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Bargaining Updates

December 18, 2013

Teachers, Non-Reps to Receive 3% Raise

The Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education approved 3 percent salary increases this week, retroactive to July 1 of this year, for eligible non-represented employees and members of the Teachers Association of Long Beach.

An improving state budget allows for the first salary increase in more than five years for both groups of employees.

The board’s unanimous decision was accomplished in two votes – one approving a contract with TALB, and one approving the raise for non-represented employees.

The TALB contract included the raise and new language on K-12 shared decision making, days and hours, and evaluation. TALB’s membership ratified the contract last week by a 99 percent yes vote, or 1,621 to 19.

The term of the new TALB contract runs through June 30, 2015, with reopeners for next year regarding salary, health benefits and evaluation, plus three articles selected by each party.

The school district plans to provide eligible employees their retroactive pay no later than Feb. 21, and possibly as soon as Jan. 24. The salary schedule increases will be reflected in eligible employees’ paychecks no later than quadri-weekly period 9, which will be paid on Feb. 28, and possibly as soon as quadri-weekly period 8, which will be paid on Jan. 31.

LBUSD also plans to negotiate compensation with the local California School Employees Association chapter in the coming weeks.

December 5, 2013

Teachers Voting on 3% Salary Increase

Members of the Teachers Association of Long Beach are voting this week whether to ratify a tentative agreement reached with the Long Beach Unified School District. The tentative contract agreement includes a 3 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2013.

Subject to Board of Education approval, the tentative agreement would provide the school district’s teachers with their first raise in more than five years.

“We’re pleased that the bargaining teams have arrived at this tentative agreement,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. “We believe this contract will help us to retain the best and brightest teachers, which is so vital to student success.”

After the tentative agreement goes to TALB’s membership for ratification, LBUSD’s Board of Education could approve the agreement as early as Dec. 17.

The contract also includes some new language on K-12 shared decision making, days and hours, and evaluation.

The term of the new contract runs through June 30, 2015, with reopeners for next year regarding salary, health benefits, evaluation, plus three articles selected by each party.

View the full Tentative Agreement.

November 20, 2013

Tentative Agreement Reached with TALB

Teachers would receive a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2013.

The Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach have reached a tentative contract agreement that includes a 3 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2013.

The tentative agreement – subject to ratification by TALB’s membership and approval by the LBUSD Board of Education – would provide the school district’s teachers with their first raise in more than five years.

“We’re pleased that the bargaining teams have arrived at this tentative agreement,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser.  “We believe this contract will help us to retain the best and brightest teachers, which is so vital to student success.”

After the tentative agreement goes to TALB’s membership for ratification, LBUSD’s Board of Education could approve the agreement as early as Dec. 17.

Tentative Agreement Details

Salary increase:

  • 3 percent increase to bargaining unit salary schedules, stipends and rates of pay retroactive to July 1, 2013.

K-12 Shared Decision Making:

  • Contractual election procedures for grade level, teacher council representative, department head, and Small Learning Community lead teachers at each site.
  • Establish a school site contractual shared decision making model subject to negotiations in 2014-15.
  • Establish a joint Common Core committee to work on implementation and make recommendations on spending; and establish that site-based decisions are made in collaboration with the site leadership team, including the TALB site rep.

K-12 Evaluation:

  • Changes in evaluation terminology, and establish a four-tier rating system in the application of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. Update of the existing evaluation forms. Continue work on updating CDC-Head Start evaluation and the Evaluation Handbook (the Green Book).

Days and Hours:

  • Include already established Memorandum of Understanding regarding bell schedules into the contract (40-minute weekly preparation; elimination of elementary 60-minute discretionary weekly requirement).

Term:

  • Contract runs through June 30, 2015, with reopeners for next year regarding salary, health benefits, evaluation, plus three articles selected by each party.

View the full Tentative Agreement.

February 21, 2013

Board, CSEA Reach Benefits Agreement

The Board of Education and the local chapter of the California School Employees Association have both voted to approve a health benefits agreement.

After CSEA approved the agreement by an 89 percent vote (90 percent of Unit A, and 88 percent of Unit B), the school board unanimously OK’d the deal at its regular meeting this week.

Under the newly approved Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), eligible CSEA bargaining unit members will no longer pay the current 5 percent employee contribution for health benefits. Instead, these employees will be subject to terms similar to the health benefits program recently approved for represented certificated employees and for non- represented employees.

View the MOU.

February 7, 2013

Classified Employees Voting on Benefits

The membership of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association is voting this week on a health benefits agreement with the Long Beach Unified School District.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), eligible CSEA bargaining unit members would no longer pay the current 5 percent employee contribution for health benefits, but instead would be subject to terms similar to the health benefits program recently approved for represented certificated employees and for non-represented employees.

The vote by membership was to conclude by end of day on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Pending the CSEA membership’s OK, the Board of Education would then consider the agreement for final approval.

View the MOU.

November 29, 2012

TALB Ratifies, School Board OKs Deal

The Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education and the membership of the Teachers Association of Long Beach have formally OK’d an agreement reached after more than 20 months of bargaining.

The school board unanimously approved the agreement after more than 92 percent of TALB’s K-12 members voted in favor of ratifying the deal, with 1,597 of those members voting yes while 134 voted no. Nearly 90 percent of TALB’s Child Development Center and Head Start bargaining unit members also approved the agreement, with 86 yes votes and 10 no votes.

