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SRVUSD Update: Budget and Negotiations
Posted 2/15/19

 

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) wants the same things our teachers want. First and foremost, we want our students to learn in the very best educational environments and to be provided with as many opportunities as possible. We also want optimal working conditions. While our interests often go hand in hand, they sometimes conflict because the District has an obligation to this community to balance various needs with budget realities to maintain fiscal solvency, and to protect our students from adult disputes regarding the allocation of funds. We take our responsibilities to our students, our employees and our community very seriously. With the significant lack of funding education receives from the State, and with the SRVUSD being the 4th lowest funded per student unified school district in California under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), we are often faced with the need to make very difficult choices about the allocation of limited resources.

 

If you participate in social media, you have likely seen recent discussions about our negotiations with the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA). In today’s world of unverified news and information, we understand how challenging it can be to discern factual information from opinion. The District will provide you verified and accurate information to keep you informed about decisions that impact our students, staff and community. As such, this communication addresses two frequently referenced discussions.

 

One such discussion is about class sizes and working conditions. While there is much debate in academia over whether, and to what extent, class sizes make a difference in student achievement, the District supports the idea that reduced class sizes contribute to improved working conditions, which help teachers, and consequently, improve learning environments for students. The challenge is that improving working conditions through reducing class size comes with a significant price tag. In total, reducing average class sizes by just one student across all levels would cost the District at least $5 million --- and by four or five students -- would cost $20 to $25 million, ongoing and annually.

 

While we want these things because they benefit students, we need sufficient ongoing revenues to afford and sustain them. Our challenge is not in identifying what we value as a district, but rather in choosing how to best allocate limited resources to reflect our values. Given the fact that SRVUSD’s annual cost increases of about 4% exceed the State’s Cost of Living proposal of 3.46% for 2019-2020, we begin the budgeting conversation under the cloud of  deficit spending.

 

The second frequently referenced discussion has to do with teacher salaries. Yes, we value our employees and have a long history of increasing their compensation so that our District remains at or near the top in the region for total employee compensation. Over the last five years, our employees received a cumulative total of 14% in ongoing salary increases and an additional 8.3% in further one-time salary payments. This year’s offer of a 3% ongoing salary increase is one of the highest salary offers in our region for 2018-2019. Once negotiated, this increase would translate to 17% in cumulative ongoing salary increases over a 6-year period. In addition, employees receive annual pay increases for step and column movement and longevity for additional years of service and professional development. Finally, unlike the great majority of school districts, SRVUSD remains one of the last districts in California that continues to offer fully-paid, family-level health benefits for full-time employees. This school year alone, the District spent $35 million on health benefits, in addition to salary.

 

Last summer, the non-partisan organization, West Ed, published a report called the “Silent Recession: Why California School Districts are Under Water Despite Increases in Funding.” The report details the very same issues that school districts are challenged with across the state, namely: risings costs, declining enrollment, declining revenue, and a lack of state funding to cover the shortfalls. We share this with you so that you know the financial challenges facing SRVUSD are taking place in many, many school districts throughout the state and set the stage for contentious negotiations with employee groups.

 

We want what our employees want. We want what is best for students. We also want to protect the long term financial health of this District so that we do not end up like other high profile districts that have abandoned this fundamental responsibility and are now unable to get their budgets approved without making draconian cuts. Moreover, we want the State of California to prioritize education and stop pitting local school districts and their employees against each other in order to do what is right for students.

 

We realize that communication is crucial during this time of uncertainty and we will update you regularly. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the complexities of our situation. We are happy to answer your questions and appreciate your comments. You can email us at Communications@srvusd.net.