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By Ed Sibby

Teachers in the East San Diego County mountain community of Alpine are paid a whopping twenty-three percent less than the state average. Members of the Alpine Teachers Association (ATA) expected a salary offer that would begin to address the disparity. After months of meetings, a competitive compensation offer that would attract and retain teachers for the Alpine community never materialized. ATA’s recent declaration of impasse in negotiations with the Alpine Union School District (AUSD) will provide a forum for teachers to make their case to a neutral party. The state mediator set an official mediation date for April 15th. 

ATA is proud of its connection to parents, the community, and businesses in Alpine.  Many local businesses have placed signs on their establishment doors and windows to show they stand by their local teachers. Businesses know it is important to build strong, stable climates and cultures to be successful. 

“Budgets are moral documents that reflect our values and priorities. The district’s numbers speak for themselves. The priorities of the district are upside down and those closest to the students are clearly prioritized last. The district-provided data shows that AUSD does not value our teachers enough to be even average in this ‘above average’ cost of living area.” 

Linda Ramos, Teacher at Boulder Oaks Elementary School and ATA President

Key elements of ATA’s negotiations are: 

  • Compensating teachers at a salary that assures we can recruit and retain the best educators for Alpine students.   
  • Addressing teacher turnover rates. Thirty-four percent of our educators in Alpine were hired less than two years ago. Every one of them can make thousands more in neighboring districts. 
  • Moving Alpine’s average teacher pay closer to the statewide and San Diego County average is paramount. San Diego County’s average was $94,915 yet Alpine’s average was just $77,231. AUSD must offer fair compensation as it faces another statewide teacher shortage. Healthcare benefits are also significantly below average despite San Diego County being recognized as one of the least affordable places in both the state and the nation.  

Financially overwhelmed teachers who cannot pay their rent and must work two and three jobs to make ends meet is not good for anyone, especially our students. We need a commitment that fixes this situation and prioritizes those who serve closest to our students. Based on the district’s excessive surpluses, its failure to come to an agreement prior to the point of mediation is troubling. 

Jennifer Broderick, teacher at Mountain View Learning Academy and ATA Vice President, said, “When will these districts and educational leaders learn that we cannot put students first if teachers are last? School districts have received over 21% Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) over the past two years and like the UAW auto workers, who struck in late 2023, we are asking to be compensated fairly as our teachers are 23% below the average. With a catastrophic teacher shortage facing our profession and massive teacher turnover in our district, the district’s failure to put the state COLA towards a stable workforce is an atrocious underinvestment in the students and the educators who are closest to them! The students deserve a consistent workforce and ALL the educators of Alpine deserve a livable wage.” 

AUSD’s “Total Available Funds” are the highest in at least five years and this is another record education budget year and there is a historic statutory COLA for the districts of 8.22%. Meanwhile, during the last five years, ATA salaries as a percentage of the budget have declined significantly and are well below the statewide average of 37.49%. AUSD is at 32.22% and, adding insult to injury, the district budgeted even less for 2023-24, the year for which we are negotiating.   

Another issue is that ATA’s budget analysis over time shows AUSD’s budget numbers cannot be trusted. When the district approved its 2022-23 Adopted Budget, it projected $19.3 million in Total Revenues. Later, the Unaudited Actuals (real numbers) showed $25.3 million in Total Revenues- a miscalculation of over thirty-three percent! Seemingly, AUSD can “lose” and then “find” $6 million, yet it refuses to give teachers fair compensation when a 1% wage increase for our educators is only $89,534.  

Mediation would be an appropriate time for AUSD to make a fair offer and end this disrespect to its professional workforce. The Alpine community deserves a school district that recruits and retains the best educators for our students and creates the schools they deserve. 

AUSD is located in eastern San Diego County and has six schools that serve approximately 1,500 students in grades TK–8. The district has two elementary schools, one middle school, one K–8 independent study program, and an Early Learning Center with Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, and Kindergarten.

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