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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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  • g

    Of course. They should have their cake and eat it too—NO.

    —-

    An analogy. One many of us can relate to:

    Twelve years ago, for peace and comfort and to have what we wanted ‘right then’, a man and woman choose to divorce. First they think of the effect on the children, but the children are nearly grown, old enough to understand, and even agree that this decision is probably best.

    She knows she may never again have as much financial or moral support as she’ll need, but will get by. He knows he will not see the kids as often, but will get by. The kids are confused about life in general and have no idea what the future will bring, but they are intelligent, make most of their own decisions already, and know they will get by.

    Twelve years later, he’s done alright, remarried, had more kids. She’s done alright, got a decent job, moved on. The kids have done alright, married, had kids of their own.

    But, twelve years ago, they all gave up: The One-Family Christmas; The One-Family Birthdays; The One-Family Church. The list is long.

    They all miss those very special things that bring meaning to family life. They all wonder about it. What if they had made different choices along the way; thought it out; not chosen to live ‘in the moment’.

    How can they ever get back what they lost, what they all, by choice, gave up. Do they throw away what they have now–give it back–go back and start again twelve years ago?

    Of course not.

    Are the MDEA, both old and new, willing to totally recalculate their earnings? Give back all (or what little) they’ve gotten in the last 12 years in wages and raises and percentage bonuses to get back their full health benefits, in replacement?

    Let’s throw that ball into their court.

  • Alicia

    Wow…and these teachers continued to pay union dues after their union agreed to such a rotten deal? Before answering Theresa’s question, what would be the cost to provide medical benefits? Would the costs decrease under ObamaCare? Also, would the medical benefits carry into retirement? What would be the resulting impact on retirement costs, and would this exacerbate the current and growing CalSTRs unfunded liability? Is there a similar disparity among MDUSD’s administrative staff’s salaries as compared to other districts with similar costs of living?

  • Doctor J

    If my memory serves me correct, then Supt Gary McHenry advised the teachers that giving up medical benefits for then higher salaries [to spike retirements for senior teachers] was a very dangerous give and take which they would live to regret. For Guy Moore to say “Until district leaders have the courage to correct the health care benefits mistake” when in fact the health care benefits “mistake” was that of MDEA’s own choosing, really paints Guy as living in la la land.

  • Anon

    I believe MDEA members voted twice to drop benefits in order to take higher salary.

  • Giorgio C.

    I am stunned by what I am reading. Forgoing medical benefits for a salary increase? I would like to see what this looks like with respect to teacher turnover and quality. I would like to see a 10 year history, showing union contracts, number of applicants for each teaching position, years of experience for each applicant, test scores, etc. How many teacher interns does this district employ yearly? Does the district also recruit from Teach For America?

    What does not offering medical benefits look like with respect to the quality of education in this district?

  • Doctor J

    June 5, 2007 Board minutes reflect that Trustee Paul Strange reported the results of his comparison of MDUSD Teacher Salaries — which would be about six years after MDEA Teachers voted to roll their health benefits into their salaries:
    Salary Comparisons
    Source of Salary Data: salary schedules from each unified district, Contra Costa County

    • MDUSD salary compared to other unified districts in Contra Costa County

    o BA only Above average

    o BA + 30 units Below average

    o BA + 45 units At average

    o BA + 60 units Above average

    o BA + 75 units Above average

    o BA + 90 units Above average

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have heard that Walnut Creek and West Contra Costa district teachers are paid less than MDUSD teachers. Would MDUSD teachers be willing to take pay cuts to provide benefits for all? As I understand it, the district has set aside a fixed amount to be divided equally among teachers who request medical benefits, but this could leave some with no benefits or having to pay for a large chunk themselves.

    Regarding the past votes, I was covering the MDUSD meeting when the board approved the MDEA contract that stripped teachers of their benefits in exchange for salary bumps (I was covering the district for the Concord Transcript at the time). I remember hearing numerous young teachers with families pleading with the board not to approve the contract, saying they had been duped by their union leadership and didn’t realize the ramifications. But the board approved the contract anyway, saying that’s what the membership voted for. At the time, I was surprised that the board didn’t at least postpone the vote to investigate the claims and possibly allow the union to revote on the contract.

    Years afterward, when I interviewed then-Supt. Gary McHenry, he said the union had rejected an offer that in hindsight would have been better than what they were trying to get when budget cuts started hitting the district. Obviously, no one predicted the decline in state funding for schools.

  • Anon

    It’s difficult to compare districts with salaries, benefits, parcel taxes, and class sizes. Walnut Creek is an elementary district which means less revenue. They have smaller class sizes which is a trade-off that MDUSD teachers might be willing to take. Their high schools are Acalanes which have more revenue and pay teachers more, even with smaller class sizes. Parents would prefer smaller class sizes!

