By Allison Jarrell
After more than a year of negotiations, the Capistrano Unified School District and the Capistrano Unified Education Association have still not reached a contract agreement, according to CUSD and CUEA officials.
After the third mediation session between the parties concluded on Oct. 17, the mediator announced that she would send CUSD and CUEA on to fact-finding.
Contract negotiations between CUSD and CUEA officially stalled back in June. At that time, CUSD and CUEA agreed to jointly file for impasse certification with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), and a mediator was assigned to help resolve the negotiations.
Since the mediator and parties were not able to reach an agreement, the process now continues to fact-finding, where a three-person panel will review the arguments and proposals and ultimately issue non-binding recommendations.
If the fact-finding process does not result in an agreement, CUSD would be able to impose its last, best and final offer, and CUEA teachers would maintain the right to strike.
In the school district’s Oct. 17 press release, Ryan Burris, CUSD’s chief communications officer, defended the district’s last two offers with statements about the “uncertainties of future state funding,” and the “very broken Local Control Funding Formula that was created in Sacramento.”
“This formula continues to severely underfund districts such as ours and does not do anything to increase funding in the future,” Burris said. “To ensure we are protecting our district and our taxpayers, we insist on building and maintaining a responsible budget that finds a balance between recognizing the wonderful work of our teachers while also acknowledging the challenges of our facilities’ needs, which the state provides no funding for, as well as increased costs pushed down from the state to pay for pension benefits.
“We remain hopeful that we can reach agreement soon and without proceeding to fact-finding.”
According to countywide school district salary settlement reports listed on CUEA’s website, of the 27 school districts in Orange County, CUSD was the sixth highest-paying school district on average in 2012-13, but declined over the years to the 20th spot in 2016-17. The data also shows that, on average, CUSD’s teachers make roughly $4,700 less than the average teacher in Orange County.
CUEA officials said their bargaining goals have remained the same since negotiations began in August 2016—they want “permanent increases to the salary schedule,” and “a sustainable plan to mitigate the negative impact of increasing employee health and welfare contributions.”
“The district can afford to pay competitive salary and benefits if they reprioritize their resources back to the classroom so we can continue to attract and retain excellent teachers, psychologists, speech pathologists, counselors, nurses and intervention specialists,” CUEA officials said.
A date has not yet been released for the upcoming fact-finding session.
To view the specifics of CUSD’s two last best final offer options, find the online version of this story at www.sanclementetimes.com.