The agreement saves about $1.5 million in 2013 through health plan adjustments, including changes to pharmacy plans. Some plans will see increased co-pays for doctor’s office and/or emergency room visits.

TALB and the school district have agreed on how to handle escalating health care costs in future years. The parties agreed that the school district’s maximum contributions for medical premiums would be set at 100 percent of the 2013 Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) rates for employee, employee plus one, and family. The school district maximum contribution will then increase by 3.5 percent on January 1, 2014, and will then automatically increase by 3.5 percent every year thereafter.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2014, if health plan costs increase more than 3.5 percent, the employee will pay the difference. In the event that the increase is less than 3.5 percent, the difference is then credited to mitigate increases in future years.

A joint Health Benefits Committee will work to mitigate any cost increases for employees and the school district by considering plan design changes, provider selection, and wellness programs, and by educating employees.

The two parties also agreed to a plan to prevent the closure of LBUSD’s Head Start early childhood program. This school year, Head Start will reduce teachers’ work year by five days, from 193 to 188. The following school year will be reduced by six more days, from 188 to 182.

The entire text of the tentative agreement that was approved is here.

November 5, 2012

LBUSD, TALB Reach Tentative Agreement

After more than 20 months of negotiations, the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach have reached a tentative agreement that includes health care cost containment measures. The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by TALB’s members, and then approval by the Board of Education.

The tentative deal will save about $1.5 million in 2013 through health plan adjustments, including changes to pharmacy plans. Some plans will see increased co-pays for doctor’s office and/or emergency room visits.

The 2013 maximum annual contribution by the school district for medical plans will be based upon the district’s 2013 Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization plan rates (the most expensive plan), as adjusted by the cost containment changes in the above paragraph. This means that TALB members will continue to see no payroll deductions for health care premiums in 2013, regardless of which health plan they select. Aside from Blue Shield PPO, the school district also offers the choice of Blue Shield HMO and Kaiser health plans.

TALB and the school district have tentatively agreed on how to handle escalating health care costs in future years. The parties agreed that the school district’s maximum contributions for medical premiums would be set at 100 percent of the 2013 PPO rates for employee, employee plus one, and family. The school district contribution will then increase by 3.5 percent on January 1, 2014, and will then automatically increase by 3.5 percent every year thereafter.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2014, if the rate increase is greater than 3.5 percent, the employee will pay the difference. In the event that the rate increase is less than 3.5 percent, the difference is then credited to mitigate increases in future years.

A joint Health Benefits Committee will work to mitigate any cost increases for employees and the school district by considering plan design changes, provider selection, and wellness programs, and by educating employees.

“We’re pleased to announce this tentative agreement, which preserves affordable, high quality health care for our teachers, nurses and librarians,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. “At the same time, we commend union leadership for agreeing to a collaborative method of controlling long-term costs. This is a fair deal that maintains our school district’s competitive salary and benefits package.”

TALB and the school district also agreed to a plan to prevent the closure of LBUSD’s Head Start early childhood program. While the Board of Education has approved a budget reduction that would eliminate the district’s Head Start program next school year, the tentative agreement calls for a shorter work year for Head Start teachers, making the program fiscally viable once more. This school year, Head Start will reduce teachers’ work year by five days, from 193 to 188. The following school year will be reduced by six more days, from 188 to 182. School district staff will recommend that the school board keep the program intact rather than eliminate it next school year.

Read the tentative agreement.

September 11, 2012

LBUSD Proposal Compares Favorably with Other Districts

The Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach attended a Fact Finding Hearing on August 29, 2012 in an attempt to come to an agreement regarding the four open items in negotiations: health benefits, Head Start, shared decision making, and adjunct duties. The parties are anticipating the Fact Finding Panel’s report within the next 30 days. For more information on how fact finding works, see the May 11 Bargaining Update directly below this update.

In the meantime, it is important to reiterate the district’s position on health benefits, as well as provide accurate information as to the district’s health benefit costs and how they compare to the largest districts in California, teacher compensation, and state and district finances.

THE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S PROPOSAL ON HEALTH CARE BENEFITS

The school district's proposal on health care benefits is to implement an annual maximum employer contribution (or cap) for medical, dental and vision insurance premiums that is based on 95 percent of the 2012 premium costs of the most expensive plans. The annual maximum contribution would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

This means that anyone who chooses the Kaiser plan or the Blue Shield HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) would currently pay nothing toward monthly health benefit premiums, as the cost of those plans would be less than the annual maximum district contribution. An employee who chooses the Blue Shield PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) medical plan would pay the insurance premiums that exceed 95 percent of the 2012 rates. The 2012 rates are as follows:

 
Blue Shield PPO
Delta Dental PPO
Vision
Blue Shield HMO
Delta Dental PPO
Vision
Kaiser HMO
Delta Dental PPO
Vision
Employee Only
$10,011
$7,277
$6,742
Employee + 1
$17,586
$13,400
$12,552
Employee + Family
$21,862
$17,280
$17,374

The above chart shows that the school district now pays up to $21,862 per year for medical, dental and vision insurance that covers teachers and their families. The amount the school district pays depends on the type of plan the employee chooses, and whether the employee includes dependents on their insurance.