  • Doctor J

    The impending “teacher shortage” predicted by the CDE task force certainly will hit districts harder who have less desirable working conditions and remuneration. http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/greatnessfinal.pdf

  • g

    Guy Moore says: “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.”

    Some statements need to be backed up by figures. The minute you throw in “on average” and/or “comparable” on anything, I start questioning. Are we really comparing apples to apples.

  • Anon

    I thought it was ridiculous when this happened and could not believe teachers voted for this to happen. The teachers definitely need to come up with a plan that will not cost tax payers, students and fellow colleagues in MDUSD one additional cent.

    Did it hurt our District? Yes, the teachers who always claim, “we are here for the students”, severely damaged MDUSD in my opinion. Shame on them and this is for them to fix at no cost to anyone else. Their union failed each and every current teacher and each and every student for the past 12 years. Unbelievable.

  • Doctor J

    I disagree the “union failed the teachers” — the teachers are the Union. The teachers elect the officers of MDEA to negotiate on their behalf. The teachers had to vote to approve the contract(s) to eliminate their health benefits. Some claimed they were “duped” — if so, vote out the union officers and renegotiate. That didn’t happen. There was a large majority of teachers who wanted to spike their retirements — they got what they asked for. To the district, it costs the same whether a dollar is spent for salary or for benefits. To an employee, salary is taxed by the state and feds, but health benefits are not taxable. That alone seems like a simple decision. Teachers who aren’t smart enough to understand that, probably should not be educating our children.

  • anon

    I recall that the then union president, Jean Carroll, spoke was very much in support of the benefits for salary deal, which in retrospect, was not a great decision. What ever happened to her?

  • Flippin’ Tired

    No, I do not believe the district should agree to provide medical benefits. I’m really sorry the teachers voted away their medical. That was an amazingly short-sighted maneuver. Now they have to live with their mistake. The district didn’t make this choice, the teachers themselves did it. Are teachers going to take a cut in pay to restore medical? Of course not. Where do they think the money would come from? CST, M&O and CSEA, that’s where. I have the utmost respect for teachers, but they did this to themselves.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Lets face it. The teachers near retirement (the same ones with the most influence in the union) voted in their financial interests to exchange the benefits for salary.

    This of course was at the detriment of the younger teachers and those to follow. If the teachers have a beef now it should come out of the pockets of the ill gotten gains of those who are recently retired.

    Other than that the teachers can suck it.

  • Bob Turney

    “The teachers” did this? I did not. I’ve taught in Mt. Diablo for ten years and I’ve met countless teachers who did not vote to eliminate benefits. Of course it was short sighted and foolish, but that’s not the point now. Guy correctly said it will be difficult to attract the best new teachers if we cannot compete with other districts that do provide benefits. Benefits will not cost property owners or taxpayers more. Even with health coverage, our total compensation would be in line with other districts. The salaries shown for those districts do not reflect the cost of health insurance, which we need to buy for our families, and they do not. Like it or not, if we want to compete for the best teachers, our compensation better be competitive. Right now, it is not.

  • Anon

    The issue is that the lower overall compensation package is driving teachers who are married with children to other neighboring districts. It would seem that our community would want to attract teachers with families, not drive them away. Of course the challenge is that the district needs to make significant spending reductions already, so adding the additional cost of teacher benefits will not happen unless something is cut to pay for it. I guess we are going to find out if MDEA’s campaign funds were well spent on Brian and Barbara.

  • Doctor J

    @Anon#16 Unfortunately, its more complicated than that — the Diablo Managers Association –DMA– represents all classified managers not employed on an individual contract [exclude the BIG5]. Even though its illegal [Govt Code 3543.4], there is an “understanding” that when MDEA gets a salary raise, the DMA also gets an equal raise. So back in 2001 when MDEA rolled its health benefits into higher salaries, DMA got the same “salary raise” except it kept its health benefits. This is why when MDEA got its raise mid year, that all DMA personnel also got the raise. This “understanding” can’t be a contract, but all MDUSD administrators “make sure” it happens. This is precisely why when SASS was formed, it strayed quickly out of Lawrence’s $50,000 ficticious savings — because all SASS were entitled to their step salary increases. https://sites.google.com/site/dmamdusd/the-team

  • Sue Berg

    When MDEA negotiated the change to fold medical benefit costs (and only medical, not vision nor dental nor other benefits the district continues to provide) into the salary schedule, it was following an advisory from CTA, which was encouraging teacher unions in all districts to do so. And many did. In Hayward Unified, for example, all employee units made the change. MDEA brought its request to contract negotiations at that time. No other MDUSD employee groups did so.

