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San Jose

 

In recent months, MPEA members and their neighbors in the 585-member Evergreen Teachers Association (ETA) have held numerous joint protest rallies at school board meetings and community marches after school. After a hugely successful Jan. 16 joint protest, the Evergreen School District backed down from some of its worst proposals in late January, says ETA President Brian Wheatley.

Despite Evergreen having budget reserves of about $20 million, Wheatley says, the district demanded that teachers pay more out of pocket for health benefits by mandating a “hard cap” on costs that would freeze the district’s contributions at the 2011-12 levels.

For Mt. Pleasant teachers, having parents like Beatriz Padilla — who has four children in district schools — come out to the joint Jan. 16 rally helped show the district administration a united front. “We passed out fliers, we worked with the teachers,” says Padilla, who vows she will continue to back the fair treatment of the teachers.

Mt. Pleasant educators deserved better treatment after working hard to get voters to pass their district’s $25 million Measure L school bond in November to modernize campuses. They also campaigned for the governor’s successful Proposition 30, which will restore some school funding statewide.

Instead, Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District officials stunned the teachers’ bargaining team by walking away from the table on Nov. 8. Their “last and best offer” was five unpaid furlough days for teachers, elimination of prep time for some K-6 classes, a longer instructional day and the absolute right to adjust future salary and benefits “in a manner and amount necessitated by current and future budget needs.” Impasse was declared, as in Evergreen, and state mediators were called in.

Mt. Pleasant’s budget reserves are about four times what the state requires.

“Morale is low and frustrations are high,” says Mt. Pleasant President Kattenhorn. “Teachers are giving their best to the students and the district. Why isn’t the district doing the same for the students and teachers?”

At press time, ETA was going back into negotiations, and Mt. Pleasant teachers were about to vote on a tentative contract agreement reached on Jan. 31 that included increased health benefits and no furlough days.

“This has fundamentally reinforced to my members why you need to belong to a union,” says Wheatley, an elementary teacher. “My district has made significant movement. Things got better.”

Also standing side by side with Mt. Pleasant and Evergreen teachers at some recent rallies have been educators from four other nearby districts — Alum Rock, Franklin-McKinley, Berryessa and East Side Union High School District.

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