The Bonsall Unified School District teachers associations is currently in negotiations with the district, and the teachers are hoping to see in increase in pay.
“In the past Great Recession, when the economy was recovering, the teachers didn’t receive any raise at all,” said Julie Urquhart Anguiano, the vice president for the Bonsall Teachers Association. “We had zero raises because we understood there was no money, and wanted to do what was right for the kids. When someone becomes a teacher, they do it for the love of it, and not to become rich.”
According to Bonsall district superintendent Dr. Justin Cunningham, discussions have taken place a few times between the district and Bonsall teachers.
“Where we are as a whole state is really interesting,” he said. “We are waiting to see. The governor’s proposed budget is very sketchy; there is talk of deferring funds. That’s how cuts started last time. A lot of districts around us in San Diego County are having to lay off people. We see that North County districts are laying off teachers as well, and we don’t want to go there. We are being very wary.”
Anguiano stated that the Bonsall district is spending money, but not on its teachers.
“[Teacher negotiations] are being postponed,” she said. “We are being told, ‘If Proposition 51, passes, or when Proposition 55 passes. We have delayed negotiations, we don’t have a contract for the school year, and we are three-quarters of the way through the year.”
Anguiano stated that prior years’ negotiations were settled, at latest, in December.
“We ideally would like negotiations settled earlier than that, like in September,” she added.
“During the Great Recession, we told our staff that we were not going to lay off teachers,” said Cunningham. “Now, what we want to do is wait and see. A lot of money had been owed from cuts made in 2008 to 2011, but those cuts are close to being restored. There a very little bit left, and we are waiting to see how April 15 will affect state revenues; as tax revenues come in, and as the governor’s budget is revised on May 10, there are possible ways they may come up with more money. We are in a wait and see mode. I understand that the union wants to settle things now, but we can’t commit to providing a raise.”
An example of how the Bonsall district has cared for its teachers is the fact that the district opted for furloughs instead of layoffs during the Great Recession, said Cunningham.
“That was because of the strong trust relationship,” he said. “We took a total of 10 days over two years. I don’t think anyone had done that at the time, and it took an amazing level of trust from teachers. We have made it through tough times trusting each other. That’s a wonderful example of having an operation that has a lot of trust and developing a commitment. However, it’s important not to act without knowing what’s coming.”
Cunningham also said teachers at Bonsall received a pay increase in the last school year.
“There was a 4.5 percent increase on salary, and the total compensation package was 10 percent,” said Anguiano. “A large portion went into our California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which we don’t see until we retire, and some going towards our benefits. The total compensation was not actual money in our pockets. Right now, I have some teachers in our district that are taking less money home than they did last year because they did not go up a step in pay scale, but our California State Teachers’ Retirement System costs increased.”
Anguiano stated the primary focus of the Bonsall teacher union is a pay raise.
“Our compensation is ranking in the bottom third of districts, and the pay steps are even worse,” she said, explaining that school districts with similar pay scales are in the mountain areas, such as Jamul. “We are considered an eastern coastal district, and teachers in the area should make more money than the far east because of the cost of living.”
Anguiano stated the Bonsall Teachers Union is interested in looking at restructuring the teachers’ salary schedule, which would more evenly disperse pay increases for teachers.
“Our beginning teachers are ranked 11 out of 36 in pay, but once they have maintained their loyalty to the district, we see that we are lower in rank,” said Anguiano. “We meet again with the district on March 28, and can find out where we stand. As a teachers union we don’t want to go to impasse, and don’t want to picket. That’s not what’s best for students, teachers, and the district.”
Cunningham believes that the Bonsall school district and teachers union has a strong trust relationship.
“Historically, we have had an amazingly good relationship,” he said. “When looking at how to work out negotiations, it’s always going to be tricky to keep that trust, but the number one priority is to have trust between teachers and the board. Back in the old days, it used to be common to have the two groups have an adversarial relationship, but that’s not good for anyone. We are looking for a a good, solid return on our investment in teachers. We want to retain and attract good teachers, and believe me, I wish we could pay what they deserve. I know what a good education can do for the community, economy and military, but we also have to act as a steward for our taxpayers’ money.”
According to Anguiano, the teachers union is fairly open about what it wants, especially through the negotiation process.
“We keep getting postponed, and not getting this settled, while every time we look at the district board meeting agenda’s packet, we see money being spent,” she said. “Hundreds of thousands are being spent, and we can’t get a simple yes or no. It’s frustrating because the negotiation time is time away from students and our class that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. We are a little tired of being treated so unfairly as money is being spent on so many different things.”