    MDUSD Board members (Allen, Eberhart, Leal, Mayo, and Treece) all expressed concerns about the long-term impact of the change. However, it was formally presented to them as part of a new contract that had just been negotiated after lengthy bargaining. Some teachers spoke against the benefit change throughout the negotiations process. Nevertheless, a majority of the MDEA membership voted to approve the proposed contract, including the benefit change, before submitting it to the MDUSD Board for its approval.

    Dr J, #18: you’re only partially correct.
    Superintendent McHenry, for both compensation increases and budget cuts, considered an equal percentage change for each employee group. The groups themselves were asked to help determine how to apply the percentage. One year in a state budget of long, long ago, each unit received an increase of, as I recall, 5%. But they did not all just apply that to salary increases. DMA, for example, used about half for salaries and the rest for adjustments in some of its positions and for an additional longevity step. Similarly, if deciding the district budget had to be cut by, say 5%, McHenry would recommend reductions of 5% to the amount spent on each employee group. Not saying the union leaders always bought into that thinking. Just pointing out that a salary increase to employees in one unit did not automatically result in identical salary increases to employees in another.

  • Rich

    Here’s something new. The district mailed out letters to employees and retirees stating that the district office was broken into on December 1, 2012. The letter states that a computer was stolen that had all of the employees and retirees personal information on it including social security numbers and date of birth. The letter went on to say that the district is working with the police on this.
    This is 19 days after the incident. I’ve seen no media reports on this. I don’t believe the district stores this data on individual computers.
    Theresa, can you please check this out and let us know what is happening?
    Thanks

  • Rich

    Getting back to the medical insurance debate, I was a MDEA rep when this all happened. MDEA leadership did not push the idea, they just presented the idea. After it passed, MDEA leadership seems to have worked continuously to change it back.
    Here’s the real issue, which is better, having the district pay your medical or the employees get the mondey and pay their own medical. The taxes are same. The cost to the district is the same. The difference is that your retirement is increased if you as an employee are paying out that $8,000 a year rather than the district paying it out.
    Check with a financial advisor and find out what the truth is. And please remember, we’re talking about total compensation here in negotiations. MDEA needs to work from that position and the MDEA membership needs to have a real understanding of how teacher retirement works and how to work the medical insurance system.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Rich: I posted this on another thread:

    Speaking of losses, I decided to ask the CPD about rumors I’ve been hearing regarding a break-in at Dent. Here’s the official report from CPD:

    “On Saturday, December 1, 2012, at about 6:30 AM a CPD Officer responded to the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Offices at 1936 Carlotta Dr. regarding a burglary report. The Officer established that during the nighttime or early morning hours, unknown suspect(s) broke out an exterior window to gain access into one of the offices. Once inside, the suspect(s) stole computer equipment from the office. The scene was processed for latent fingerprints and the case is still under investigation.”

    I have heard rumors that the laptop belonged to an MDUSD administrator and that nothing else was taken, including another laptop nearby. I will investigate further. Thanks for letting us know about the security breach.

  • Rich

    Theresa, please make sure you get a copy of the letter that was mailed to employees and retirees.
    Thanks,
    Rich

  • Theresa Harrington

    Rich, I will. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  • Anon

    Rich – Do you mean that a laptop belonging to someone at Dent was stolen and it had every one’s financial information on it? Whose laptop was it and why did it have all that information on it? If there is someone at Dent who is carrying confidential information around on their laptop.they need to get swatted upside the head. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I can’t believe the District would permit such lax security practices with peoples SS# and other. Who is responsible for monitoring the security of that information anyway?

  • Rich

    I’m a recently retired teacher in our district. We were all sent out a letter from the district letting us know about the burglary on December 1, 2012. We were advised that the equipment stolen had a lot of personal information on it including birthdates and Social Security numbers. The letter also stated that employees from 1998-2010 were included in this data. We were also offered a free credit security plan.
    I’m hoping that Theresa can get so more information on this and I’m surprsied that this hasn’t hit the media sooner.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    Rich @ 26 & TH @ 24: regarding the break in and theft at Dent –

    CPD case #1218997 – see link to public info listed on Claycord site as of Dec 06, 2012 http://claycord.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/burg.jpg.

    Very basic date, case # and general category of report, shows burglary/school/institution.
    Perhaps more info available by case #?

