Archive for July, 2009

District proposal falls short of District’s own pay study – Bargaining Update

July 30, 2009

You recently received a letter from School Board President Berrios and Superintendent Vargas, telling you that the district had commissioned a study which compares the pay of teachers in Kent with surrounding districts.  The letter went on to say that the District had modified its compensation offer to KEA.  It implied that the District’s new proposal is adequate to bring salaries up to area standards.  The numbers themselves, however, tell a different story.

Below is a table based on the data in the salary study commissioned by KSD.  The table shows all “effective ed,” TRI pay, stipends and bonuses that were paid above the state base salary schedule in this past 2008-09 school year.  The study even included as income the value of cashing-out unused discretionary leave days.  Please note that the District pre-selected other districts for comparison, and deliberately excluded Seattle, Issaquah, Edmonds, Everett, Mercer Island, and a number of other higher paying area districts.  Also note that the District’s study used six benchmarks for comparison, two of which are beyond the normal end point of the state’s 16-step base schedule.  These are shown in the last two columns and reflect longevity pay.  In Kent, it takes 25 years– almost one’s entire career– to reach the level of longevity pay that the study calls “Top Step.”

As you can see from the numbers, Kent teacher pay is well below area averages, even using the District’s own highly selective set of comparables and benchmarks.

District

BA-0

BA45/5

MA0/5

MA/11

MA45/20

Top Step

Auburn $     4,951 $     5,964 $     6,437 $      8,665 $     10,565 $     10,947
Bellevue $     7,386 $     8,337 $     9,258 $     11,972 $     14,899 $     15,530
Federal Way $     4,285 $     4,971 $     5,422 $      6,324 $      8,976 $      9,375
Highline $     5,354 $     6,181 $     6,724 $      7,811 $      9,509 $      9,923
Lake Wash $     6,868 $     7,898 $     8,316 $     10,035 $     11,902 $     14,602
Puyallup $     4,181 $     4,479 $     4,866 $      5,639 $      7,590 $     10,710
Renton $     4,940 $     5,291 $     5,771 $      6,731 $      8,852 $      9,246
Tacoma $     6,534 $     8,953 $     9,088 $     11,528 $     14,178 $     14,596
Tahoma $     3,923 $     4,552 $     4,964 $      5,790 $      7,081 $      7,395

AVE Comps

$    5,380 $    6,292 $    6,761 $      8,277 $    10,395 $    11,369
Kent $     3,457 $     3,905 $     4,163 $      5,281 $      7,790 $      9,287
KEA proposal $     4,834 $     6,532 $     7,051 $      8,518 $     12,024 $     13,712
KSD proposal $     4,837 $     5,247 $     5,551 $      6,660 $      9,420 $     10,948

Now, take a look at the proposal rows, showing the current proposals of KEA and the District.  As you can see, the District’s proposal for next year is still below last year’s averages in the districts they selected for their salary study.  KEA’s proposal more closely approaches area averages and the “market value” of educators in our region.

The District’s proposal falls short by their own standards.  This inadequate financial offer is conditioned on KEA’s acceptance of unreasonable give-backs on layoffs and subcontracting, and makes no provision for our issues regarding Time and Workload.  The District can and should do better.  In contrast, KEA’s proposal is affordable and realistic, and moves educator pay in Kent closer to the true average of a broader group of comparable districts in the Seattle area.

With your support, the KEA Bargaining Team will continue to press for a settlement that is in the best interest of educators, students, and our community

Finally, the first day of bargaining … KEA Update 7/24/09

July 24, 2009

Just a month before the clock runs out for contract ratification or a strike vote, Kent administrators came to the table Thursday with proposals that allow KEA to start the negotiations process.

“The district took a small step forward Thursday on one of our three priorities, compensation, but has yet to address other huge areas of concern,” KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett said. “It looks like we may have finally begun the substantive negotiations that should have started last spring. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of ground to cover, and time for the district is running short.”

