The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District reached a tentative two-year collective bargaining agreement with its teachers union Thursday, July 22nd.

Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association union negotiators and school district administrators agreed to a one-percent salary increase and a scaled back healthcare package.

“The settlement provides a modest pay raise for our teachers while simultaneously containing some healthcare costs for the district,” said Harry Keiley, union president. “It is a creative solution. It is a good solution.”

Ratification of the agreement by the union membership and the district board of education is expected in August and September.

Keiley said the union executive board unanimously approved the agreement.

He also said the agreement is expected to have full support from the union’s 750 members.

Board of education member Julia Brownley said the agreement also has full support from the seven members of the district school board.

“We have a tentative agreement with our teachers union, one that we’re very proud of,” said John Deasy, district superintendent.

Proposed terms of the agreement cover the past 2003-2004 school year and the current 2004-2005 school year that began Thursday, July 1st.

PAY RAISES — A one-percent, across-the-board salary increase will be implemented in February.

The other one-percent salary increase, which was deferred from the 2002-2003 school year because of district budget shortfalls, took effect this month.

The pay raise in February will cost the district approximately $225,000.

Beginning teachers earn approximately $39,000 per year.

Teachers with master’s degrees and 27 years of experience earn approximately $78,000 per year.

HEALTHCARE — A scaled-back healthcare package will save the district an estimated $500,000 from January to December 2005, which is the health insurance coverage year.

The teachers union agreed to help the district offset rising healthcare costs by limiting the district’s contributions to PPO (preferred provider organization) plans for single teachers.

In the agreement, teachers without dependents who choose an expensive PPO plan will pay for any part of their coverage that costs more than a basic HMO (health maintenance organization) plan.

Healthcare plans are provided by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS).

The agreement allows all teachers to have access to comprehensive healthcare coverage.

“The agreement protects the integrity of our members’ health benefits while protecting the fiscal solvency of the district,” said Marc Sanschagrin, chair of the union negotiation team.

OTHER TERMS — The teachers union and the school district also agreed to form a Joint Insurance Committee to find alternatives to the CalPERS healthcare program.

“During the past several years, healthcare costs have more than doubled. It’s in our members’ and district’s best interest to look for an alternative to CalPERS,” said Sanschagrin.

Other terms of the tentative collective bargaining agreement include:

n specifying assigned duties and hours of work for teachers during individual education plan meetings, modified day meetings and child development service meetings;

n adding a $10,000 stipend each year for ten years to the base salary of teachers who obtain National Board certification; and

n developing an incentive program that rewards schools and teachers for improving student attendance.

‘FISCALLY SOUND’ — Before the tentative agreement is formally approved, the school district must publicly disclose provisions of the agreement.

A handful of school districts throughout California recently needed financial assistance from the state because those districts did not have the funds necessary to adhere to their collective bargaining agreements, said Kenneth Bailey, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District chief financial officer.

The State Legislature last week approved amendments to Assembly Bill 1200, which sets new standards for school district accountability.

“Within these [public] disclosures, the school district must provide information to the County [of Los Angeles] and the public that indicate the school district is financially able to meet the agreed upon provisions of the collective bargaining agreement,” Bailey said.

Deasy and Bailey are required to sign “a lot of paperwork” and will be sanctioned by the California Department of Education if the school district needs state assistance to finance a collective bargaining agreement, Deasy said.

Brownley said the school district is “fiscally sound.”

“We are in a unique situation where we have been able to reach our agreement when so many other school districts throughout the state have not been able to,” Brownley said.

Santa Monica and Malibu voters approved parcel taxes in recent years that provide the school district with an estimated $6.5 million annually for Measure S and $3.4 million annually for Measure Y.

In the spring, Santa Monica City Council entered into a five-year joint use agreement with the school district in which the city will provide the district with $6 million annually in exchange for community use of school facilities.

“The teachers union is grateful to the community for their never-ending support of our public schools with the passage of parcel taxes and to the City of Santa Monica for their generous contributions to a joint use agreement,” said Keiley.

“Without the city’s support and without the community’s support, this settlement would have been highly unlikely and our district would look very different going ahead,” he said.