Last week on Jan. 31, the Salem-Keizer Public School district put out a video on various social media platforms describing their current offer as they continue to bargain with Salem- Keizer teachers.
In response, the Salem-Keizer Education Association (SKEA) made a response video highlighting the good and bad about the district’s offer.
In the video, SKPS superintendent Andrea Castañeda described the current offer, worth $37 million over the next two years and $17 million more than the last offer made.
Currently, the SKPS district is undergoing a budget crunch that has resulted in cuts proposed to save around $31 million by cutting things such as travel and supply budgets, according to SKPS Superintendent Andrea Castañeda.
The offer described in the SKPS video includes a $5000 offer as a recognition and retention bonus for each full-time employee to be paid within 10 days of contract ratification.
The offer also includes a 9% pay increase over the next two years with 5.5% this year and 3.5% in 2025.
The district has changed their benefits offer by increasing its contribution to health insurance plans overall by $140 with $100 more per month offered this year and by $40 more in 2025, amongst other changes.
“With this our staff will be able to choose between more health plans with little or no out of pocket expense,” Castañeda said.
The new proposal also includes changes to staff working conditions through an increased elementary school prep time as well as adding new leave benefits such as reducing restrictions on when teachers can take leave and making leave more flexible.
The proposal offers ways for staff to seek leadership opportunities by offering pay to teachers who bring “their experience, their wisdom and their voice to decision-making,” according to Castañeda.
Castañeda described how many of these budgetary issues arose in the past months in part from the “broken state funding formula.”
According to a 2023 Oregon Legislative Policy and Research office report, school funding comes from several sources: the general fund, primarily income taxes; lottery receipts; and the Fund for Student Success as well as from revenue from the Corporate Activities tax.
Money from these sources goes into the State School Fund (SSF) while additional money from the Corporate Activities tax is distributed in the form of grants to school districts for specific purposes.
The Salem-Keizer area, with its low property income tax margin, requires schools to rely mainly on funding from the state legislature.
Funding, Castañeda noted, is what has prompted the district to initiate staff cuts for hundreds of workers in order to balance the upcoming 2024-25 budget.
These cuts come after a 2022 7.85% pay raise for SKPS administrators, which came on top of their cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
Castañeda said that out of her $285,000 per year contract she will donate $30,000 over the next two years though, in an interview with the Statesman Journal, did not answer whether her salary will be cut.
For comparison, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, makes $98,600 per year.
In response to the district’s video, SKEA described how there were “several highlights but also lowlights,” SKEA President Tyler Scialo-Lakeberg said.
SKEA members acknowledged the $5000 bonus gesture from the district but noted that this bonus was in lieu of a retroactive 5.5% COLA increase for teachers and staff and did not fully address the group’s needs.
The video also highlighted that the district noted increased classroom prep time for elementary teachers, there was no mention of middle or high schools teacher prep time.
In addition, Scialo-Lakeberg mentioned that the most recent district offer did not address the needed reduction in class sizes as well as teacher case load reductions.
According to a SKEA mediation log, found at Salemkeizerea.org, other sticking points for SKEA involve creating more Joint Committees to increase staff involvement in decision-making, which the district has disallowed since the pandemic.
The document also noted that they are still bargaining over the official definition for full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, compensation for teachers who “sell their prep time” by taking on additional classes and a clear definition of staff work days going only eight hours.
Scialo-Lakerberg noted that negotiations are still on-going and that they are going in each time hopeful to come out with a deal that benefits teachers and students.
The most recent bargaining meet between the parties was Feb. 6.
Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105
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