The good news:

  • The district is finally backing away from its punitive plan to cut pay by seven days, and instead is proposing two additional effective-ed days for a 1.1 percent increase in 2009-10. While the district could use both days to offset our already-increased workload, it is instead proposing one day of new, additional work. School employee salaries are already losing ground to inflation this coming year because of state cuts to the Initiative 732 COLA funding.
  • The district proposes boosting stipends by $2,000 for new teachers, and adding $1,000 toward commitment stipends. With the two effective-ed days, the combined increase next year averages 2.7 percent.
  • The district is now proposing a two-year contract, up from one year. The second year (2010-11) would add 1.6 percent in total pay above Year 1, and includes yet another 1.5 days of work at the direction of the district. (That means over the two years, the district would require an additional 2.5 days of as-yet undefined, district-directed work.)

The bad news:

  • While beginning to address compensation, the district’s package still fails to recognize that our top three issues — time, workload and compensation — are intertwined. The district’s plan actually increases workload, rather than easing it, and ignores our proposals to increase teachers’ time with students.
  • The district still fails to address our overload of meetings. Or class size. Or case load. Not only is the district unwilling to reduce overcrowded classes — nearby districts with similar budget constraints and higher salaries have lower class-size caps — Kent administrators are refusing to create meaningful caps even at our current class-size levels.
  • The district has yet to deal with critical issues around violent students, clear rules for maternity leave and other leaves, the district’s responsibility to bear the costs of on-the-job injuries, or technology integration.
  • The district is hinting it may back away from its demand to base teacher evaluations on WASL scores, but quickly hedged on any written commitment to drop its earlier WASL proposal. The district is now talking in terms of a focus on “student achievement’ — a subject already at the heart of our members’ work efforts — but is refusing to rule out that their focus on achievement means evaluating staff based on students’ standardized tests.
  • The district is also attempting to step backward on some issues, including watering down layoff protections so that the district can begin reducing staff regardless of whether it is required by economic factors.
  • Even though the district’s new two-year contract proposal fails to deal with key issues already identified by KEA members, the district also wants to bar contract “reopeners” as part of its package plan. Reopeners give both sides the chance to negotiate additional unresolved issues between full contracts. Eliminating reopeners means these problems will fester two more years before we can even begin to talk about them.
  • The district continues to seek unrestricted subcontracting of outside workers to do the jobs of KEA members. The district wants no limits beyond having to “meet and discuss” any proposed outsourcing with KEA leaders. The district could then hire as many people through outside agencies as it wishes, and at any rate of pay. (The district lost an arbitration ruling on this issue last summer when KEA showed the district already was hiring excessive numbers of staff this way. Rather than comply with the arbitrator’s binding decision, the district is now trying to change the contract and undermine your jobs and bargaining rights.)

The context:

Thursday’s negotiations can be viewed as a positive step given the district’s previous strategy to simply reject or ignore KEA’s proposals. But it is only a small step. Kent is at the bottom of Puget Sound districts for pay, and it is not clear that our ranking would improve much, if at all, under the district plan. KEA already has backed away from demanding an offset for inflation while we are continuing in our attempt to nudge Kent salaries toward at least being competitive with other districts in the region. If the district adopts KEA’s proposed 6 percent salary increase, we would climb out of our current 80th spot for teacher pay, but still rank a distant 27th based on salaries for this past school year.

So when will the district start listening to school employees?

Throughout the year, KEA’s financial analysis (from WEA Research) showed the district would end the year with more than $20 million in the bank. After laying off staff, then calling most employees back, the district now admits it is likely to end the year with about $20 million in the bank. For months, KEA also has pointed out that our salaries are the lowest in the region. The district now seems willing to recognize compensation is an issue when trying to attract and retain teachers. It hired yet another consultant (Bob Boesche, a semi-retired Northshore assistant superintendent) to perform a salary analysis. His conclusion on behalf of the district: our salaries are the lowest in the region!

Inexplicably, the district chose to narrow its “comparable” districts to nine, vs. 20 districts in the region cited by KEA. KSD’s analysis omitted higher-paying districts such as Mercer Island, Seattle, Everett and Snoqualmie Valley. Nonetheless, our pay still ranked at the bottom:

  • The Kent School District study revealed that TRI pay (not including stipends) in Kent ranges from 45.8 percent to 53.3 percent below the average of KSD’s nine hand-picked comparable locals.
  • The study found Kent to be lower in almost every measure in almost every category.
  • When we asked the district whether its latest proposal would improve Kent’s ranking among these districts, they didn’t have an answer for us.

