ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Elementary Educators Association may be dancing without a partner as contract negotiations with Escondido Union School District leadership hit a sticking point.
As a result of the impasse, members of the teachers’ union, students and parents held rallies outside of elementary schools across the city on March 5, demanding salary levels on par with other San Diego County schools, increased safety measures, smaller class sizes and less onerous work hours, amongst other requests found within the 85-page proposed contract.
Supporters wore “Red for Ed” T-shirts, turning the phrase into the social media hashtag #RedForEd.
Romero Maratea, the president of the Escondido Elementary Educators Association and a social studies teacher at Del Dios Middle School, said that while attention has been drawn to the financial compensation portion of contract negotiations, they only make up 15 pages of the 85-page draft contract.
Maratea said both sides agree that something needs about financial compensation, pointing to data demonstrating that the Escondido Union School District ranks 29th out of 35 San Diego County school districts in that area.
“And that’s important because this profession is becoming more and more competitive, alongside a teaching shortage, with fewer teachers coming up the pipeline,” Maratea said. “There are more teachers retiring. So, kids who are coming out of college who do teaching are going to be able to be more selective and then you add on things like student debt and all of that. Financial considerations are going to make a difference in who you can attract and who you can keep in the district. And that affects our students, so we want to have the best.”
A March 12 Bargaining Update email sent to union members shared with The Coast News shows that the teachers’ union has asked for a 7.37 percent raise as part of its two-year contract proposal.
The proposal includes a 3.37 percent raise for the current school year, applying retroactively to July 1, 2018, as well as an additional 3 percent raise beginning July 1, 2019.
The other 1 percent would apply to an increase in benefits, with .5 percent applied to current school year and an additional .5 percent for next school year.
The school district has agreed to a 3.37 percent raise for this year, applied retroactively dating back to March 1, 2019, as well as a 2.27 percent raise beginning on July 1, 2019, totaling roughly 5.6 percent over a shorter period.
But the school district has not agreed to retroactive application of benefits for this year, which would amount to a 6.1 percent pay raise.
Due to a lack of an agreement between the school district administration and union leaders, teachers have worked the entire 2018-19 school year without a contract in place.
The Escondido Elementary Educators Association leadership knocked this reality in a March 12 email sent to members.
“They’ve employed a slow-down tactic of pushing negotiations as late into the year as possible (their first proposal in September was almost identical to their November 30th proposal) to enjoy the last settlement we signed way beyond the date it expired, which was July 1, 2018. This is 32 months and counting on a 24 month agreement! All to the benefit of the District. It would create a new practice we have not seen in our district. Slow-negotiate and refuse to give retro pay and benefits as long as possible in order to get extra months out of that agreement.”A portion of an email sent to Escondido Elementary Educators Association members
Maratea says that clauses in the contract about school safety and safety for teachers are just as important as financial arrangements. According to Maratea, there are not harsh enough disciplinary measures in place for students who disrupt classes or physically abuse teachers.
“You know, we’ve got fences around our schools and that speaks to the sad state of our society that we have to do that, but it’s necessary,” Maratea said. “But we also need to keep people safe inside the schools and that means we need support for students who need extra support. And you know, we need to make sure that all the students and staff on the campus are safe from actual violence committed by people on the campus.”
According to a portion of the latest version of the contract, the teachers’ union has called for a stronger relationship between district schools and local law enforcement as it pertains to teacher and student safety. The contract also gives teachers more guaranteed self-protection rights.
“Whenever any bargaining unit member is attacked, physically/verbally assaulted, or physically /verbally threatened by any pupil, it shall be the duty of any person under whose direction or supervision the employee is employed in the public school system who has knowledge of the incident, to promptly report the incident to the appropriate law enforcement authorities of the county or city in which the incident occurred within 1 contract day. An employee may take necessary steps to protect himself/herself from attack, to protect another person or property, to quell a disturbance threatening physical injuries, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon the person or within the control of a pupil.”A portion of the union’s latest contract proposal
The school district told The San Diego Union-Tribune that negotiations to-date have been “cordial and amicable”
“We went a long way in our latest proposal to try to meet what EEEA has requested, including increasing our salary offer,” Kevin Rubow, assistant superintendent of Human Resources, told The Union Tribune. “We don’t know why there would be demonstrations from our teachers … We have been working fairly and in good faith with EEEA, and have not received any feedback to indicate otherwise.”
The Escondido Elementary Educators Association had another “Red for Ed” rally planned, calling for union members and their families to attend the March 14 Escondido Union School District Board of Education meeting.
The event will take place at 7 p.m. at the Carilyn Gilbert Education Center located at 2310 Aldergrove Ave in Escondido.