  • Rich

    These are great names on this blog.
    Here’s a bit more information. Under the first Measure C, the MDUSD installed a video surveillance system in just about all of it’s sites. The cameras all hook up to a massive hard drive that can be backed up and camera angles can be changed and the system will zoom in. Under measure A, all of the buildings were equipped with motion sensors as well as new smoke detectors.
    It would seem to me that the Dent Center would know approximately what time the burglary occurred and they should have video that shows someone going in.
    Also, the district Tech Department went through a major change, about two years ago, and started putting most of the data storage on site main frames. The individual computers would basically access the main frames for data.

  • g

    Theresa; Have you been able to get any info on the break-ins at Holbrook since Pedersen Inc. moved in there? How much, what kinds of measure C equipment was taken?

    Can anyone think of a really good reason for a personal lap-top to have personnel records stored on it? Isn’t it prudent to clean out the download folder on a regular basis on any computer? Does anyone know who’s laptop it was yet?

  • Doctor J

    The California Office of Privacy Protections is against it. “Do not store records containing SSNs on computers or other electronic devices that are not secured against unauthorized access.” http://www.privacy.ca.gov/consumers/ssn_rec.pdf

  • Rich

    Here’s the statement from the district on what happened;
    One of our offices was burglarized on Saturday, December 1,2012 and a password-protected computer was stolen after thieves broke a window. Law enforcement and district staff were immediately alerted because the office was protected by a security camera, motion detector, and an alarm. The stolen computer contained Excel and Word files that included employees names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers for employees and former employees who worked at the District between 1998 and 2010. The District is working diligently with law enforcement. We have no reason to believe that the computer was stolen for the information on it or that the information on it has been improperly used in any way.

  • Doctor J

    So lets see the playback from the security camera — its a public record.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have left messages and sent emails to the supt, Greg Rolen, Jeff McDaniel and Joe Estrada asking if the security camera picked up the burglary, but I have not heard back.
    In the past, former interim supt. Dick Nicoll said the district was able to apprehend burglars based on security camera images.

  • Doctor J

    Maybe they know who it was and don’t want us to know !

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m sure they must know whose it was. I have heard a rumor about whose it was, but I won’t print it without confirmation.

  • g

    Dr. J @32: That may fall under ‘attorney-client privilege. ;)

    Rich: What was the date on the letter? Did it take nearly 3 weeks to send the warning?

    Isn’t it interesting that they don’t think it was taken “for the information on it,” indicating that they think the thief just wanted any computer, but then left another (or maybe more) that were in the same area?

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m assuming the letter was sent very recently, since some employees I’ve contacted said they didn’t know anything about it.

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, how about a PRA on the surveilance tape — they are just like 911 tapes; 100% public records. Who is Steven Lawrence protecting ?

  • Doctor J

    Why not get the police recorded 911 or other telephone call reporting it — might have identified the burglar.

  • Rich

    The letter was dated December 18, 2012.

  • g

    To me, even more interesting maybe than who the burglar was, is whose computer was it and did it have just “certain” employees’ information? If so, then not so much which employees, but what was the name or indicated purpose of the file folder the information was kept in–such as a title that might indicate something like, “employees who have voted for or against something,” or “who speak out in public” or “have/may file grievances,” or heaven forbid, “employees certain to cooperate”…

  • Doctor J

    If we knew which wing, it would narrow the search. Any laptop with retiree information including SSN most likely is going to be located in either personnel or finance. I still think the burglar will lead to the reason it was taken. I don’t know whether we should call this DentGATE or BurglarGATE or other ????

  • Theresa Harrington

    Both Trustees Barbara Oaks and Brian Lawrence have told me Greg Rolen is the point person to answer questions. The only problem is: he’s not responding to phone and email messages.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#43 So much for transparency.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have obtained the letter from two anonymous sources.

  • Doctor J

    Another MDUSD story with Greg Rolen “refused comment”. 18 days before notification to those with stolen SSN’s ? that’s a big story !! How do they know how many SSN’s were on the laptop ? Why doesn’t the Supt have a policy in place to prevent that ? Lots of questions and NO ANSWERS.

  • g

    How about Thought we could cover-it-up Gate.
    But then word of it came out in Theresa’s Blog, so — how about…”damnitalltohellgate!”

  • Doctor J

    The burglary . . . ties to Watergate . . .. Lawrence’s paranoia . . . ties to Nixon . . . .Eberhart looks kind of like Halderman . . . . Rolen reminds me of G. Gordon Liddy . . .

  • Theresa Harrington

    Although the district is not responding to questions about this very important topic, I just received the “Good Newsletter” in my inbox. No mention of the theft.

  • Doctor J

    LOL. Theresa, do you really think the theft of thousands of SSN’s is “Good News” ? Especially when they have an ID on the perp and refuse to prosecute him/her ? ROFLMAO