To our valued teachers: You won. Can we now work together to avoid a state takeover?
I think it is time to say out loud to Sacramento’s teachers and its union: You won the battle over the disputed contract. Congratulations.
You have insisted that the current contract be upheld according to your interpretation of its intent. You argued successfully for a 14 percent salary increase and that the salary schedule you proposed was the only schedule presented.
Can your victory actually be the event that breaks the impasse?
Never has there been a more important time to show grace in victory. Continuing this fight will hurt the very kids you devote your lives to.
Now that you won, it is essential that both parties get back to the table to promptly negotiate the successor contract.
All our dreams and goals for the city we love depend on a stable city school district where all its partners and stakeholders focus on what’s ultimately most important: teaching and preparing all of Sacramento’s children, from all our neighborhoods, for success as we grow Sacramento. Together, we must do everything we can to avoid a costly and debilitating state takeover of our city schools.
What’s left of the current dispute? I helped mediate the controversial 2017 contract between the parties. The contract said that the parties would work together to identify millions of dollars in health care savings. The union has called a second day of strikes for May 22, arguing that the district must uphold the union’s interpretation of the contract that those savings be directed towards class size reduction, school nurses, and other school improvements.
The contract in dispute expires in eight weeks, on June 30, 2019. The parties have not agreed to any savings since the time they agreed to the current contract in 2017.
The vexing and maddening part of the threatened strike and impasse is that there are no savings to fight about. Even if the parties were to agree to health care savings over the remaining weeks of the contract, those savings could not be realized retroactively.
Why is the union striking over savings that haven’t been realized and can’t by definition be realized or directed for the contract term in dispute. Continuing this fight would be an act of bad faith towards the community, our kids, and their futures.
The union won the main fight. The fight over health care savings is essentially moot for this contract. Declare victory and move on.
What is the path forward? The parties must negotiate in good faith on health care savings for the new contract commencing in eight weeks. Find the millions available by agreeing to solid but less expensive health plans as a start. There are other savings to be had that are essential to both reducing the deficit and investing directly in schools and kids.
What is the path for a successful negotiation? The parties have a mutual goal and a necessary obligation. The mutual goal is to invest as much money as possible in equity and school improvements. The obligation is to first avoid state receivership and address a deficit now amounting to about $35 million.
With a little good will and creativity, the parties can reconcile their mutual goals and begin a new day for Sacramento’s schools, its kids, and its teachers.
I am willing to help lead a parcel tax campaign with the teachers union, the other district unions, parents, and the district in 2020 to raise real money to invest in our schools sooner rather than later. We can only be successful raising more resources with the voters if we settle this dispute.
Please parties, get to the table. Lock the doors.
Compromise is not a dirty word. It is desperately needed. For Sacramento. For our future. For all our kids.
— Mayor Darrell Steinberg