the association.

School district and teachers association officials are now waiting for the state to certify the district’s impasse declaration, which would allow for the state Public Employee Relations Board to send a mediator to help the two sides come to an agreement. 

If mediation fails, both sides would have advocates serve on a fact-finding panel that would hear presentations from sides in front of a neutral fact finder. That fact finder would issue a recommended settlement 30 days following the hearings. 

If both sides reject the fact finder’s recommendation, then the teachers can move to strike if they reject the district’s last, best and final offer. 

This process could take months, school district spokeswoman Lisa Contreras said. 

“We’ve always said that we are good faith negotiations and hope to come to an agreement,” Contreras added. 

Oceanside Teachers Association President Jennifer Skellett said that the association was waiting for the state to certify the impasse before moving forward in the process. 

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