“For most of our members, the district’s proposal will amount to a 2.7 percent increase next year,” McNett said. “But the district is not just requiring more work, it is district-directed and principal-directed. It’s not even a menu of professional options. You will work during the time and the day the district tells you, or you won’t get the money.”

Once again, district administrators presented their proposal as an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it package. KEA’s bargaining team questioned why the district failed to address other critical issues when it had suggested it would come prepared Thursday with a substantive bargaining proposal.

We addressed the ones we chose to make proposals on, the district’s negotiator replied.

———————————————

Upcoming dates:

Next bargaining session: Aug. 10

KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School

Finally, the first day of bargaining … KEA Update 7/24/09// // // // //

Just a month before the clock runs out for contract ratification or a strike vote, Kent administrators came to the table Thursday with proposals that allow KEA to start the negotiations process.

“The district took a small step forward Thursday on one of our three priorities, compensation, but has yet to address other huge areas of concern,” KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett said. “It looks like we may have finally begun the substantive negotiations that should have started last spring. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of ground to cover, and time for the district is running short.”

The good news:

  • The district is finally backing away from its punitive plan to cut pay by seven days, and instead is proposing two additional effective-ed days for a 1.1 percent increase in 2009-10. While the district could use both days to offset our already-increased workload, it is instead proposing one day of new, additional work. School employee salaries are already losing ground to inflation this coming year because of state cuts to the Initiative 732 COLA funding.
  • The district proposes boosting stipends by $2,000 for new teachers, and adding $1,000 toward commitment stipends. With the two effective-ed days, the combined increase next year averages 2.7 percent.
  • The district is now proposing a two-year contract, up from one year. The second year (2010-11) would add 1.6 percent in total pay above Year 1, and includes yet another 1.5 days of work at the direction of the district. (That means over the two years, the district would require an additional 2.5 days of as-yet undefined, district-directed work.)

The bad news:

  • While beginning to address compensation, the district’s package still fails to recognize that our top three issues — time, workload and compensation — are intertwined. The district’s plan actually increases workload, rather than easing it, and ignores our proposals to increase teachers’ time with students.
  • The district still fails to address our overload of meetings. Or class size. Or case load. Not only is the district unwilling to reduce overcrowded classes — nearby districts with similar budget constraints and higher salaries have lower class-size caps — Kent administrators are refusing to create meaningful caps even at our current class-size levels.
  • The district has yet to deal with critical issues around violent students, clear rules for maternity leave and other leaves, the district’s responsibility to bear the costs of on-the-job injuries, or technology integration.
  • The district is hinting it may back away from its demand to base teacher evaluations on WASL scores, but quickly hedged on any written commitment to drop its earlier WASL proposal. The district is now talking in terms of a focus on “student achievement’ — a subject already at the heart of our members’ work efforts — but is refusing to rule out that their focus on achievement means evaluating staff based on students’ standardized tests.
  • The district is also attempting to step backward on some issues, including watering down layoff protections so that the district can begin reducing staff regardless of whether it is required by economic factors.
  • Even though the district’s new two-year contract proposal fails to deal with key issues already identified by KEA members, the district also wants to bar contract “reopeners” as part of its package plan. Reopeners give both sides the chance to negotiate additional unresolved issues between full contracts. Eliminating reopeners means these problems will fester two more years before we can even begin to talk about them.
  • The district continues to seek unrestricted subcontracting of outside workers to do the jobs of KEA members. The district wants no limits beyond having to “meet and discuss” any proposed outsourcing with KEA leaders. The district could then hire as many people through outside agencies as it wishes, and at any rate of pay. (The district lost an arbitration ruling on this issue last summer when KEA showed the district already was hiring excessive numbers of staff this way. Rather than comply with the arbitrator’s binding decision, the district is now trying to change the contract and undermine your jobs and bargaining rights.)

