More than 400 union members from the High Tech Education Collective rallied together Friday morning to call on the High Tech High (HTH) charter school board to use the state’s significant increase in per-pupil funding to invest in retaining staff.
The High Tech board of directors approved a 2023-24 budget that includes more than $5.7 million in new revenue driven by the state’s 8.22-percent cost of living increase to per-pupil funding. Despite this new money, the school’s charter management organization has been unwilling to pass that cost-of-living increase to staff despite staff turnover at the school being a chronic problem at High Tech’s 16 charter schools in San Diego County.
The union and HTH’s charter management organization reached an agreement on a historic first union contract with teachers in February. It included provisions for annual salary bargaining, tied to the timing of state funding increases.
The sides have been bargaining since July without reaching an agreement on how funding increases will be applied to teacher salaries. The offer of only a 3.23-percent pay increase to teachers is less than half what the charter management organization received from the state to address inflation. For High Tech educators, the offer on the table makes a bad situation worse.
The school has yet to make a salary proposal to its education support professional bargaining unit, which started bargaining for a first contract in June. Many of High Tech support staff employees are making minimum wage and have not received a raise for years.
Recruiting educators is already difficult with the 50,000-teacher shortage in California. The lack of pay equity places staff with the difficult choice; stay where you are, or move on for a livable wage elsewhere. Narrowing the pay gap is essential to addressing our ongoing staffing issues and ensuring student success.
“Our financial model for staffing our schools is not sustainable for High Tech High or for teachers and support staff. We spend far less on the classroom than virtually every district and charter school in San Diego County. Our staff is subsidizing other portions of the board’s budget because they aren’t prioritizing our students and those who make our schools function on a daily basis.”
–Hayden Gore, HTH President
Last year, 63.52-percent of High Tech’s expenses went to employee salaries in benefits. The county-wide median was approximately 80-percent of expenses towards staffing. Meanwhile, High Tech teachers earn far less than their counterparts throughout the county, resulting in high teacher turnover. More than half of the union’s membership have been at the school for three years or less.
The High Tech Education Collective represents 400 certificated staff members and 300 education support professionals at 16 High Tech charter schools throughout San Diego County.