Dear New Haven Community,
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the latest developments on salary negotiations with the New Haven Teachers Association. (NHTA)
Numerous emails have filled my inbox regarding negotiations and a possible strike that seems imminent at this time. NHTA has set Monday, May 20th as the target date for a concerted work stoppage. By law they have every right to take this action. I want to emphatically state that no one wants a strike and no one ever wins when a strike occurs.
Yesterday, the bargaining team representing New Haven Unified School District’s management met with the bargaining team of the New Haven Teachers Association in a confidential mediation session aimed at reaching an agreement and preventing a strike. Management made two confidential offers at mediation, one of which included an on-schedule salary increase for both this school year and next school year. However, both of the District’s offers were rejected by NHTA. NHTA issued one confidential counter offer, which the District likewise rejected. At the end of the mediation session, the parties agreed to exchange last, best and final offers, which could be disclosed to the public and represent revised positions from which the parties stood prior to jointly declaring impasse. The District’s last, best, and final offer is a 3% off the schedule increase for this year and a 1% on the schedule increase for the next year. This proposal from the District represented approximately $5 million for NHTA over a three-year period. NHTA’s last, best, and final offer was a 10% on the schedule increase over two years, which would cost the District at least $20 million over a three-year period and is unsustainable. I am disheartened the two sides could not reach an agreement. As a consequence, it appears the strike will take place as NHTA has planned.
Education is a noble profession. Teaching is the highest calling on earth. I became a teacher because of the personal impact teachers had on my life. There is no way on this green earth I ever want to do anything to harm children or the professionals that work with them every day. It is obvious from the number of emails I have received that many of you feel the same way about teachers as I do.
As previously stated, no one wants a strike. I want to assure you that in the event of a strike we have put plans in place to assure the safety of our students. Learning will continue in schools. New Haven Unified Management is doing everything possible to minimize the impact of these salary negotiations and a potential strike on our students, families, and the communities we serve.
While we are working to find a solution to the current situation, it is imperative to remember there are two sides to every story. This is a highly emotional time. During times like this, it is essential for all of us to stay focused on the facts and not opinion. It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan who stated “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Although this has been mentioned numerous times we are proud of the fact that New Haven Unified has the highest teacher retention rate in Alameda County. Why do our teachers stay so long? Because New Haven has a reputation for taking care of its employees.
At the end of last year, our operating budget had an ending balance of $26 million. Of that $26 million, $2.3 million was in restricted dollars (in programs like State Medi-Cal and Restricted Maintenance) and $13.6 million made up our required reserves. This leaves over $12 million unallocated. With State funding for schools reaching its cap under the Local Control Funding Formula and with no signs of increased enrollment in the near future, the District needs to stretch this $12 million to afford annual expected cost increases (including cost of step and column pay adjustments, pension benefits, and insurance premiums) and to balance a three-year budget, as required by law (See FAQ dated May 7, 2019) through the end of 2020-21.
We made reductions to our budget this year in the amount of $3.9 million dollars for 18-19. We need to make approximately $4.0 million in reductions for next year. The reductions for next year do not include any requested pay increases. Future cuts could include reductions in after-school programs and services to students.
Issues are being conflated. When we reached our last settlement with NHTA in 2018, we agreed to reopen negotiations this year for salary and calendar only. Issues such as class size, social emotional supports, and layoffs have been publicized by NHTA to take the focus off that fact. NHTA knows what they agreed to last year.
Simply stated, we cannot afford to give a substantial, on the schedule, salary increase. We have gone through both Mediation and Fact Finding in our attempts to reach a settlement. Neither of those processes has brought us to an agreement. The District is deficit spending and has already initiated cuts and budget reductions to address its ongoing budget shortfall in a way that balances the interests and welfare of the students it serves.
The Fact Finders advisory report made recommendations regarding a possible salary increase that would bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, the Fact Finding Chair’s recommendations are not reasonable given our current financial situation. Yesterday, the District Bargaining Team worked diligently to align its last, best and final offer to the spirit of the recommendations in the Fact Finding Report.
The NHTA Bargaining Team's last, best, and final offer of a 10% on the schedule raise over two years, would bankrupt New Haven, lead to negative certification and a possible state takeover. As superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure that does not happen.
Emotions are running high as the strike date draws nearer. I ask that we lower the tension and focus on finding a constructive and reasonable outcome that will lead to a satisfactory resolution.
Dr. Arlando Smith,