RUSD, RTPA still at odds

Governor’s May budget revision does not produce agreement
By: Michael Althouse, The Placer Herald
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Meeting for the last time before the end of the current school year, the Rocklin Unified School District and the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association, still have no agreement regarding teacher salaries. The mediation last Friday was scheduled so that it would occur after the release of the May budget revision from the governors office. The revised budget increases funding to K-14 schools by $1.1 billion over the original proposal in January. It also restores Proposition 98 minimums, but because of decreased revenue, the calculated Prop 98 minimum guarantee has dropped by $3 billion, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. RTPA President Mary Dick said that based on the revised state budget, the San Juan Unified School District as well as the Roseville Joint High School District have settled with their respective unions securing raises retroactive to July 2007. “The May revise was much better than the January budget,” Dick said. “I’m sad, but not surprised we have not come to a settlement.” According to RUSD Superintendent Kevin Brown, even with the improvements for education in the state budget, it still represents a budgetary shortfall of $1.8 million. Citing the deficit and the increasing cost of fuel, utilities and operational costs, “For these reasons we proposed implementing the new salary schedules beginning July 1st, 2008.” “Many districts gave raises this year but then had to release teachers and/or eliminate programs. Our approach is to make our raise effective July 1st, 2008,” Brown said. “Given, there might be a few districts, if any at all, giving a raise for this coming year, we would be equal to what all other school districts have given over the two year period.” In an email sent to teachers in the district, Brown said: “We made a commitment in January to not lay employees off or eliminate programs. Implementing the new salary schedules in July, would allow us to cover the impending shortfall; otherwise significant cuts/layoffs/reductions would have to be made over the summer.” Brown said the next step in the negotiations is a non-binding “fact-finding” process conducted by a hearing officer from the state teamed up with a representative from the district and the California Teachers Association. “This 3 person panel will be presented with budgetary information from both sides and will issue its findings,” Brown said, adding that he expected the process would take until September or October. Joe McLean, who heads up the RTPA negotiating team, said the increase offered for next year is “smaller than the vast majority of districts are getting this year.” Furthermore, McLean said, since the RTPA countered the district’s offer, the board must first decline it before fact-finding is even an option. “Unless they call a special board meeting, fact-finding can’t even happen until after the board accepts or rejects at its June 7 meeting,” he said. “Fact-finding would give us a neutral answer,” McLean said. “We have nothing to lose.” McLean was frustrated by what he calls another delay tactic by the district. “I’ve been bargaining in this district for 10 years,” he said. “I’ve never seen a year where I was out of my classroom 16 days for bargaining.”