Teachers Reach Contract With Berkeley Unified School District

Contract Represents 17 Months Of Negotiation And Must Be Approved By This Coming Monday

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Following a long negotiation process, the Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers have composed a contract for the 2009-10 school year.

The contract must be approved by the district's teachers in a voting period that is scheduled to end Monday.

In light of the economic downturn, teachers will not receive a pay increase-like the 1 percent increase approved for the 2008-09 school year-in the current contract.

However, teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards will continue to receive a stipend, said Cathy Campbell, president of the federation.

The new contract also includes a significant increase in pay for school psychologists, and teachers will be compensated if they are required to switch classrooms.

Negotiations for the contract took 17 months, which can be seen as an improvement considering the 24-month negotiation period for the 2008-09 school year contract, Campbell said.

These long negotiations between the federation and the district-which often outlast the yearlong time period of the contract-date back several years. In 2005, the federation rejected a pay-increase offer from the district, prolonging a contract negotiation that began in 2003.

School board member Karen Hemphill said that the lengthiness of the recent negotiations can be attributed to the fact that both parties must be comfortable with the contract's terms and the changing nature of the state's budget.

"It's taken a while to come to (an) agreement," she said. "A lot of it is based upon what the situation was at the beginning of the agreement."

Many of the clauses in the current and past contracts have been applied retroactively because of the long negotiations, Hemphill said. In 2000, teachers encountered a similar situation when they received retroactive back pay after their contracts were ratified.

A clause that aimed to allocate some of the district's revenue to teachers-known as a revenue-sharing formula- was suspended in this year's contract, according to Mark Van Krieken, president of the Berkeley High Parent Teacher and Student Association.

The revenue-sharing formula was included in the 2005-08 contract, but it has been suspended since negotiations for the 2008-09 contract.

Campbell said the feature would be reconsidered in the fall.

"Our intention is to return to a revenue-sharing formula," she said.

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education Professor John Hurst said relationships between teachers and their districts are unpredictable.

"Over time, it's pretty much the standard labor management struggle," he said. "There's the ongoing dilemma that districts have a limited amount of money and teachers are brutally underpaid."

Districts will receive even less funding after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $5.3 billion cut to K-12 education in his May Revision to the state's budget.

Despite this discouraging budget news, Hemphill said that the agreement is beneficial for both the district and the federation.

"In this difficult economic time, the fact that we're ... still able to maintain a working agreement is a thing to be proud of," she said.


Contact Stefanie Lee at [email protected]

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