EMPLOYEE CONTRIBUTIONS TOWARD
PREMIUMS AT OTHER DISTRICTS

Of the 15 largest school districts in California, besides Long Beach Unified, there are only two districts (Sacramento City Unified and San Diego Unified) whose employees do not contribute anything toward medical premiums. Sacramento City Unified does not offer a PPO to their employees, and San Diego Unified is currently dealing with a major budgetary crisis.

Six of the 15 largest school districts in California have a hard cap or a maximum employer contribution. Of the other nine districts, teachers in six of them pay some amount toward their medical premiums, either via a soft cap or cost-sharing mechanism. A soft cap is a maximum employer contribution with an automatic annual adjustment based upon a variety of factors. Teachers in Long Beach currently pay nothing toward health premiums.

The following pie chart describes teacher contributions toward medical premiums in the 15 largest districts in California:

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Sources: school districts’ collective bargaining agreements

DISTRICTS WITH A HARD CAP -- The following is a more detailed summary of what the six school districts with a hard cap or district annual maximum contribution currently contribute toward medical premiums.

Capistrano Unified School District -- If a teacher chooses the HMO Plan for medical and dental, CUSD pays an annual maximum employer contribution as follows:

  • Employee Only - $5,213.30 (LBUSD’s proposal is $9,509.76)
  • Employee + One - $10,750.30 (LBUSD’s proposal is $16,706.93)
  • Employee + Two or more - $15,329.70 (LBUSD’s proposal is $20,768.18)

If a teacher chooses the PPO Plan for medical and dental, CUSD pays an annual maximum contribution as follows:

  • Employee Only - $6,717.80 (LBUSD’s proposal is $9,509.76)
  • Employee + One - $13,969.40 (LBUSD’s proposal is $16,706.93)
  • Employee + Two or more - $19,826.10 (LBUSD’s proposal is $20,768.18)

Any amount of premiums above that amount is the responsibility of the teacher.

Corona-Norco Unified School District -- CNUSD pays the premiums for medical, dental and vision up to the following rates:

  • Single Party - $4,850 (LBUSD’s proposal is $9,509.76)
  • Two party or employee plus child/children - $5,600 (LBUSD’s proposal is $16,706.93
  • Family - $6,770 (LBUSD’s proposal is $20,768.18)

Fresno Unified School District -- FUSD has a Joint Health Management Board that consists of representatives from labor and management (each have one vote). Fresno’s contribution toward the “Health Fund” is capped based on an amount agreed upon for the 2004-05 fiscal year ($13,649), which is adjusted year-to-year based on the increases or decreases in the funded cost of living adjustment.

Teachers currently contribute to the plans as follows:

  • Plan A (PPO with $250/$500 deductible; 80/60 in/out of network) - $1,920 single; $2,760 family
  • Plan B (PPO with $1,000/$2,000 deductible; 70/50 in/out of network) - $720 single; $1,200 family
  • Plan C (Kaiser) - $1,920 single; $2,760 family

Los Angeles Unified School District -- LAUSD has a Health Benefits Committee (HBC), with representation from each union and the school district, which is responsible for all plan design modifications. LAUSD’s annual “total contribution” or “total aggregate contribution” amounts are set forth in a 2012-14 Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the HBC. Contribution amounts are adjusted each year for increases or decreases in the number of qualified participants. The 2013 per-participant contribution amount results in employer contributions of $10,137.97 per active enrollee. Eligible employees and their eligible dependents in Los Angeles currently do not contribute to medical, dental and vision premiums (with the exception of temporary contract teachers) because the HBC has been successful at controlling premium costs.

Riverside Unified School District -- RUSD pays the premiums for medical and vision up to $9,500 per year and the premiums for dental up to $955 per year. (LBUSD's proposal is $9,509.76 for single, $16,706.93 for employee plus one, and $20,768.18 for family).

San Francisco Unified School District -- SFUSD’s contribution toward medical benefits is capped at the amount allowable in the San Francisco City Charter. For the period July to December 2012, SFUSD’s contribution is capped at the following rates:

  • Employee Only - $6,276 (LBUSD’s proposal is $9,509.76)
  • Employee + One - $8,960 (LBUSD’s proposal is $16,706.93)
  • Employee + Two or more - $9,560 (LBUSD’s proposal is $20,768.18)

DISTRICTS WITH COST SHARING OR SOFT CAP -- The following is a more detailed summary of what teachers in these six school districts pay toward medical premiums:

Elk Grove Unified School District -- Elk Grove only offers two HMO Plans – no PPO Plans.

Effective July 1, 2012, teachers pay 20 percent of the premium cost for the lowest cost plan (Kaiser), plus any additional buy up cost to the more costly plan, HealthNet-PremierCare w/AHC Rx.

Teachers currently contribute to the plans as follows:

  • Kaiser ($30 co-pay) - $1,182 single; $2,363 two party; $3,344 three+ party.
  • Health Net Premier ($30 co-pay w/AHC Rx) - $1,689 single; $3,377 two party; $4,779 three+ party.

Each unit member who submits to the Elk Grove district an approved wellness certification that verifies the unit member has satisfied all of the wellness requirements (for example; annual physical exam, online health risk assessment, comprehensive metabolic panel, a body mass index test and/or other age appropriate screenings) shall receive a wellness rebate equal to 5 percent of the total premium cost of the low-cost plan based upon the subscriber level selected for the year.

