Teachers in Dublin's public schools are poised to see an 8% salary increase, following a months-long negotiation process that saw a majority of unionized educators in the district in favor of striking at one point.
Chris Funk, superintendent of the Dublin Unified School District, announced a tentative agreement Friday with the Dublin Teachers Association for certificated staff in the district, which he said seeks to address the union's calls to support recruitment and retention of educators.
"We would like to thank the DUSD and DTA negotiating teams for all their hard work and dedication to creating a happy, vibrant, diverse, and appreciated workforce," Funk said in the announcement. "The work they have done helps to ensure that our students have the best chance to reach their full potential."
Funk pointed to a national teacher shortage that has made recent headlines, and the challenges it poses to his district.
"While these challenges are significant, the Dublin Unified School District is committed to creating an environment that not only retains exceptional talent, but also attracts it," Funk said. "To that end, I’m happy to announce that we have reached a tentative labor agreement with our certificated staff for the 2022-2023 school year. This agreement comes after months of hard and collaborative work on behalf of the Dublin Teachers Association and the District’s negotiating teams."
In addition to the pay increase, the tentative agreement offers additional health care benefits and a $2,500 one-time stipend for DTA members who worked during the past academic year and will continue into the current academic year as well as for new employees in 2022-23.
According to Robbie Kreitz, who was DTA president before stepping down in the spring, the union had asked the district to return to the bargaining table this month, following the approval of a state budget by Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 27.
In April the DTA, with Kreitz at the helm, held public rallies at DUSD headquarters and Dublin High School, aimed at garnering community support and awareness for their struggles to reach a deal with the district. At that time, DUSD was offering a 3.25% pay raise for certificated staff.
"We are grateful that the district was receptive to DTA's initiative to return to the table in light of the state budget being signed and prior to our July 7 mediation date," Kreitz said.
"This agreement supports DTA's ongoing commitment to recruit and retain educators that will make Dublin their forever home because in the end the continuity is what is best for all students," she added.
Earlier in the bargaining process, Kreitz and other DTA members had been outspoken in calls for a labor agreement with the district that would attract teachers to DUSD schools, and accommodate the cost of living increases that Kreitz said had been driving her colleagues to other districts.
"The housing crunch means that many teachers cannot live in the community in which they teach and with gas being $6 or something a gallon, not being able to cover the cost of a cost of living increase or price increases, we were going to lose some really good teachers that were just going to be unable to afford to teach in Dublin any more because of some of those factors," DTA bargaining chair Katina Lewis said.
Prior to Newsom signing off on the state budget this year, Lewis said that DTA had been closely following what the budget might mean for educational funding that could accommodate a pay raise and increased benefits for teachers. However, this had failed to get leverage in negotiations with the district until the budget was made official, she said.
"The difference at the table in April was DTA could already see which way the budget was going," Lewis said. "
"When the state budget came through as high as they said it was going to be, and then we had the strike vote, I think that kind of bust things open," she added.
In a practice strike vote on June 23, 96% of DTA members voted in favor of striking, according to Lewis and Kreitz.
"We were preparing for the worst, which was that even with the governor's budget, they weren't going to budge, and we needed to make sure we had all our ducks lined up first," Lewis said.
In addition to complications facing teachers and school districts in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing shortage of educational professionals, Lewis said there were problems with communication between the district's current administration and educators, making for an especially fraught negotiation process this year.
"Because of the way communications are handled from the district office, that makes this year much more difficult because communications don't seem to be handled in a respectful manner," Lewis said.
Lewis and Kreitz both noted, however, that labor negotiations are never easy. They credited a long history of continuity on the DTA bargaining team, and institutional memory within the union, as key factors that had helped to reach this year's tentative agreement.
The next steps for the agreement will be ratification from the DTA and the DUSD Board of Trustees. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 9.