I received the following contributed opinion piece from the Mt. Diablo Education Association, which argues that providing medical benefits to all teachers would improve the district:
“Providing medical benefits to teachers would improve the Mt. Diablo Unified School District
A recent Tom Barnidge article was critical of Antioch teachers asking for a raise in such close proximity to the passage of Proposition 30. Mr. Barnidge went on to state that the Mt. Diablo Trustees had negotiated employee furlough days, and implemented devastating cuts to music, libraries, and sports programs, all of which is true. The point of the Barnidge article was that Antioch teachers asking for a raise in the current economy is a tough sell, given the nexus between voters’ recent passage of Prop 30, and the timing of Antioch teachers’ bargaining demands.
While we certainly understand Mr. Barnidge’s view that most working people are struggling in this economy, comparing Antioch teachers’ circumstances to those of Mt. Diablo teachers leaves out at least one vitally important point: Mt. Diablo teachers are, and have been, in a compensation hole for the last twelve years, looking up to where our colleagues in surrounding districts are standing, in terms of the compensation their districts provide.
What led to this ‘subterranean’ compensation model was a fateful agreement twelve years ago between Mt. Diablo’s teachers and the School Board, whereby teachers gave up district paid medical insurance for salary increases. The understanding was, since future raises would be calculated on higher salaries, the compensation increases generated would more than cover future increases in health care costs. Unfortunately, in the ensuing years, health care costs increased astronomically and raises afforded Mt. Diablo teachers have been miniscule or non-existent. As a result, Mt. Diablo’s teachers’ compensation is near the lowest of any Bay Area unified district with teachers earning, on average, $12,000 less than comparable Bay Area districts, when out-of-pocket health care premiums are considered.
Even with the tens of millions of dollars MDUSD has saved on the backs of teachers as a result of the health care debacle, teachers have stepped up repeatedly to ensure that projected budget uncertainties would not lead to the district’s financial ruin. Just this year, teachers committed to give up eleven (11) workdays, the equivalent of a 6% pay cut, to ensure the district’s continued solvency, in case Prop 30 failed.
Despite the gloom and doom MDUSD has projected since the Great Recession began in late 2007, the district has steadily amassed a huge budget reserve, almost seven times the 2% reserve the state requires for a district of its size. This enormous budget reserve was built on the backs of teachers and classified employees, students and district parents, many of whom must now assume costs for transportation and after school sports, all the while witnessing vital programs like libraries and elementary music disappear.
Until district leaders have the courage to correct the health care benefits mistake, the district will continue to be a revolving door for young talented teachers. As the economy improves, the competition for teachers with neighboring school districts will increase, and MDUSD will revert to being a training ground district where young teachers hone their craft, and then flee with these sharpened skills to neighboring districts that reap the profits of MDUSD’s ‘investment.’
Taking steps to ensure MDUSD has a compensation system in place that allows it to compete for the best teachers would be a good first step in repairing the district’s damaged reputation.
Tyson ‘Guy’ Moore President, Mt. Diablo Education Association”
As a side note, school board members are currently entitled to receive medical benefits for themselves and their families. Although Board President Cheryl Hansen previously suggested eliminating these benefits, the rest of the board voted to keep them. Trustee Linda Mayo receives more than $20,000 in benefits for herself and her husband.
The Grand Jury issued a report comparing benefits and compensation for all school boards in the county. Although most district boards publicly reviewed these reports and approved their responses, the Mt. Diablo school board never publicly reviewed its response. Instead, attorney Greg Rolen responded on behalf of the board, with no opportunity for public input.
Do you believe the district should agree to provide medical benefits to all its teachers?