Garden Grove Unified School District -- Teachers in GGUSD contribute toward their medical premiums on a tenthly basis, as follows:

  • Employee Only - $50/month
  • Employee + One - $100/month
  • Employee + Two or more - $150/month

Oakland Unified School District -- Oakland only offers two HMO Plans – no PPO Plans. Teachers in OUSD currently contribute 0.65% of their salary toward medical premium costs.

San Bernadino City Unified School District -- SBCUSD’s contribution toward medical benefits is capped at the Health Net HMO rate. For Kaiser and the Health Net PPO, teachers in SBCUSD are required to contribute as follows:

  • Kaiser – Employee Only - $2,689
  • Kaiser – Employee + One - $5,782
  • Kaiser – Employee + Family - $7,934
  • Health Net PPO – Employee Only - $3,237
  • Health Net PPO – Employee + One - $6,961
  • Health Net PPO – Employee + Family - $9,550

San Juan Unified School District -- San Juan only offers two HMO Plans. No PPO Plans are offered. San Juan covers the HMO premium for employee only. Teachers contribute toward the premium cost if they have “employee + one” or “family” coverage. Employee contributions for 2012-13 are as follows:

  • Employee + One - $1,653
  • Employee + Two or more - $3,026

Santa Ana Unified School District -- Teachers in SAUSD contribute toward their medical premiums as follows:

  • Lower Cost HMO – Employee pays nothing toward premium
  • Higher Cost HMO – Employee pays 5 percent of premium
  • PPO – Employee pays 11 percent of premium

EMPLOYEE CONTRIBUTIONS TOWARD
PREMIUMS FOR CITY EMPLOYEES

Employees at the City of Long Beach must contribute toward the cost of their medical benefits. The employee contributions range from $912 per year to $2,580 per year, depending on the choice of plan and level of coverage.

LBUSD COST OF HEALTH BENEFITS

While the leadership of TALB asserts that health benefit costs are not increasing significantly, it is absolutely true that the costs of health benefits continue to rise, even as district funding has been significantly cut over the last five years. While TALB leaders reported a mix of budget and actual total health benefit costs in a recent communication to members, the actual total health benefit costs since 2007-08 are as follows:

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Source: Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS) Unaudited Actuals

Over that five year period, the district’s total cost of health benefits increased 15.7 percent. This is at a time when the district’s total revenue decreased 12.3 percent. In addition, the only reason that total health benefit costs decreased in 2011-12 was the district had significantly fewer certificated, classified and administrative staff due to layoffs and hiring freezes. Laying off more employees in the future is not the way the school district would prefer to control rising health care costs. The per-employee cost of health benefits rose much more dramatically over that same time period. For example, the cost of Family Coverage for the PPO Plan for that same time period increased 53.6 percent, as follows:

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Source: Aon Actuarial Rate Studies

Health and Welfare Benefit costs in LBUSD have risen dramatically and faster than in any of the largest school districts in California – by a long shot! Since 2001-02, LBUSD’s unrestricted health benefit expense per Average Daily Attendance increased more than 200 percent, while other large districts’ expenses grew significantly less.

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Source: State-Certified SACS Data, CADIE Report

PAYING A FAIR OVERALL COMPENSATION PACKAGE TO TEACHERS

The school district values its relationship with its teachers and understands the need to compensate them fairly. TALB leaders have stated that health benefits are important to their members because their teachers have sacrificed on their salaries. However, the data show that the total compensation for LBUSD teachers is among the highest, not only in Los Angeles County and not only among the 15 largest districts in the state, but compared to the entire state. In fact, when compared to the 312 unified school districts in California that submitted an official state salary and benefits form (Form J-90) in 2010-11, LBUSD teachers rank in the top 1 percent in total compensation at beginning teacher level (BA+30, Step 1) and in the top 2 percent in total compensation at the maximum scheduled salary.

FINANCIAL CONDITION OF CALIFORNIA AND LONG BEACH UNIFIED

It is no secret that K-12 education in California has suffered greatly over the last five years. The school district’s total revenue in 2011-12 was almost $100 million less than it was in 2007-08. Schools have suffered greatly, and there have been huge reductions in services, increases in class sizes, and other devastating cuts throughout the district. Unfortunately, if Proposition 30 does not pass in November, LBUSD may see cuts much more devastating than what has occurred to date.

The school district has managed to stay solvent over these years by making tough decisions and significant reductions throughout the educational program. In addition, the district benefited tremendously from Federal Stimulus Funds. Over the last four years, LBUSD received over $108 million from the federal government to prevent deeper cuts. However, this funding is now gone and the district must deal with the realities of a structural deficit created by the lack of funding from California. While the school district has an unrestricted fund balance of $94.2 million as of June 30, 2012, the balance will be negative by the 2014-15 school year. If Proposition 30 fails this November, LBUSD is projected to have a negative fund balance as soon as next school year. Monthly payroll and benefits for LBUSD are over $50 million, which means reserves can evaporate quickly in a worsening state budget climate.

