Covina-Valley School District teachers’ strike averted

Teachers’ union leaders called off a strike scheduled for today in the Covina-Valley Unified School District after reaching a tentative agreement late Wednesday night with officials of the school system of 13,400 students.

“Schools will be open and continue on a regular schedule tomorrow, December 1,” the superintendent said. Elizabeth Eminhizer announced in an email to families in the Eastern District of the San Gabriel Valley. “We look forward to continuing to provide our students with enriching education and extracurricular activities. »

“We are grateful to our exceptional teaching staff for the work they do with our students to provide them with educational excellence, every day,” she added.

The union also sent out an announcement: “A teachers’ strike in the Covina-Valley Unified School District was narrowly averted as a round-robin bargaining session today resulted in a tentative agreement.”

Both announcements were made shortly before midnight.

The strike, if it had taken place, would have been a first test for K-12 labor disputes in the post-pandemic landscape. For the most part, school districts in California have record funding due to COVID-19 relief aid and record state tax revenue. But much of that money is one-time aid or based on tax revenues that state officials say are not certain to persist at current levels.

The settlement came after hundreds of teachers demonstrated outside district headquarters on Wednesday morning. The union described the interim pact as a compromise that resolves a key sticking point, a cap on health benefits that would have burdened newly hired teachers and future teachers with higher health costs.

The compromise avoids a two-tier structure for benefits that the district had desired. The district had been pushing for new hires to pay more over time for dependent health care. The district had asserted that, overall, its benefits proposal would have remained generous under the proposed structure.

The union wanted to maintain the status quo on benefits, arguing that the district could afford to do so.

Under the tentative agreement, which workers must ratify, employees keep their benefits at no premium cost except under the most expensive plan, as before. But, over time, the cost of health care for dependents will increase. Effective Jan. 1, employee premiums for dependent coverage increase two to three times current amounts, “but still remain low,” according to the district. And beginning Jan. 1, 2024, the district will cover 80% and unit members will receive 20% of medical plan premium increases.

This benefits the district as there is cost sharing related to future health cost increases. The victory for the union is that for recent and new employees, the terms exclude a “hard cap” on what the district will pay for dependents’ benefits, which could have significantly increased costs over time.

The new agreement also includes a 5.2% salary increase for the 2021-22 school year and a 7% increase for the current school year.

The two parties had already agreed on the amount of the increase for 2021-22. However, the amount of the increase for the current school year had not been fixed. The union offered a 10% raise as the two sides entered “fact-finding,” which is part of the state’s mediation process in collective bargaining.

In addition, the union had intended that all former employees be covered by the increase for the periods during which they worked. Instead, as part of the overall compromise, retroactive increases would only cover departing workers who were employed on July 1.

As part of the agreement, special education teachers would receive additional pay for additional responsibilities related to handling the cases of students with disabilities — more than the district had offered but not as much as the union had requested.

Seized on Wednesday, an agreement had seemed far from certain. The district had posted updates online, as had the union.

Negotiations began at 9 a.m., shortly after the morning rally which drew more than 300 participants. Teachers returned to district headquarters after school to demonstrate again.

The school system serves Covina, West Covina, Glendora, San Dimas, Irwindale, and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. It has nine elementary schools, three middle schools, three comprehensive high schools, a complementary school and an online school, as well as preschool and adult education.

Nearly 70% of students in the district are from low-income families and about 80% are Latino.

The district employs approximately 575 teachers. The teachers’ union also represents nurses and speech therapists in the district.

Los Angeles Times

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