Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Bargaining between San Diego Unified and its teachers is dragging on behind closed doors more than a year after their old contract expired. It has now stretched longer than the negotiations that spurred a teachers’ strike over a decade ago.
“It’s not a record,” said longtime school board member John de Beck. “But it’s getting close.”
Progress has been slow despite the election of new school board members backed by the union, which was widely perceived as a coup for labor. Both sides first aired their proposals last spring, a timeline that would ideally allow for a new contract to be signed before the last one expires.
While the old agreement has expired, it still remains in effect, guaranteeing the same rights to teachers. But without a contract, the school district is left with the ongoing tensions that linger without a settled contract and the possibility, however likely or unlikely, of a strike. Though the talks are taking place behind closed doors, interviews and a handful of written proposals reveal that the two sides are still struggling to reach agreement on a wide range of issues.
Key issues include pay, whether health benefits will be trimmed or altered, how teachers will be evaluated and how often, and how to protest warnings. And one of the thorniest issues still looms: How to limit teacher workloads without bogging schools down in negotiations over minutiae.
Several factors slowed the pace of bargaining. Three of the key people bargaining for San Diego Unified have either retired or left the negotiations midstream. The union likewise replaced its executive director in January, changing another face at the table.