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Sources: Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS) Unaudited Actuals, Multi-Year Financial Projection at Second Interim

In addition, the state continues to raid the school district’s funds – deferring a significant portion of funding until the next fiscal year. That means that the state still owes LBUSD almost $150 million AFTER the school year ends. As a result, the school district was forced to borrow $75 million last year, just to make payroll each month. This year, the school district anticipates having to borrow more than $100 million to continue paying its bills.

WHY THE STALEMATE OVER BENEFITS?

LBUSD’s bargaining team has for months attempted to negotiate a settlement with TALB leadership but has repeatedly found negotiations at a standstill. TALB leaders have declined to provide any counter-offer that would address long-term rising health care costs.

Times are tough for school districts statewide, and there’s a reason why so many school systems have adopted some form of a benefit cap. A cap encourages both the school district and its employee groups to work as true, collaborative partners in controlling health care costs through a variety of means. Such collaborative solutions are necessary because the school district is not immune to the state budget crisis and rising health care costs that are affecting every school system in the state.

May 11, 2012

Settlement Sought Through Factfinding

Bargaining between the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach has officially been certified by an independent state mediator for factfinding. This is a rare occurrence for the school district, and employees naturally have asked questions about what this means for them.

Factfinding comes after bargaining has reached impasse, with no agreement despite formal mediation conducted by an independent mediator.

The school district has reluctantly pursued this avenue. LBUSD’s bargaining team has for months attempted to negotiate a settlement with TALB leadership but has repeatedly found negotiations at a standstill. TALB leaders have declined to provide any counter-offer that would address long-term rising health care costs.

Factfinding does not mean that the school district has given up on reaching a compromise. On the contrary, as its name suggests, factfinding simply allows both parties to present facts in front of a panel that ultimately provides a recommendation to the board. The three-person panel includes a representative chosen by TALB, a representative chosen by the school district, and one mutually agreed-upon panelist.

The recommendations of the panel will be based upon comparisons of items such as salaries and benefits in similar school districts. The panel’s recommendations will be made public. Though the recommendations are not binding, they often help both parties to reach an agreement.

The following questions and answers provide additional detail on the issue of health benefits in the school district.

1. What is the school district’s proposal to TALB regarding health benefits?

The school district proposes an annual maximum employer contribution (or cap) for medical, dental and vision insurance premiums that is based on 95 percent of the 2012 premium costs of the most expensive plans. The annual maximum contribution would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

2. Why is the school district proposing a cap on employer contributions for the health benefit plans for teachers?

Health benefit costs have consistently increased while funding for schools has decreased. In the past three years, health benefit premiums have increased 26.2 percent, while the school district has received 7.39 percent less funding per pupil (revenue limit) from the state. Over the past five years, health benefit premiums have increased 58.9 percent, while the district has received 6.23 percent less per pupil revenue from the state.

Over the long term, the school district can’t afford to pay health benefit increases that outpace state funding for schools.

3. In the school district’s proposal, how much would TALB members have to pay for health benefit premiums?

An employee who chooses Blue Shield HMO or Kaiser HMO would pay nothing toward premiums at this time, as the cost of those plans is less than the annual maximum district contribution. An employee who chooses the Blue Shield PPO medical plan would pay the insurance premiums that exceed 95 percent of the 2012 rates.

4. Would the cap increase, and would employees have to pay the entire increase in premiums?

Any changes in the annual maximum district contribution would be subject to negotiations on a yearly basis. The employee’s obligation to pay toward future premium increases will be tied to these negotiations.

5. The school district’s initial proposal was for a flat 5 percent employee contribution toward health insurance premiums. Why has this changed?

The school district’s initial proposal also included seven furlough days and the freezing of salary step advancement. Those items were dropped by the district. Instead, the district sought longer-term solutions to reduce expenditures without cutting the number of instructional days. A cap encourages both the school district and TALB to work as true partners in controlling health care costs while continuing to promote employees’ awareness of the cost of their health care choices. And while the original proposal would have affected all TALB members, the latest district proposal would affect only the individuals who choose to remain in the most expensive medical plan. Teachers who choose the Blue Shield HMO or Kaiser HMO plans will currently pay nothing toward their health insurance premiums.

6. Did TALB offer a counter-proposal to the district’s alternative plan?

No. TALB offered no health care counter-proposal. They asked to close contract negotiations with no resolution on health care, instead seeking the creation of an advisory committee to study health care costs later.

7. Why has the school district rejected TALB’s request to delay a deal on health care by sending the issue to a committee later?

The appropriate forum for determining employee compensation and benefits is through formal collective bargaining conducted by negotiation teams that have both the expertise and legal authority to reach recommended decisions. If the school district were to close negotiations now and delay these decisions for another year or longer, it would be ignoring a serious structural weakness in its finances.

8. How much does the school district currently pay per teacher for health benefits?

The school district now pays up to $21,862 per year for medical, dental and vision insurance that covers teachers and their families. The amount the school district pays depends on the type of plan the employee chooses, and whether the employee includes dependents on their insurance. The current annual amount of district-paid benefits for teachers is listed in the following table:

 
Blue Shield PPO
Delta Dental PPO
Vision
Blue Shield HMO
Delta Dental PPO
Vision
Kaiser HMO
Delta Dental PPO
Vision
Employee Only
$10,011
$7,277
$6,742
Employee + 1
$17,586
$13,400
$12,552
Employee + Family
$21,862
$17,280
$17,374

9. The school district’s fund balance is above the minimum required reserve. Why do we need to contain health benefit costs?

