Berkeley school district, teachers announce tentative agreement in contract negotiations

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The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, or BFT, announced Wednesday that a tentative agreement had been reached after more than a year of contract negotiations.

Negotiations began last spring, with a total of 11 meetings. The final meeting occurred Monday, where a tentative agreement was reached for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 contract negotiations. The agreement is subject to ratification by the BFT and approval by the BUSD.

“The District is very happy to have reached a tentative agreement and grateful for the hard work and professionalism of everyone involved,” said BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott in an email. “We look forward to working together with our educator partners to meet our promise of excellence, equity, engagement and enrichment in the education of all Berkeley Unified students.”

According to a BFT and BUSD press release, new provisions were made in the tentative agreement addressing educator compensation and special education.

In compensation, all BFT members will have a total increase in salary of 5% over two years and an additional increase of 7% subject to the passage of a parcel tax anticipated for the March 2020 ballot, which will all be effective by July 1, 2020.

“We realize that in order to get large raises — which is definitely needed — and avoid cuts, the state just doesn’t fully fund public education,” said BFT president Matt Meyer. “That’s why part of this agreement is a parcel tax for employee compensation.”

New provisions for special education caseload and assessment limits will start in the 2020-21 school year. There will also be pay for temporary overages and voluntary additional assessment work.

According to the press release, these special education provisions will allow the Full Inclusion model, where all students with disabilities receive their entire education within a regular classroom, to better serve students with special needs.

The tentative agreement also includes provisions related to placement and salary schedules for Berkeley Independent Study teachers and psychologists, along with health benefits for new hires.

“We believe that these changes will lead to increased retention and recruitment of qualified teachers,” the press release stated.

According to Meyer, voting on the agreement will continue for another two weeks and final votes will be tallied Nov. 15.

Berkeley High School social sciences teacher Alice Bynum said while the tentative agreement is not official and might not be ratified, she feels the tentative agreement “dramatically, meaningfully shifts my own ability to stay in Berkeley, and to continue teaching at Berkeley High School, and to raise my kids here and that is my goal.”

Bynum added she is optimistic and confident that the Berkeley community will vote to fund the raise on the March 2020 ballot.

“It’s really our members that made this happen,” Meyer said. “It’s the energy of our members — it’s their willingness to share our stories about the impact.”

Thao Nguyen is a schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.