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MDUSD teachers’ union seeks medical benefits for all teachers

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 2:50 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

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?

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  • Rich

    Hi Theresa,
    First thanks for getting on this so quickly. I’ve read your article at the Times news site and found it interesting and a little alarming.
    When it was stated that there was no personal financial information on the stolen computer some red flags went up.
    The district does have personal banking account information on current and retired employees. The district uses that information to either take money out of our accounts or put money in our accounts. This includes routing numbers and bank account numbers. Was any of this data available on that computer?
    Secondly, with a SSN, a date of birth and an address, a credit report can be run listing all kinds of personal account information. New credit cards can be ordered, credit accounts can be charged against and money from savings and other accounts can be accessed.
    It is very important to find out specifically what type of personel information was on that computer.
    I know that the MDUSD has had some issues with coming forward with information but we need to know more.
    Is it possible that by using that stolen computer our account numbers could be accessed? If so, those employees and retirees need to get busy and secure our finances.

    Thanks

  • Doctor J

    16,000 victims of a single laptop theft — and Steven Lawrence won’t release the video surveilance to help identify the perpetrator ? Who is he trying to protect ? Password protected buy “unencrypted” with confidential identity information on it ? One or more of the BIG5 should be disciplined for such careless policies in protecting private information. What kind of leadership is there in the BIG5 ?

  • anon

    The victims of the laptop theft should have been notified immediately. The theft took place on Dec. 1st, the district letter was sent on the 18th, and I just received mine, yesterday. Really puts you in the Christmas Spirit knowing someone had three weeks to haved used my info to open up a new account under my name, so they can do their own Christmas shopping.

  • anon

    I just received my letter. I agree that more than a two week delay in notification is unacceptable. Additionally, in their letter they are offering a one year subscription to an ID protection service. If you received a letter, does that mean that your information was on that laptop? That heightens my concern about what was on the laptop. I truly believe that if this had not come out publicly, the district might not have done anything.

  • g

    Who works at Dent now, that worked at Berkeley Unified in 2003-2004 with access to personnel records?

  • Rich

    What’s important right now is to secure personal information. The other stuff will be figured out later. The letters that went out gave the wrong web address. It should have been protectmyid.com/enroll, not protectmyid.com/protect. Also, every letter has a different activation code. A employee or retiree won’t be able to use this service without their specific code. This means calling the district web site probably won’t help.
    I would hope that the Times could run a story about this for Sunday. I’ve already contacted MDEA but they seem to be shut down for the holidays.

  • g

    Rich: Theresa’s story on this is currently in the Times. This is important to more than just the employees with compromised information.

    Allowing for even a really good discount for the cost of one year of Experian’s security service, for over 18,000 people we may be looking at a rough minimum of $1,000,000.00 cost.

  • Doctor J

    Who’s computer was it ? I still think there is something fishy about not releasing the security video with the perp’s pic. Perhaps s/he is a current district employee or former employee or relative of an employee. Who would leave their laptop out on a Friday night ?

  • Doctor J

    Why would there be Berkeley Unified information on a MDUSD laptop ?

  • g

    There was a regular board meeting on Dec. 10. Why was there nothing on the Closed Session or Open Session approving the cost of Experian Services, or anything to indicate at that time that the board had been advised of the break-in?

  • Doctor J

    $15.95 per month per person — yikes. I doubt this is covered under insurance. The district would not be paying this kind of money unless it was an inside job. And the cost is not board authorized — or maybe I feel another “cure and correct letter” coming from the public.

  • Doctor J

    Didn’t Dr. Nugent have a problem releaseing SSN’s ? What did Lawrence do to him ?

  • g

    Dr.J: Where did you find $15.95? Regular individual membership is about $65/year, and the best discount rate I found was $40/year.

  • Wait a Minute

    Didn’t Deb Cooksey work in Berkley?

  • g

    Not certain about Berkeley, but he worked at Oakland Unified for a few years and was at the very center of two very controversial law suits. One where she was accused of releasing what she had told an employee would be confidential, attorney-client information, and one where she made allocations against the districts outside law firm–apparently because of a personal grudge.