The school district’s unrestricted fund balance is projected to be $83 million at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year. This balance has been accumulated with the assistance of one-time federal stimulus funds, totaling $108 million over the past three years. All of those funds have now been spent, and the school district must address its structural deficit. In 2011-12, without considering federal stimulus funds, the district is projected to spend $33 million more than it receives. In 2012-13, the district is projected to spend $23 million more than it receives, and in 2013-14, the district is projected to spend $39 million more than it receives. The school district is projecting a negative ending balance of $20 million for the 2014-15 school year.

And this is the best case scenario. This assumes that voters will pass one of the tax initiatives that will be on the November 2012 ballot. If no initiative passes, the school district will face even more serious financial difficulties, including a deficit as early as the 2013-14 school year.

10. How do LBUSD’s teacher benefits compare with other districts in Los Angeles County?

Of the 27 unified school districts in Los Angeles County with more than 10,000 students, only three districts do not have a maximum employer contribution (or cap) or employee premium-sharing on health benefits for teachers: Long Beach, Alhambra and Los Angeles. Twenty-one of the 27 districts have a cap on benefits, and three have premium-sharing (a percentage of cost). In other words, about 90 percent of these schools districts require teachers to contribute toward health care premiums, while Long Beach is among the remaining few districts whose teachers do not make such contributions.

11. What’s next?

Once the factfinding panel is appointed, it must begin its work within 10 days, according to state regulations. For now, no factfinding sessions have been scheduled.

April 27, 2012

No Settlement During Mediation

Bargaining teams from the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach met last Friday, April 20 in formal mediation led by a state mediator. No settlement was reached. Bargaining is now likely to enter the next phase of impasse known as fact-finding, in which both parties present information and rely upon a third party to make a non-binding recommendation.

Head Start

Because no agreement was reached on the length of the work year for Head Start employees, school district staff will recommend to the Board of Education that LBUSD discontinue its Head Start program starting in the 2013-14 school year. However, staff will ask the school board to continue the Head Start program for the 2012-13 school year. As Head Start is discontinued, the school district would work to turn the program over to a local nonprofit provider to ensure that students continue to be served.

Health Care

As with Head Start, no progress was made regarding the school district’s attempt to control rapidly escalating health care costs. TALB has yet to counter the school district’s health care proposal detailed in LBUSD’s Feb. 7 Bargaining Update (see below). The school district continues to seek crucial structural changes needed to control health care costs over the long term. Such changes are vital to the fiscal health of the school district, especially considering the ongoing state budget crisis and steep declines in funding for public schools. The combination of rising costs and declining revenue continues to threaten the school district’s fiscal health over the long term.

No further mediation sessions have been scheduled.

Feb. 7, 2012

School District Seeks Formal State Mediation with TALB

Bargaining teams from the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach met last Friday, Feb. 3. A mediator from the State Mediation and Conciliation Service attended the session at the invitation of both parties to help facilitate the discussion, but no progress was made during the meeting.

The school district’s primary issue is containment of health benefit costs. The school district has proposed to TALB that beginning Jan. 1, 2013, LBUSD will provide the following maximum annual contributions for medical, dental and vision coverage for bargaining unit members:


These maximums cover the current cost of premiums for the school district’s most expensive health plan, the Blue Shield PPO, minus a 5 percent employee contribution, which is the same as what classified employees and managers already pay toward their benefits.

Link to more information on estimated employee contributions under this proposal. Download .PDF File (Requires .PDF Reader)

Under this scenario, employees who choose less expensive plans such as the Blue Shield HMO or Kaiser plans would not currently be required to contribute toward the cost of premiums because those costs are well below LBUSD’s proposed maximum annual contribution. This maximum can be renegotiated with TALB in subsequent years.

If health care costs are left unchecked, LBUSD's ability to meet its fiscal obligations may be jeopardized as early as next school year, when the district’s reserves could fall below the legally required 2 percent mark noted by the horizontal red, dotted line in the chart below.

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The chart above presents three scenarios that are bad, worse and still even worse: the current projection (in blue), the projection if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed November tax initiative to fund schools passes (in dark red), and the projection if the November initiative fails (in green). Either way, the school district fails to meet its fiscal obligations if it does not control costs. Even the passage of the November initiative would still mean significant budget cuts for the school district.

When school districts fall below the required 2 percent reserve, a state team takes away the authority of the local school board and superintendent until the school system becomes solvent again. This scenario has occurred elsewhere in California, and due to ongoing cuts to public education, many school districts continue to face the imminent threat of the state taking away decision-making power from locally elected school boards and the communities they represent.

The school district has benefitted from more than $108 million in federal stimulus funds over the last four years, but this funding has come to an end. Compounding this problem along with the state’s ongoing cuts to public schools is the fact that health care costs are rising rapidly. Like most employers, the school district continues to see significant increases annually in the cost of health care, with no letup in sight.

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Failure to control these costs would be detrimental to all LBUSD employees, students and their families. Because the school board and superintendent are firmly committed to balancing LBUSD’s budget to avoid bankruptcy and a state takeover, unchecked health care costs would mean significant further cuts elsewhere.

Because the school district and TALB were unable to make progress, the school district will seek a declaration of impasse, which would result in mediation that is conducted formally by a state appointee.