The context:

Thursday’s negotiations can be viewed as a positive step given the district’s previous strategy to simply reject or ignore KEA’s proposals. But it is only a small step. Kent is at the bottom of Puget Sound districts for pay, and it is not clear that our ranking would improve much, if at all, under the district plan. KEA already has backed away from demanding an offset for inflation while we are continuing in our attempt to nudge Kent salaries toward at least being competitive with other districts in the region. If the district adopts KEA’s proposed 6 percent salary increase, we would climb out of our current 80th spot for teacher pay, but still rank a distant 27th based on salaries for this past school year.

So when will the district start listening to school employees?

Throughout the year, KEA’s financial analysis (from WEA Research) showed the district would end the year with more than $20 million in the bank. After laying off staff, then calling most employees back, the district now admits it is likely to end the year with about $20 million in the bank. For months, KEA also has pointed out that our salaries are the lowest in the region. The district now seems willing to recognize compensation is an issue when trying to attract and retain teachers. It hired yet another consultant (Bob Boesche, a semi-retired Northshore assistant superintendent) to perform a salary analysis. His conclusion on behalf of the district: our salaries are the lowest in the region!

Inexplicably, the district chose to narrow its “comparable” districts to nine, vs. 20 districts in the region cited by KEA. KSD’s analysis omitted higher-paying districts such as Mercer Island, Seattle, Everett and Snoqualmie Valley. Nonetheless, our pay still ranked at the bottom:

  • The Kent School District study revealed that TRI pay (not including stipends) in Kent ranges from 45.8 percent to 53.3 percent below the average of KSD’s nine hand-picked comparable locals.
  • The study found Kent to be lower in almost every measure in almost every category.
  • When we asked the district whether its latest proposal would improve Kent’s ranking among these districts, they didn’t have an answer for us.

“For most of our members, the district’s proposal will amount to a 2.7 percent increase next year,” McNett said. “But the district is not just requiring more work, it is district-directed and principal-directed. It’s not even a menu of professional options. You will work during the time and the day the district tells you, or you won’t get the money.”

Once again, district administrators presented their proposal as an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it package. KEA’s bargaining team questioned why the district failed to address other critical issues when it had suggested it would come prepared Thursday with a substantive bargaining proposal.

We addressed the ones we chose to make proposals on, the district’s negotiator replied.

———————————————

Upcoming dates:

Next bargaining session: Aug. 10

KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School


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Bargaining Update: Why should our community be concerned about teachers’ pay?

July 10, 2009
Of course educators need to be able to afford to live in our community, and pay our bills, and raise our families. The amount we earn is also a concrete way the district expresses its respect for our professional skills. But equally important, pay is a key yardstick for Kent’s ability to compete in hiring and keeping great teachers, which is the most important factor schools can influence to improve every child’s education.KEA members already know the numbers, and they’re grim. We rank 80th statewide in pay for new teachers. We’re behind Seattle and Bellevue and Snohomish and Lake Washington and Mukilteo. We trail Edmonds, Everett, Mercer Island, Tukwila, Issaquah, Shoreline, Northshore, Renton, Auburn, Federal Way and Tacoma. But we’ve also fallen behind lesser powerhouses. The pay for new teachers in Kent ranks below Sultan. Granite Falls. Lakewood. Enumclaw. In Blaine, on the rural border with Canada, the district has made teacher pay a greater priority than in Kent. So has White River. Wapato. Dieringer. Even tiny communities like Orting, Crescent, Mabton and Ridgefield have found the resources to pay their teachers more than in Kent. Fair pay can be a priority, in districts large or small.

So when KEA’s bargainers discussed statewide salary rankings during negotiations Thursday, we would have expected the district to be alarmed or, at the least concerned, about the implications here for quality schools. We were only half right. The district expressed concern — concern that KEA was somehow twisting the statistics by focusing on pay for beginning teachers, even though they did not dispute the facts.

Once again the district chose to deflect and avoid, instead of hearing or seriously acknowledging another of our three key concerns over time, workload and compensation. And, once again, it was an ill-informed diversion: We already are failing to hold onto great veteran teachers. Salary comparisons for our top-paid staff are almost as grim as for new hires.

