NTA Negotiations Update #6 2019-2020

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NUSD AND NTA CONTINUE TO MAKE PROGRESS AND NARROW DIFFERENCES DISTRICT PRESENTS PROPOSALS ON WORKYEAR, WORKDAY, CLASS SIZE, SPECIAL EDUCATION AND COMPENSATION

DISTRICT SEEKS NTA COLLABORATION IN FACING FISCAL CHALLENGES AND PROPOSES NO INCREASES IN COSTS – INCLUDING SLARY – AT THIS TIME 
BUT DOES NOT PROPOSE ANY REDUCTIONS IN UNIT MEMBER COMPENSATION

This is Newark Unified School District’s (NUSD) sixth Negotiations Update for 2019-2020 contract negotiations between the District and the Newark Teachers Association (NTA). The District will distribute the Negotiations Update after meetings with NTA to inform our community on the progress of negotiations.

Bargaining teams for NUSD and NTA held their seventh negotiations session for the 2019-2020 school year on October 22, 2019. The parties continued to make progress and acknowledged that hard work and constructive conversations lie ahead in order to craft agreements on remaining articles that concern major subjects. The District team expressed confidence that these outstanding issues can and will be resolved based on the level of candor and trust that has been established at the bargaining table.

Highlights of the meetings, by subject area, are as follows:

Compensation – District Seeks NTA’s Collaboration But Is Not Proposing Any Reductions: The District opened this discussion by acknowledging NTA’s assistance to the District in prior economic crises and was hopeful such help would be forthcoming during the present budget challenges. The full text of the District’s response to NTA’s proposal for a 10% salary increase over the next three years is as follows:

1. As NTA is aware, the District’s current fiscal situation is perilous. Due to an ongoing structural deficit, approximately $2 million in expenditure reductions are necessary to address this shortfall and obviate the need for County Office intervention.
2. The District believes that, under normal circumstances, NTA’s initial proposal on salary increases for the next three years would be a reasonable starting point for negotiations.
3. As stated in #1 above, however, the District’s budget situation is anything but normal and the District cannot afford to increase ongoing costs as it seeks to reduce expenditures.
4. In the past, NTA has collaborated with the District when the District has sought NTA”s assistance in addressing fiscal crises, most recently during the great recession of 2008-2010.
5. The District is again in need of NTA’s understanding, cooperation and collaboration as it faces the current budgetary challenges.
6. In light of its current inability to fund compensation increases, the District has deliberately and consciously attempted to meet NTA’s other interests in proposals related to unit member working conditions with a minimum of debate or back and forth incremental bargaining.
7. Given all of the above, the District’s initial response to NTA’s Compensation proposal is to engage in an open, good faith problem-solving discussion on options for addressing this area in light of the District’s fiscal constraints, instead of “trading paper” that might serve only to hasten disagreement.

NTA inquired whether the District planned to propose salary reductions as it had in the past, for example through furlough days. The District responded unequivocally that it was not seeking any such reductions.

Instead, the District explained it was asking NTA to engage in a problem-solving dialog to come up with creative ways to acknowledge unit members’ efforts in other ways. In response to NTA, the District stated it was open to looking at changes in working conditions language so long as this did not build in future operational/structural increases in expense. The parties “brainstormed” a few such ideas but did not reach any agreements at this preliminary stage.

Special Education -District Agrees to Move Forward on NTA’s Proposal for a New Article: NTA has proposed an entire new article addressing special education issues. Although such comprehensive language does not appear in many negotiated agreements, the District considered NTA’s proposal very seriously and proposed to accept some language into the contract immediately and form a joint subcommittee to consider all of NTA’s “subject areas” and recommend what language might be added in the future.

The District’s stated rationale for moving forward in this important areas was as follows: “The District shares NTA’s interests in promoting the stability and continuity of programs offered to students with special needs.”

NTA stated it was pleasantly “surprised” by the District’s attention and “respectful response” to its entire proposal and expressed confidence that the parties would move forward constructively on this article.

Work Year – Voluntary Staff Meeting on First Teacher Workday is Only Issue: The parties are in agreement on this article except for current language allowing for a voluntary one hour staff meeting on the first teacher work day. The District withdrew its proposal to make this meeting mandatory, but NTA maintained its position to eliminate the meeting altogether. Ultimate resolution of this issue may depend on whether professional development days will continue to be offered.

Work Day _ District Withdraws All Proposals Opposed By NTA; Major Issues Remain Over NTA Proposals on Prep Time, Collaboration Time, Staff Meetings and Adjunct Duties: In an effort to move the parties closer to agreement, the District withdrew several proposals regarding attendance and personal necessity leave, etc. that had been opposed by NTA. Major differences still remain over NTA proposals noticed in the heading above.

Class Size – District Proposes No Changes to Avoid Increased Costs: The District started it could not accept NTA’s proposals – primarily calling for “hard caps” in class sizes, caseloads and student contacts – due to the increased cost of these proposals. The full text of the District’s response is as follows:

1. The District is deficit spending in excess of $2 million dollars and must reduce (not increase) operating expenses.
2. Any proposals to limit or reduce class sizes/ratios/caseloads or to increase overage payments would exacerbate, rather than help to address, the
District’s significant fiscal challenges, by hiring more employees and paying more overages.
3. The District continues to experience a decline in student enrollment. Addition of more restrictive class size etc. language reduces the District’s flexibility to allocate staff in the most efficient and effective manner.
4. The District already contributes over $7 million from the general fund (an amount that continues to increase) to provide quality programs for students with special needs, due to the historical lack of sufficient state and federal funding. Any further restrictions or limits on class sizes etc. in this area would only increase the amount of revenue needed from the general fund.

NEXT STEPS: Negotiations will resume on November 6, 2019.