September 30, 2011

No Furlough Days This School Year

In contract negotiations today between the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach, the school district withdrew its previous proposal to implement seven unpaid furlough days this school year.

The revised proposal means that no LBUSD employees will have furlough days this school year.

The furlough days would have provided one-time savings only. While the school district still faces significant budget challenges, including the possibility of mid-year cuts by the state, LBUSD will seek longer-term solutions to reduce expenditures without cutting the number of instructional days.

All employees took five unpaid furlough days last school year.

May 26, 2010

Teachers OK Contract By 93 Percent Vote

The Teachers Association of Long Beach has ratified a tentative contract with the Long Beach Unified School District.

TALB reports that 2,000 employees, or 93 percent, voted in favor of the deal.

The union and LBUSD reached the tentative agreement on May 7. The agreement includes five unpaid furlough days next school year, along with other contract changes, in exchange for the preservation of 200 teaching jobs.

The contract is now likely to be considered for approval by the Board of Education at its June 1 meeting.

Upon the school board’s final approval, three of the furlough days would occur Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 22 to 24. These dates immediately precede the Nov. 25 and 26 holiday for Thanksgiving. The fourth and fifth furlough days will be taken March 25 and March 28, 2011.

The agreement also calls for cost-saving measures related to health benefits, though none of these measures will result in any increase in employee contributions toward monthly health care costs for full-time teachers. LBUSD employees currently pay zero in monthly payroll deductions for health care, and that will not change under the proposed agreement. See the May 10 Bargaining Update below for details on the tentative agreement, including supporting documents.

Layoff hearings for teachers, meanwhile, continued this week, delaying the issuance of final layoff notices to roughly mid-June for some teachers. The school board has already OK’d 243 final layoff notices for teachers and other certificated employees.

Under the tentative contract agreement, the school district would restore 200 of the positions on the school board’s final layoff list, no later than 30 work days following the board’s action on the final list. The final layoff list may be OK’d by the school board in June.

May 10, 2010

LBUSD, TALB Reach Tentative Agreement

The Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach have reached a tentative contract agreement that includes five unpaid furlough days next school year, along with other contract changes, in exchange for the preservation of 200 teaching jobs.

“We’re pleased that TALB recognizes the severity of the state’s fiscal crisis and is willing to compromise during these tough times for public schools,” said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools for the Long Beach Unified School District. “While the shorter school year is not ideal, it is part of a fair agreement that helps us to save jobs and protect students and teachers from even deeper cuts to the classroom.”

If TALB’s membership votes for the deal, the Board of Education will consider the agreement for final approval.

The furlough days will shorten the 2010-11 school year to 175 instructional days, down from 180 this year. The 175-day school year is the minimum length now allowed by the state.

Three of the furlough days will occur Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 22 to 24. These dates immediately precede the Nov. 25 and 26 holiday for Thanksgiving. The fourth and fifth furlough days will be taken March 25 and March 28, 2011, creating a four-day weekend next spring. The tentative Memorandum of Understanding on furlough days is available here.

An accompanying comprehensive tentative agreement also calls for cost-saving measures related to health benefits. None of these measures will result in any increase in employee contributions toward monthly health care costs for full-time teachers. LBUSD employees currently pay zero in monthly payroll deductions for health care, and that will not change. The Pacificare HMO option, however, will be eliminated as of Jan. 1, and teachers will see dental and pharmacy plan changes designed to save money without reducing benefits to employees. The comprehensive tentative agreement also includes an attachment spelling out language changes related to teacher transfers.

The tentative deal is designed to save the school district $12 million as it copes with ongoing, multi-billion-dollar cuts in state funding for public schools. The draft agreement continues through June 30, 2012, though the compensation portion of the contract would be reopened no later than February 1, 2011 for the 2011-12 school year.

April 16, 2010

Monthly Health Care Contributions Off the Table

In an effort to wrap up negotiations, the school district’s bargaining team presented a revised, comprehensive proposal to TALB in today’s bargaining session.  The revised proposal eliminated the district’s request for a 5 percent employee contribution toward monthly health care costs, instead proposing a total of five furlough days next school year.  The district’s proposal reiterated its commitment to save 200 teaching jobs if TALB agrees to the LBUSD proposal.

The latest district proposal also eliminates a number of other components in LBUSD’s prior proposal regarding leaves, class size and other items in a good faith effort to complete bargaining and save teaching jobs.  The district’s proposal would still save roughly $12 million – the amount of savings originally sought by LBUSD.  The district proposal still included eliminating the Pacificare HMO, switching pharmacy benefit providers, and other items on which LBUSD has reached conceptual agreement with TALB.

In addition to today’s bargaining session, the two teams met April 1, after which TALB issued its own bargaining update. That update, which provided an analysis of TALB’s proposal and the district’s proposal, was misleading.  TALB leadership in its update stated that TALB’s proposal “saved about $11.8 million over two years, vs. their (LBUSD’s) proposal which saved about $12 million over one year.”

An honest analysis would compare the proposals over the same time period.  That type of analysis, which TALB possessed when they issued their update, shows the following.

