Pacific Grove teachers want a cost-of-living adjustment.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
A dozen pair of eyes focus on the front of a Pacific Grove Middle School classroom. The teacher reviews her notes and asks gently affirming questions: “Does that make sense?” “Do you want to share?”
P.G. teacher Linda Goulet isn’t speaking to pre-teens, but rather to fellow members of the Pacific Grove Teachers Association. The PGTA and the school district have reached an impasse in labor negotiations that have been dragging on since September, with the teachers holding out for a higher cost-of-living adjustment than what the district has offered.
PGTA is asking for the state-determined cost-of-living adjustment of 4.5 percent. The district prefers the more conservative Consumer Price Index adjustment of about 3.4 percent. Other district employee groups have accepted tentative increases of 3.4 percent this year and 2.0 percent next year, according to PGUSD Superintendent Ralph Porras. “The teachers are the last ones to settle.”
Other sticking points include out-of-pocket health-care costs and the terms by which the district can shuffle teachers between positions.
The district needs to make about $300,000 in cuts just to maintain current programs and staffing levels, Porras says. “As it stands already, and as the state condition worsens, and as we remain unclear about the state of property taxes, the financial picture continues to get worse.”
But PGTA maintains the district’s revenue levels are healthy. Pacific Grove Unified is a “basic aid” school district, primarily funded by property taxes, which shields it from the larger cuts faced by “revenue-limited” districts whose funding is determined by the number of students.
Sixty teachers – representing about half the union – wore all black to the April 17 school board meeting, according to fourth-grade teacher and PGTA negotiating president Wendy Milligan. Each teacher stood up during public comment and delivered the same message: “We’ve been working eight months without a cost-of-living adjustment and we need the district to settle with us.”
The teachers plan a similar protest for the May 1 meeting, this time with pins that read, “P.G.: The Un-COLA.”
During the meeting, the school board will give an update of the negotiations, which are now headed to state mediation. “I know the board has worked diligently over the months to be fair with the employees and in a fiscally responsible way,” says board member Jessie Bray. “I welcome the impasse process of working with a neutral mediator.”
The board is also considering whether to place a parcel tax renewal measure on the November city ballot. The annual tax of $35 per property has given the district about $300,000 per year over the past five years, but it will sunset this year if not renewed.