    I’d say she was ‘perfectly’ qualified to work under Rolen’s guidelines.

  • g

    *She worked–not he worked.

  • Giorgio C.

    Some questions about the “teacher training ground.”
    1. Why are these teachers-in-training given the same amount of responsibility as a fully credentialed teacher? Shouldn’t they be given all materials and a set of orders-instructions to follow until they have demonstrated competency? This makes no sense to me. We work them hard, pay them little, and then wonder why they leave. I’m surprised they haven’t sued the Dept of Ed for discriminatory treatment.

    2. If these same teachers in training are having to come up with their own materials and develop lesson plans, how much time is left to actually teach and evaluate each of their students? Don’t they have less time for their students than the veterans? Again, from a school management standpoint, this makes no sense.

    3. The veteran teachers make the most money, even though the often do less work than the new teacher. The new teachers are doing much more work and get paid the least. We should create a classification of teacher who assists with new teachers. These teachers would get paid more. Teachers who want to get paid more can then apply for these positions which require more responsibility. Or would this make too much sense?

    Currently, the pay scale is not based on increasing responsibilities, but instead simply for putting in the time. We pay teachers more if they possess a Masters. Why? Create a classification with increased responsibilities that requires a Masters or PhD and compensate them accordingly.

    4. How about compensating teachers for relevant professional experience? A math or science teacher who has at least 5 years in the field should be compensated for such. This is much more valuable than someone having a Masters degree, possibly in a field not relevant to what they teach.

    5. Give new teachers a break with the union dues. Why should a non-credentialed teacher who barely makes more than minimum wage pay over $1000 per year in union dues?

    6. Some teachers union contracts permit the more experienced teachers to select how they are to be assessed for competency. Really? Sometimes, it is an old timer who is the problem, yet the competency assessment for them is of their choosing?

    7. Lastly, who is running our schools? Do we need to form a Parents Union?

  • Giorgio C.

    I would like to hear from first year teachers. How many hours during the school year do you spend on each of the following:
    1. Evaluating your students–including grading papers and providing feedback.
    2. Meeting with parents and-or students.
    3. Developing lesson plans and instructional materials and acquiring necessary materials for your classroom.
    4. Completing coursework (if not fully credentialed).
    5. Attending required school site meetings.
    6. Set-up and take-down of class projects or science experiments.
    7. Cleaning and maintaining your classroom
    8. Other?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is a link to my story on the Times’ website: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_22242452/computer-containing-confidential-information-stolen-from-mt-diablo
    It was not published today in print, due to lack of space. I believe it may be published in the Sunday Times.
    I learned more information about this Friday night, when I spoke to CFO Bryan Richards. I will post a separate blog about this shortly,

  • Rich

    Hi George C
    The entire teaching compensation package is a mess and it’s getting worse. You really don’t start making a realistic salary until you’ve got about 25 years in. The teachers that aren’t doing much after 25 years probably weren’t doing much when they started so it’s not a case of slowing down. Some teachers just aren’t very active and you’ll find that in a lot of careers. You mentioned the unions and having an adjustable fee schedule. The unions pretty much exist for the unions. They serve a purpose and have done some good but they want the union dues, period.
    What has gone up steadily is the price of administration. When I started in 1972,the Superintendent’s salary was roughly twice the highest paid teacher’s salary. Now it’s almost three times.
    The MDUSD also seems to need more room for their administrators. The space for district office administrators has roughly tripled since I started and yet we have fewer students, teachers and schools.
    There are other districts that have better working conditions, higher salaries, smaller class sizes and better support services. They’re even in nicer areas. Look around.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is my blog post about the stolen laptop, which includes the district’s press release, along with new information from CFO Bryan Richards: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2012/12/23/mdusd-responds-to-questions-regarding-theft-of-laptop-containing-confidential-employee-information/

  • Giorgio C.

    Hi Rich,
    Maybe I should correct myself regarding the additional compensation for a Masters and PhD, that it probably does make sense to provide additional compensation for having completed these.

