Union throws new proposal into talks

Still in the midst of arguing over this year’s contract between teachers and the Chico Unified School District, the teachers’ union has presented its initial proposal for the 2001-02 school year.

The proposal, presented at the May 2 meeting of the CUSD Board of Trustees, would create a complex new salary schedule based on what the 20 districts agreed upon as “comparable” to the CUSD are paying.

“It may be a future way of doing a formula—I don’t know,” said Mark Leach, bargaining chairman for the Chico Unified Teachers Association. “I think it would save us a lot of headaches.”

Jim Sands, assistant superintendent for the CUSD, said this is the time of year the union is supposed to make its proposal, but, “traditionally, that hasn’t happened if you’re in impasse or fact-finding.” He said that if the district and union end up reaching agreement on a multi-year deal, it could cover many of the issues in the new proposal, thus rendering it moot.

On May 8, the district and union met to discuss the budget—and, by extension, teacher salaries. “It was a good meeting,” Sands said, calling it “productive.”

Still, board members last week seemed confused by the new proposal as they flipped through the example table of steps and dollar figures, which Leach described as “fictitious data,” holding the place until the real numbers from other districts can be plugged in and calculated.

Sands said at first glance the plan “shortens the amount of time it would take to get to the top of the salary schedule” and that means more teachers get paid more money quicker.

Dan Sours, president of the CUTA, said later that the rationale is really rather straightforward. “It’s not as complicated as it sounds,” he said. “The essential concept is to make us average.”

He said they could average the lowest and highest salaries paid by the 20 comparable districts and make those averages the top and bottom of the CUSD teachers’ salary schedule.

Sands said Chico teachers get above-average benefits packages, but Sours disagreed. “The last time I checked we were average,” he said.

The CUTA is also asking that teachers who take on extra duties—from editing the elementary-school yearbook to serving as school Web master—be paid for that. And the union is bringing up again its ongoing frustration with the idea that elementary-school teachers are required to supervise children on the playground, when lower-paid staff members could do that just as well while the teachers are preparing lessons.