Teacher Contract Negotiations Could Have A Second Go-Round
The Park City Board of Education abruptly terminated all salary negotiations earlier this month in anticipation of deep budget cuts to state education funding. However, the Utah legislature met in a special session last week and preserved a 1.8% increase to school funding.
In May, school districts throughout the state were asked to plan for scenarios that would cut up to10% of the 2021school budgets. Due to the economic downturn in tax revenues caused by the COVID-19 shut-downs, the Park City School District approved the 2021 budget last week reflecting the requested 10% reductions. It passed unanimously. Now that the legislature has approved a 1.8% increase to school funding, negotiations will resume.
Park City Education Association Co-president Julie Hooker is hopeful that the revised budget targets will allow compensation discussions to restart. She says teachers had to work 24/7 to support students while transitioning overnight to virtual learning.
“You know, the hope is to be fair and equitable across the board to make sure that we can still attract and retain the highest quality teachers. You know there is some frustration from teachers after what they had done to support distance learning. You know our teachers flipped on a dime and were presenting curriculum electronically in a day.”
Hooker anticipates teachers at all levels, especially in the elementary grades, will have to develop individual learning plans for many students after six months of being out of the classroom. She says Park City has a history of good faith bargaining and hopes that they’ll have a contract by the time school resumes in August.
“So, what are we going to go back in and solve? I applaud Todd Hauber for his efforts to find where we can make cuts. Well, the Park City Education Association wants to be a part of that. We want to look at what do we really need for the success of our students.”
Carol Lear is the Utah State Board Member representing Park City and Salt Lake City. She says the 1.8% increase to the WPU is better than they expected but only covers the cost of inflation.
“But 1.8 increase to the WPU is really not enough to fund teacher salary increases because I think the number is about 2.2. That just barely covers steps and lanes and increases to insurance and things like that, so I don't think they'll be increases to salaries this year."
Lear says the most flexible funding school districts get is in the WPU. It funds most of their employment and student costs. There are some special programs the legislature singles out for specific funding such as additional school counselors, mental health workers, nurses or IT programs.
“What the legislature is saying is you didn’t get cut. We absolutely did get cut from what we expected to get last January. We just didn't get cut below how we were funded, in fact, we still had a little bit of an increase from the previous school year.”
She says $13 million was cut for overall administrative budgets which are Principals, Superintendents, and other administrative leaders.
An increase to the school budget would require a public hearing. The next Park City Board of Education meeting is scheduled for August 18.