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Teachers ask for return of salary cuts
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A salary raise for Manteca Unified teachers is long overdue, said Ken Johnson, the president of the Manteca Educators Association which is in the midst of continuing salary negotiations with the school district.

“They have not received a raise in over 10 years,” with the exception of one given last year, a 1 percent pay hike that cannot be even considered as such, he said.

The Board of Trustees has approved a 6.5 percent salary increase for classified supervisors and administrators, plus a 13.5 raise for certificated administrators, whereas teachers only received in comparison a 2.9 percent boost in pay during the same period, Johnson pointed out. He said those numbers clearly indicate that teachers and students are at the bottom of the budget totem pole as far as the trustees are concerned.

“The school board has placed students at the bottom by spending less on teachers than any other school employee,” he noted.

This, despite the fact classroom teachers’ “workload has increased with learning the new Common Core curriculum, a new math textbook, and Going Digital simultaneously,” he stated.

Furthermore, he said, with the Going Digital implementation giving each of the district’s 23,000 plus students a laptop computer, “teachers have become computer repairmen in the classroom to help troubleshoot issues with the devices. We are asked to prepare two sets of lesson plans each day in case there is a technological issue.”

Teachers deserve respect and payback, Johnson said.

“During the fiscal crisis, the school board was afraid the district would go bankrupt, so all district employees took a pay cut totaling $13.2 million over three years. The employees were there when the school board needed them the most,” he said. “And in response, the school board laid off 18 percent of the teachers which resulted in a yearly savings of $13 million. And you can see, they are not motivated to lower class sizes and hire teachers back.”

The teachers are ramping up their demand for pay raises for good reason. They point out that the district will receive this year an increase of 20 percent to their budget, or approximately $24 million, but has offered zero dollars in salary raises for teachers.

They also point out, which they have stated at the podium before the school board and district officials during recent board meetings, that the district has $31 million or 17 percent of their budget in reserves.

“They are only legally required to have 3 percent in reserve. This is taxpayer money that is supposed to be invested in our educational system. The school board says they have no money left for a raise, but as you can see, they have plenty in reserve,” Johnson pointed out.

Stella Brockman School kindergarten teacher Andrew Andersen put that in the most basic perspective to the board at their recent meeting.

“In my class, we have a rule we follow. When you put things back, put them back where you got them. So it should be with the new monies given back to our schools. The appropriate fair share of the new funds should be used to bring salaries back up and class sizes back down. It is the right and decent thing to do. Not just because it is fair to our teachers, but because it is the best thing we can do to help our kids,” he said.

“The best thing to do with these monies is to invest them where they make a difference, not hide them away in the bank or start some pet project,” he added, referring to the district’s healthy reserves mentioned by Johnson.

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Why MUSD teachers should be given salary raises now

Not only are teachers at the bottom totem pole of the school board’s fiscal priorities, Johnson said. While inflation has gone up 20 percent since their last salary increase in 2009, their pay has also been diminished in value by increasing health insurance costs and pension plan deductions, just to mention two of the expenses that are chipped away from their monthly paychecks.

The average pay for a Manteca Unified teacher is $65,000, according to Johnson. On top of the aforementioned expenses that impact their salaries, “teachers receive on average $150 a year for classroom supplies, thus forcing them to dig deeper into their own pocketbooks to help their students, he said.

Teachers have to pay $900 per month out-of-pocket for health care. “Health care costs have increased 350 percent for MUSD teachers since 2002,” plus they contribute 8.5 percent of their salary into their pension plans, Johnson pointed out.

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The truth about the teachers’ 1 percent raise this year

But what about the 1 percent raise teachers received this year?

Johnson said that contrary to what Superintendent Jason Messer stated in a recent Bulletin story, the 1 percent salary increase received by district teachers was not a raise. At least, they don’t see it as a raise. Johnson explained why.

“Teachers worked an extra 12 hours of training to help learn new strategies for digital teaching. Teachers completed 12 hours of tech training. These classes were taught by MUSD teachers for MUSD teachers which, by the way, saved the district quite a bit of money doing it in-house. In addition, teachers have worked many hours beyond the 12 hours to implement this technology-based curriculum,” he said.

He also pointed out that “a raise is a permanent salary increase;” the one-percent raise was only for this year; hence, not a real raise per se.

Asked for comments on the issues above brought up by Johnson on behalf of the teachers, Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke said that since the negotiations are continuing, he cannot speak on the specifics of discussions made on the negotiation table behind doors. (See sidebar story.)

The number crunching and back-and-forth bargaining continues. There is no date set for the next salary negotiations between the teachers and the school district.