    Check out the WCCUSD salary schedule. They truly stick it to the non-fully credentialed teacher by paying them $5,000.00 less even though these teachers are putting in a lot of hours.

    http://www.wccusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01001466/Centricity/Domain/53/Salary%20Schedules/UTR8.pdf

    MDUSD Schedule
    http://www.mdusd.org/personnel/Documents/Salary%20Schedules/salsched_mdea.pdf

    If teachers were also compensated for relevant work experience, then those who decide to make a career change to teaching later in their lives will not suffer such a huge financial setback. There’s no incentive to hire these professionals. They begin at $35,000. That’s totally nuts.

    And linking compensation to student achievement when teachers have no say in school policy? Let me run my classroom as I see fit and then we have a deal.

  • Rich

    Hi Giorgio C,
    It sounds like you’re hung up on the fact that our system doesn’t make sense. Your’re right.
    I don’t know how many years you’ve taught but it’s probably easier to find another teaching position that has a compensation package that makes sense than it is to try to change the MDUSD. I have a former colleague that is now teaching in a private school, being compensated for his years in the private sector. This is about his 5th year of teaching and his salary is up in the 80′s. He got canned from our district for not finishing his credential. You just have to go look and find the position that fits.

  • Rich

    Hi Giorgio C. again,
    One more thing. When you leave the private sector and join the STRS you lose up to 2/3 of your Social Security that you have qualified for. We’re one of the few states that does this. How’s that for a bonus when you leave the private sector?

  • Anon

    Ok, So sorry but I just can’t read all the comments. Perhaps this question was asked and answered. Could the new Prop 30 money go to the benefits? If so then I suppose it was the public who was duped.
    Why do the teachers is this economic climate think they should get it all when our students are failing at an alarming rate? When have they stepped up and shown us that they infact deserve this. Again I apologize that I didn’t read all the comments but this subject just pisses me off to no end. It just never ends. For goodness sake make due with what you have like the rest of us do or get out!

  • Doctor J

    Its about time MDUSD and MDEA becames “leaders not followers” in performance evaluations of teachers AND principals. http://www.mercurynews.com/education/ci_22255903/california-fails-win-waivers-from-restrictive-no-child?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com

  • Theresa Harrington

    Anon: Prop. 30 did not bring “new” money to schools. It prevented deep budget cuts. The passage of Prop. 30 just means the district is getting roughly the same amount this year as it got last year. So, no, there is no “new” money to pay for benefits. There would have to be a trade-off, with cuts elsewhere to pay for teacher benefits. Or, the district could try to pass a parcel tax, but it’s not wise to fund benefits with a temporary tax increase (assuming it would even pass).

  • Flippin’ Tired

    Anon @75, teachers absolutely deserve full benefits, and far higher pay than they receive. Of this there is no question. They step up every day. If you are in doubt of this, may I remind you of a little incident in Connecticut about two weeks ago. I invite you to “step up” and become a teacher. Ignorance such as yours pissed me off no end.

    In this particular case, the MDEA membership at that time voted to do away with medical, to make their take-home pay more substantial. The current MDEA members are suffering because if that vote. I’m not unsympathetic, but the other unions do not deserve to have their time cut to satisfy a bad decision.

    When the raises are reversed, and every executive takes a 10-15% pay cut, then we can begin negotiations for the new contracts. Until then, district can kiss my grits.

  • Rich

    Hi Flippin’
    As a retired teacher, I’m not sure what MDEA is like right now but back in 2000 it was a mess under the surface.
    First, MDEA had suspeneded elections. The president of MDEA had not been voted in and the next president Mike Noce was not voted in. In fact, we had many leaders who had “assumed” office. It took a major threat to get the elections going again.
    Second, total compensation package that went out seemed to be different for all the negotiating groups when the medical changed over. I don’t believe anyone in MDEA fully understood the packages the district was offering.
    Third, the district office hired a professional negotiating team and MDEA leadership thought they were up to negotiations without professional support at the table. Mike Noce bargained directly with the professionals. And, they started at what they said was their rock bottom lowest offer they would approve.
    Making things more complicated, the MDEA office manager embezzled over $70,000 in MDEA funds.
    It wasn’t the medical insurance switch that caused the problems. If that’s done right it’s to the advantage of 90% of the teachers. The problem was that MDEA was in charge of MDEA. I was at a MDEA committee meeting where we were told that MDEA was not there to serve the members, the members were there to serve MDEA.

