The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, or BFT, a labor union that represents more than 800 BUSD teachers and school staff, have reached a tentative agreement in 2017-18 and 2018-19 contract negotiations, according to a joint press release issued Wednesday.
Ty Alper, president of the BUSD Board of Education, said in an email the agreement was negotiated over several months, reflecting diligence and dedication from both the BUSD and BFT. The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by BFT and approval by the BUSD Board of Education, according to the press release.
“I’m proud of this agreement and think it represents the best deal we could have reached given our financial constraints,” Alper said in an email. “The agreement is truly a win-win.”
Under the agreement, all BFT members will receive both a bonus equal to 1 percent of their 2017-18 salaries and an ongoing 1 percent annual salary increase starting July 1, 2018.
New provisions relating to parental leaves of absence, class size adjustments, class preparation and instruction time for grades 1-5 are also included in the agreement.
Christine Staples, Berkeley Parent Teacher Association Council president, said in an email that reaching an agreement between the school district and teachers’ union was a beneficial development for students’ families.
“I am happy to see our teachers receive a well-deserved wage increase and bonus, especially in such tough fiscal times for public education,” Staples said in an email.
Berkeley High School junior Nina Price said, however, one of her teachers expressed frustration with the BUSD-BFT agreement’s salary increase because it did not reflect Berkeley’s increasing cost of living.
BUSD Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland said in the press release the “modest” pay increase was due to “increasing pension costs that exceed projected increases in revenues for the 2017-18 school year,” adding that BUSD may need to make more budget cuts.
According to Alper, California ranks near the bottom of all states in terms of per-pupil spending on K-12 public education, adding that the low per-pupil spending “imposes constraints on all aspects of our District’s educational services and operations.”
“(The agreement) includes a very modest increase for teachers in a time of declining BUSD revenue and significantly increasing costs,” BFT President Cathy Campbell said in the press release. “We need to continue the struggle to increase education funding in California in the long-term.”
Price said teaching is a necessary public service provided to the community that should be recognized as such.
“(The 1 percent salary increase) is sort of offensive to teachers. I don’t know how those teachers get by,” Price said. “I see how hard my teachers work … they put in so much more time than they are recognized for. They deserve much more than one percent.”