Park City School District contract negotiations have been terminated by the Board of Education. An announcement was sent to district personnel stating there would be no salary increases this year due to expected revenue shortfalls from the COVID-19 impacts. A board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 4 with public input scheduled for 5 P.M.
According to Co-President of the Park City Teacher’s Association Julie Hooker, the impacts to the school district budget are not yet known and the decision to terminate negotiations is unprecedented.
“We have a long history with the Park City School District, the Park City Board of Education with interest-based bargaining and the board simply walked away from that interest-based bargaining. This decision was made unilaterally even though we were engaged in good faith negotiations at the time. It's unprecedented and that's part of why we're so confused. We believe that this decision was unwarranted and premature.”
Hooker says the cuts will be devastating for students because so many are already behind due to the limitations of remote learning that took effect in mid-March.
The state legislature meets in special session on June 18 and 19. Hooker says the state legislature has not given their recommendations to school districts but with most school funding coming from property tax revenues, Hooker says the cuts are not proportional.
“This hiring freeze that they discussed equates to a reduction in force. Class sizes will likely increase. Teachers will be stretched beyond capacity. We've been spending the last several weeks trying to plan for going back in the fall when our kids are going to have, at the elementary level, best case scenario, six to seven months deficits. So, we have to reteach content and then help them learn the skills and knowledge for the 20-21 school year. These cuts mean students may not get the necessary attention to address these gaps in the skills. They even noted in the letter that they sent to staff that the higher expectations mean each unfilled position represents additional work that must be shouldered by the employees who remain.”
Hooker says the Board of Education could continue negotiations and wait until specific budget impacts are defined by the legislature. The $700,000 salary freeze, she says is essentially a cut.
“Teachers have not had a cost of living increase in three years. They say that salaries aren't being cut. Salaries are being cut. Salary educators were promised and expected by following their schedule, is being cut. We have zero direction from the state. They said it's either 2%, 5% or 10%.”
This year the legislature announced a 6% increase to the WPU (weighted pupil unit) and the education community felt optimistic about the funding increases until receiving the board of education notice that negotiations were unilaterally ended.
“It was very optimistic. And again, with interest-based negotiations, we come to the table and we decide what we have in common and we work toward those goals. One of the shared interests that we have is making sure that our educators feel valued and this letter did not force that value.”
Co-presidents of the Park City Education Association Julie Hooker and Amanda lawing responded with a letter to the Board of Education asking the board and superintendent to reconsider the decision to end salary negotiations until the legislature has met in special session. The letter can be found on KPCW.org.
The school board meets Tuesday at 4 and will take in-person public input beginning at 5. Six-foot distancing and wearing masks will be required. Comments can also be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. They are expected to adopt the revised budget for this year and a preliminary budget for next year.