    I hope it’s better now.

  • Flippin’ Tired

    No idea, Rich. I’m not a teacher. I remember the teachers at my kids’ school talking about the situation, and most of them voted against it because they could see folly. Sounds like a bad situation all around. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the union groups should be penalized.

  • Anon too

    Jean Carroll was the union leader at the time & she did push the members to vote to give up health benefits. From what I had heard she retired shortly thereafter and bought a very nice house in Florida. I always wondered whether she got some perk from the district. At the time, the state was in good financial shape and every teacher was told they would get a one time bonus of 10% if I remember correctly. Since it was the beginning of the school year and teachers were still getting their classrooms set up , they did not attend any of the meetings with Jean Carroll . Many mistakenly thought that a yes vote to increase salaries/get rid of benefits was tied to the money the state proposed. When they found out not long afterward that that was not the case, everyone wanted to take another vote. Of course the answer was no and the district, as well as Jean Carroll, got what they wanted.

  • Anon too

    Anon you ask why should “teachers get it all” when our students are failing at an alarming rate.
    I challenge you to teach for a year. Class sizes are large, students have varying abilities from gifted to below grade level, there are those who don’t speak English, as well as those who are challenged (ie highly functioning autistic, add, ADHD, etc) all in the same room, and teachers are expected to make them all proficient with rigorous curriculum so every student can get into college (totally unrealistic). Add to that mix apathetic students and absentee parents and you will have a better understanding of the issues teachers face on a daily basis.

  • Rich

    Dear Anon Too,

    I was there. Jean told us how this would work and we’d have to keep up the pressure to get our raises. There was a lot of healthy debate.

    Jean also told us that we were in for some heavy hits as the state’s finances were quickly sinking. The 10% was roughly what our raise was plus the cost to the district for our medical which was about 4% of the 10%. This was carefully explained to us and a I remember that teachers that were single providers for their families were alarmed. Jean told us that she wouldn’t push this either wasy but wanted to present the choice to the members. It was also at that time that we went with CalPers for the medical which proved to be a savings.

    Some of the things that were not explained were very seriious. First, MDEA had suspended the elections of officers considering them to be too expensive. Jean was not voted in as President. Mike Noce was not voted in as President or Vice President. That part of the By-laws had been by-passed. Second, the MDEA office manager embezzled over $70,000. We were told that since this wa covered by insurance and MDEA did not want the negative publicity, the decisiion was made to not have the case prosecuted by the D.A.

  • teacher

    My memory was that timing of the MDEA vote was very questionable. It was the beginning of the year, teachers were more than busy with setting up classrooms and instruction, preparing for Back to School nights, etc. and there was a very “rushed” feel to the vote. I went to one of the meetings and asked questions that MDEA officers could not answer. I was told that they would get back to me after they researched it and they never did. Teachers did not have time to speak with their financial advisors, let alone spouses, etc. I voted against it for lack of information. The whole process was poorly implemented and for those reasons and more, there is still a lot of debate about the benefits and disadvantages of the outcome.

    I personally know highly effective teachers who have left the district or who have never considered working for MDUSD because of the lack of benefits (and myriad other issues).

    One other detail about the profession that creates all kinds of challenges is that usually after 8 years of experience, a teacher must “stay put” in a district because most districts only allow for 8 years of salary scale transfer. For example, if a teacher has worked 15 years in MDUSD and wants to switch districts, he/she will be placed at 8 (or 9) years on the salary scale of the new district. Just food for thought as the discussion about salary, benefits, etc. continues.

  • Rich

    I think the number one issue was a lack of money. In the middle of this change, the MDUSD had to deal with the massive Special Ed suit that drained away even more money.

    The MDUSD was also suffering financially because of the Prop 13 funding that managed to make permanent the under-funding of certain districts. The MDUSD was one of them. On the other end of the scale was the Pleasanton which received a much higer funding ratio from the state which, again, became permanent.

    Combine administrative budget blunders with the bad luck results MDUSD had under Prop 13 and we ended up with a district that turned into a financial train wreck. Your colleagues were smart to move.