A contract that will make Berkeley teachers’ salaries more competitive with their peers passed its final hurdle Wednesday night.
The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved the four-year contract agreement, which will increase salaries by 11.5 percent over the first two years of the deal.
Earlier in the board meeting, Berkeley Federation of Teachers President Barry Fike announced that the contract was ratified by more than 90 percent of teachers who participated in the union vote. Turnout was high, he noted, with about three-fourths of the union’s membership participating.
A total of 525 union members voted, and 481 of them – 91.6 percent – supported the contract. The agreement was approved at every site, and some schools delivered unanimous votes of approval.
“This huge vote not only signifies a huge victory for us, but also a significant opportunity,” Fike said, encouraging the union and the district to turn attention to alignment, budget restructuring and internal department reforms.
The approved contract will raise K-12 teachers’ salaries 2 percent for the current year, retroactive to July 1, 1999. An additional 9.5 percent raise will be given during the 2000-2001 school year.
“It’s a win-win agreement, and I’m going to be proud to sign that contract,” Board Vice President Terry Doran said before the board’s vote.
The agreement calls for starting teachers to be paid $36,337 – current entry-level pay is $31,278 – and educators on the top end of the pay scale will see their salaries increase from $54,846 to $63,335.
More increases will occur in the two subsequent years, to make the district’s salaries even more competitive. The union and district have agreed on a list of 30 other school districts around the state – 18 in the greater Bay Area and 12 in Southern California – that will be the gauge to determine how much the BUSD will raise its salaries.
By the 2002-2003 school year, Berkeley must reach the rank of 15 of the total 31 districts, based on a complex financial formula. The BUSD must be halfway there by the 2001-2002 school year.
The initial 11.5 percent increases will cost the district around $3.2 million, and will be funded through a combination of new revenue from the state and cuts in the BUSD’s budget. Board President Joaquin Rivera said every effort should be made to ensure that the cuts will have the “least effect on the classroom.”
Pay also will be increased for other teachers represented by the BFT, including Berkeley Adult School teachers, early childhood education instructors, substitutes, and instructors who are paid via stipends or on an hourly basis.
Under the agreement, neither side can “reopen” the compensation issue before the end of the contract.
The vote closes the book on a contentious 14 months of negotiations, which began as part of the regular process that allows each side to “reopen” two articles of the contract each year. For months, the negotiating process remained a rather private one, until in early 2000, when the union became more vocal and more public in its discontent with the state of negotiations.
In March, the two sides reached an impasse and called for a state mediator to step in to help them reach an agreement. Teachers held rallies on the steps of Old City Hall, a parent activist group threatened a student strike, and the mediator declared a press and information blackout.
Finally, in the early morning hours of May 25, after a second consecutive marathon negotiation session, the two sides reached an agreement.
At least one board member felt that even though the contract will benefit the community, the process for reaching that agreement was not beneficial.
“I think a lot of damage was done to this community in the negotiations this year, and I think it’s very harmful to public education when we’re not working totally collaboratively,” said Pamela Doolan, who did vote for the contract.