Annualized Savings (savings if all of each proposal were in place for an entire year)

LBUSD’s March 11, 2010 Proposal:  $12,067,277
TALB’s March 26, 2010 Proposal: $ 5,749,821

    

Projected Budget Savings (taking into account that some health benefit components of both proposals don’t take effect until January 1, 2011, when half the first year is over):

Savings
1st Year
After 2 Years
After 3 Years
District’s Proposal
(March 11, 2010)
$8,984,901
$15,149,653
$21,314,405
TALB’s Proposal
(March 26, 2010)
$4,778,821
$10,528,642
$12,462,642

Our school district, which faces a budget shortfall of $60 million next year, is seeking $12 million in savings from TALB.

TALB’s communications continue to paint the district’s efforts to save jobs through bargaining as disingenuous, saying LBUSD is “using the economic crisis and layoffs as a smokescreen,” as if Long Beach is the only school district to have proposed furloughs to save jobs.  Teachers in school districts throughout the state have voted to save teaching jobs by implementing furlough days as a temporary measure to help their school districts survive the worst economic crisis in our lifetime.

March 12, 2010

Layoffs, Furloughs and Health Benefit Plans

The Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach met yesterday in contract negotiations. The school district continued to address Article VI (compensation). The district's bargaining team submitted its second proposal on compensation, listing a number of cost reduction options and the amount of savings they would achieve. Among these options were three furlough days, along with health benefits modifications. The school district emphasized that any savings resulting from these cost reduction options would be used to mitigate teacher layoffs, and that at least 200 teaching jobs would be saved.

TALB has not yet submitted a written response to the school district's proposals on compensation but indicated that it would provide a counterproposal at the next negotiation session.

Layoff Notices – Why more than 1,000?

The school district's bargaining team explained that of the more than 1,000 notices issued to certificated employees, 200 were to provide necessary alternatives for the hearing process, while about 100 were for retirements that are anticipated but couldn't be taken for granted. Another 100 are for people on leave who have a right to a job and who we assume won't exercise that right. Education Code provisions require the school district to issue these notices in order to protect the positions of those on leave and those yet to retire, and to avoid the fiscal problems of being overstaffed in an environment of evaporating revenues. The layoff process is complex, and the school district must make sure that a sufficient number of notices are issued to cover the budget shortfall and any technical issues that may arise during layoff hearings.

Additional Efforts to Save Jobs

Regarding the remaining notices that were issued, the school district noted that it is pursuing all options to save jobs, including seeking grants and additional funding sources as well as actively advocating for more funding flexibility at the federal level through the waiver process and at the state level through our own special legislation. We are hopeful these efforts, both the identifying of additional revenue and the increased flexibility of current funding, will result in an ability to reduce the layoffs to a significant degree. In concert with these efforts, the school district's compensation and benefit proposal would allow LBUSD to save more than 200 teaching jobs.

District's Proposal for Health Benefits

The school district's proposal is for health benefit contributions, made on a tenthly basis, that vary from $24.41 for a single person in Kaiser to $87.16 for a family in the Blue Shield PPO. These amounts would be pretax so the actual impact on takehome pay would be significantly less, in that a portion of those earnings would have gone for taxes anyway. The contributions are modest in comparison with other school districts, public agencies and private industry, and lower than those paid by other public employees in Long Beach. These tenthly contributions, along with certain other changes, don't constitute dramatic departures from the tradition in Long Beach schools of providing highly competitive health benefits packages.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Friday, March 26.

February 24, 2010

The Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach met in contract negotiation sessions on Feb. 11 and Feb. 18.  In those sessions, the school district proposed changes to Articles VI (compensation) and VIII (transfers).

The second of the two negotiating sessions came during the same week that the LBUSD Board of Education approved notices of potential layoffs for 755 positions, 400 of which were elementary teacher notices that produce an estimated savings of $11 million.  Many of the compensation items proposed by the district in bargaining are aimed at reducing the final number of layoffs needed to help balance the budget during the worst financial crisis in recent history.

While layoffs are one of the few actions that a school board can take unilaterally, the compensation and transfer items presented to TALB are subject to negotiations and could reduce expenditures significantly, therefore reducing the number of layoffs needed.
        
The compensation article of the contract also includes health benefits.  The school district proposed that effective Jan. 1, 2011, TALB members would contribute 5 percent of their health insurance costs.  Employee contributions could be collected over 10 months on a pre-tax basis.  Details on how much an employee would have to pay under the current medical plan rates are here.  It is important to remember that because the amount can be contributed before the income is taxed, the actual reduction to take-home pay is significantly less (depending upon the percent of taxes the employee pays).
   
The school district recommended elimination of the Pacificare HMO, along with changes to pharmacy programs, behavioral health plans and dental plans.  Details of these proposed changes are provided here.  The estimated savings from the district’s proposal on health benefits would be $8 million for all employees, with approximately $5 million attributable to TALB.

Among the school district’s compensation proposals was the implementation of three furlough days during the 2010-11 school year.  The implementation of three furlough days, if agreed to, would save LBUSD approximately $8.5 million for all employees, approximately $6 million of which would be savings from TALB members if the union agrees to the proposal.

The district’s proposal on transfers involves vacancies, seniority, employer and employee-initiated transfer requests, returns from leave of absence, various factors used to determine transfers, and other provisions.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for March 11 at the TALB office.

Long Beach Unified School District • 1515 Hughes Way, Long Beach CA 90810 • (562) 997-8000 • www.lbschools.net