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SF teachers union ratifies tentative contract, school board to vote next

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SFUSD supporters rally outside San Francisco’s Federal Building on April 11 to protest against budget cuts to public schools and the lack of affordable teacher housing in S.F. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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A tentative contract agreement that ended nine months of contract negotiations between the San Francisco Unified School District and The City’s teachers union was ratified by the union’s membership Friday and will go before the Board of Education for approval today.

Some 70 percent of the members represented by United Educators of San Francisco who voted were in favor of the new contract that promises an 11 percent pay increase over the next three years and a one-time, 3 percent bonus — of which 2 percent could be paid out as early as this month.

In addition, teachers could benefit from another 2 percent pay bump should San Francisco voters approve a parcel tax add-on by way of a ballot measure, which the union is seeking to place on the November ballot.

The Board of Education is expected to finalize the adoption of the new contract with a vote on the tentative agreement today. The contracts will go into effect retroactively to July 1, 2017.

Apart from the pay increase, the union has made gains around language that will improve working conditions for educators by requiring professional development and better learning environments for students by encouraging more parent participation.

Several new committees were formed to address health issues and around safe and supportive schools, UESF Executive Vice President Susan Solomon said.

The existing Labor/Management Health and Safety Committee — which examines factors that affect learning and teaching environments like safety, the physical maintenance of buildings, and works to implement the district’s Safe and Supportive Schools policy — will for the first time be bolstered with parent participants, she said.

Solomon called the wage increases that came out of the negotiations a “good contract” in comparison to educator contracts in other school districts across California.

Added to the 14 percent wage hike that was secured during previous contract negotiations in 2014, SFUSD’s teacher and paraeducator salaries will have increased at least 25 percent by 2020, she said.

“Over six years, our members will see a 25 percent salary increase, plus a 2 percent bonus this year. Paraeducators will see even more — it’s closer to 30 percent for them,” Solomon said.

But not all of the union members who voted thought the contract and wage increases were competitive with other school districts or adequate to keep teachers housed — and working — in San Francisco.

“Currently the salaries that other school districts pay are significantly more than San Francisco,” said Christopher Pepper, a health teacher and 15-year veteran of the school district. “We should be looking at the salaries paid in San Mateo, Marin, Mountain View — and make sure our teachers are paid at the same level. And currently, they are not.”

In Mountain View, a teacher of Pepper’s tenure makes about “$50,000 more” annually in salary, he said.

“I don’t think the school district can do it on its own. We need some contributions from The City and ideas from the public to fix this situation,” Pepper said. “We lose people every year and we often lose our best, most experienced teachers because they can make more just a short BART ride away.”

Ahead of Friday’s vote, a number of educators from over a dozen San Francisco schools rallied behind a “UESF No Vote” campaign to encourage union members to vote against the tentative agreement. The effort was intended to urge the union’s leadership to make a bigger ask of the school district in terms of compensation.

The campaign also called for the restoration of past and proposed staff cuts.

“We all know how expensive it is to live here in San Francisco and increasingly in the Bay Area — that’s why we see the need for more revenue as well,” said Solomon, adding that union members have the right “to express their views and opinions.”

“We took it to [the] people for a democratic vote and a large majority vote to ratify,” she said.

Solomon added that the union will be “very involved” in campaigning for the parcel tax.

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that 70 percent of United Educators of San Francisco members who voted were in favor of the new contract. The title for Susan Solomon, UESF’s executive vice president, has also been corrected. Additionally, following publication of this story, the date when 2 percent of the 3 percent bonus for teachers will be paid out changed from January to December.

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