For our most-experienced educators, Kent offers $9,235 above the state-funded salary base to reflect our additional duties for Time, Responsibility and Incentive, or TRI. You could earn nearly double that in Everett, which paid $17,264 in TRI this past school year to its top veterans. Mukilteo paid $15,182. Bellevue, $14,899. Lake Washington, $14,806. The list keeps going. For veteran teachers, Kent ranks 17 out of 20 comparable districts (and that’s including our stipends).

At the bargaining table, we’re asking for a cleaner so-called “shadow schedule” to reflect our current TRI duties. It would boost overall pay by about 6 percent, while at the same time reducing district accounting expenses for tracking individual time sheets for the various TRI activities as required under our previous contracts. The district’s response Thursday: Little more than a sneer.

“If we indiscriminately cancel programs, then we could afford just about anything,” David Alfred, the district’s hired outside negotiator, told our bargaining team.

We shouldn’t need to remind our administrators that they are expected to provide expertise beyond “indiscriminately” canceling programs to guide our schools. A district’s budget should deliberately reflect community values and carefully considered choices. Time, workload and compensation are real issues for our members, with real impacts on our students. They impact the individual attention students receive, the size of their classes and the quality of their teachers. They are issues important enough for us to fight for, and for the district to seriously balance against other priorities, including new program adoptions, administrative overhead and reasonable but not excessive cash reserves. Our requests are affordable based on the district’s own financial projections, and have already been moderated to reflect the current economic climate. They deserve more than a flippant dismissal.

“They brought nothing today,” KEA chief bargainer Mike McNett concluded after hearing the district’s response. “Thursday’s 4-hour bargaining session was unproductive.”

The one area where there was substantive discussion Thursday, although no tentative agreement, involved procedures and plans for dealing with violent students, and to what degree teacher input would be respected. The district also offered a hint that administrators will finally begin to seriously bargain other issues at the next session, just a month before KEA members meet to ratify a tentative contract agreement or vote to strike.

“We anticipate by our next bargaining session we will have some significant, substantial statements to make,” the district’s Alfred said.

We hope so. If the district adopted KEA’s salary proposal, we would climb above 80th in teacher pay, but still rank a distant 27th based on salaries for this past school year. We’d remain behind Seattle and Highline, but also behind Sultan, Granite Falls and Ferndale. Perhaps the district will come back with a significant initiative to move Kent forward into the top 10, or even the top 20. Perhaps Kent will finally understand that budgets are an expression of community priorities, not just administrative control. Perhaps the district will realize that while time, workload and compensation are important issues for our members, they also directly benefit our students.

Upcoming dates:

  • Next bargaining session: July 23
  • KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School

KEA members get it. Parents get it. Why doesn’t the district get it?

July 2, 2009

KEA and the district are taking a break from bargaining this week. Even though we’re not at the negotiating table, I wanted to let you know that our issues are reaching our parents. We’ve shared some of our key concerns in a letter to PTA leaders in our district, and KEA’s Connie Compton and Cindy Prescott presented our views in an editorial opinion article in the Kent Reporter last month. Our members will continue talking with parents this summer at community festivals and other venues about the district’s misguided budget priorities.

Our efforts do seem to be creating a greater understanding in the community. At the school board meeting last week, two parents from the Ridgewood area spoke in support of teachers. They asked that the board do what is necessary to keep quality teachers in Kent and to look at the budget to make sure the priorities are focused on students and teachers. They also wanted to know why Kent’s teachers were the lowest paid in the Puget Sound area. They stated that the board should “… give teachers what they are asking for. It is reasonable and they deserve even more.” They also stated that the board needs to do “whatever is necessary to support the teachers and no action by the board is not acceptable.”

The issues we’re fighting for at the bargaining table are affordable and necessary — time for individual students, workload that puts student needs ahead of administrators’ demands, and compensation that allows us to hire and keep great teachers. The issues we’re fighting for will help our members. And most importantly, they will improve the education available for our students.

Relax and recharge over the holiday weekend. Our work this summer is not yet done.

Lisa

—————————————————————–

Upcoming dates:

  • Next bargaining session: July 9
  • KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School