By Alex White
Labor negotiations between the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District began yesterday in Torrance at the South Bay UTA headquarters.
MBUTA and the district began the “sunshining” process, in which they received each other’s proposals for the negotiations, at the March 7 board meeting.
The March 7 meeting began with speeches from members of MBUTA and its supporters, including MBUTA president and Costa science teacher Karl Kurz. The speakers advocated for a market-rate adjustment for the certificated staff members. The district last raised certificated staff salaries in 2007, but it hasn’t made a cost-of-living adjustment toward the salaries since 2002.
“It’s time a first-class district offer its teachers first-class compensation,” Kurz said.
As a symbol of unification and protest, nearly 150 MBUTA members attended the March 7 meeting to support their union leaders and make the district aware of the scope of the issue.
“I speak with pride when I say that I am an MBUSD teacher,” Manhattan Beach Middle School science teacher Rebecca Allen said. “I am not proud, however, of the fact that I am facing difficult financial times.”
Both MBUTA and the district have presented their initial bargaining proposals. Negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement continued in detail yesterday, but the specifics of the negotiations were unknown at the time of publication.
MBUTA has assembled a negotiation team that consists of five certificated staff members: Costa social science teachers Bill Fauver and Adam Geczi, Costa English teacher Wendy Thornton, MBMS social science teacher Jed Rucker and Pennekamp Elementary School teacher Linda Hunt.
“The teachers are highly valuable to the district,” Geczi said.
Although the financial situation within the state has not seen much improvement in recent years, the district has not been forced to release teachers for the last two years. With nowhere else to turn for additional funds, the board decided year after year to keep MBUTA compensation constant.
Some MBUTA members suggest funding salaries increases through the district surplus reserve that has accumulated over the past years.
“Three years from now the reserves will be gone,” Board member Penny Bordokas said. “A raise is an ongoing increase, and we cannot sustain that.”
Much of the district’s future funding hinges on the passage of a proposed California tax initiative in November. If passed, the measure would give additional funding toward districts across the
state, including MBUSD. Although Deputy Superintendent Rick Bagley hears the teachers’ requests, he believes that in all likelihood, there simply will not be enough money.
“They’re going to say what they want,” Bagley said. “Then we’re going to say, ‘let’s talk about this and come to a conclusion.’”