By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale Unified School District and the district’s teachers’ union have yet to reach a settlement on raising teacher salaries, after the two parties met on Wednesday for negotiations.
GUSD teachers who sought a resolution to salary negotiations with the district attended the Tuesday night board of education meeting en masse, standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the walls of the boardroom and even streaming out into the hallway.
Representatives from the teachers’ union, the Glendale Teachers Association, spoke on behalf of district faculty members looking for what they say is a necessary pay increase to deal with increasing costs of living.
Glendale Teachers Association President Taline Arsenian said that the teachers made numerous concessions during negotiations prior to the 2007-08 school year, due to the recession and a lack of funding. According to Arsenian, these concessions included a soft cap on health benefits and agreement to furlough days during the school year.
“Would we do that again if times got tough? Of course,” said Arsenian. “But these years are not the lean years. Unprecedented increases to funding are happening now and we are still being asked for concessions at the table.”
GUSD employees across the board, teachers included, received a 3% raise in 2013-14, but teachers alone have not had a raise in seven years, Arsenian said.
“Everybody in this room believes in a school board that recognizes that during this time of extraordinary increases to our schools’ funding, that teachers deserve a fair settlement now.”
GTA Vice President Steven Field said that the district adopted a conservative approach to spending during the country’s recession and has yet to relent on that approach despite receiving an influx of recent funding from the state.
“GTA’s philosophy for new incoming, ongoing monies is that the district should apportion the largest amount possible to teacher compensation to offset the 13% increase in the cost of living over the last eight years,” said Field. “During these months of negotiations, we have come to recognize that the school board has a fear of fiscal insolvency years down the road and we can only imagine that those fears are stoked purposefully to guide you towards a philosophy that is different than ours.”
Both Arsenian and Field emphasized that the teachers only intended to ask for both what the district was capable of providing and what would be sufficient for the increasing costs of living.
“We don’t benefit if you go bankrupt. We would never and have never asked for what you cannot afford,” said Arsenian.
Sirvart Mouradian, a Hoover High School counselor for 24 years, said that the district is “not even listening” to the teachers’ union. Mouradian came to the meeting dressed in red, as did the estimated 300 teachers in attendance.
As of Wednesday, the two sides have not reached an agreement.
Arsenian said that the district “has not budged” despite a “12% increase in funding.” Arsenian said that the district may try to negotiate for larger class sizes with teachers, in order to free up funding for teacher salaries.
Currently, California school districts receive funding for having class sizes of 24 students to one teacher on average at each school site. However, if the district can negotiate a larger size with the teachers’ union, that funding can still be secured.
Field said that the district “suggested” that those funds could be used for teacher salaries, but that it was more of a hypothetical than a promise.
However, Field said, “We’re not interested in larger class sizes.”
The only comment from the school board came from clerk Naiyri Nahabedian who said that the district is continuing to talk to try to come to a settlement.
The two parties will meet again for two more bargaining sessions.