News

School board approves pay bump for teachers despite cloudy financial future

Mountain View Whisman School District teachers will be getting a 3% pay raise this year after school board members voted to increase salaries, regardless of what the new coronavirus may do to quash economic growth and slash state funding.

The unanimously decision at the Saturday morning board meeting grants salary increases for the bulk of the district's employees, including principals, supervisors and management staff, as well as an additional one-time bonus equal to 2.5% of employee salaries. The agreement will cost the district $2 million in the current 2019-20 school year and $1.2 million in ongoing costs for future years.

The big question at the meeting was whether the district can afford the pay bump amid a maelstrom of budget uncertainty. The spread of coronavirus in Santa Clara County prompted public health officials to shut down schools and nonessential businesses last month, which was swiftly followed by a statewide order, and it's unclear when they will be able to reopen.

Along with a significant drop in economic activity, district staff say they're still not sure whether schools will even be permitted to open on the first day of the new school year in August. The exact cost of switching to distance learning -- which includes buying Chromebook laptops and food services staff working overtime to provide meals for children -- is a moving target

Some of those costs could conceivably be paid for by emergency federal funds, said Chief Business Officer Rebecca Westover, but it's going to be a while before the district sees any of that money. It typically takes one to two years for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reach local school districts.

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Former school board member Chris Chiang cautioned trustees against the pay raise, arguing instead for a freeze as the state braces for an "unprecedented" drop in funding. He said the district has done a good job ramping up salaries in recent years, but doing so now would be risky.

"Anything to secure their job from future layoffs would be even more welcome in these uncertain times," Chiang said in an email, read aloud during the meeting. "It would be a tragedy to pink slip educators next year because of spending this year."

School districts across the state are already requesting that the state take action to dampen the fiscal effects on public schools, calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to avoid slashing state funding for schools and ease mandatory payments into the state's teacher pension fund, CalSTRS.

Despite the concerns, Westover said the district should insulated from the fallout of the coronavirus for now. Public schools in California are being "held harmless," meaning that state funding will be maintained regardless of drops in student attendance, and that the true impact of the virus and likely won't be felt for years.

That's because Mountain View Whisman, like neighboring school districts, is fully funded through local property tax revenue, making it less dependent on a healthy state budget. The district's budget forecast largely depends on how much assessed property values rose or sank that year, and it's going to be a while before that puts a dent in the district's funding.

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"Even in the great recession it took us a couple of years to impact us," Westover said.

Trustees swiftly approved the contract agreement with no discussion.

The 3% pay raise is slim compared to past years. Since the 2014-15 school year, the school district has been granting teachers raises averaging 5.7%, with the single largest being an 8% increase in 2016. Before that, many teachers argued that the Mountain View Whisman School District's pay scale was far below comparable school districts, which was leading to a mass exodus of employees leaving the district each year.

With the latest raise, teachers will be making between $65,899 to $118,146, depending on level of education and years of service in the district.

Another divergence this year is that the pay increase will be for the 2019-20 school year, meaning much of the pay is retroactive and will come in a big check to employees in late May. For years, Mountain View Whisman School District was the regional anomaly, granting employees pay raises based on the upcoming school year rather than the current year. Doing so gave employees more stability in knowing what they'd earn in a school year, but also relied on economic predictions that could be wrong.

The turning point, according to Assistant Superintendent Carmen Ghysels, was in the 2018-19 school year when property tax growth slumped below the 5% anticipated by the district's financial team, meaning administrators had to honor the agreement despite the lower-than-expected revenue.

The district's contract agreement with classified staff will be approved at a future board meeting. The California School Employees Association (CSEA) labor union traditionally receives the same pay increase as teachers.

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School board approves pay bump for teachers despite cloudy financial future

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Apr 20, 2020, 1:39 pm

Mountain View Whisman School District teachers will be getting a 3% pay raise this year after school board members voted to increase salaries, regardless of what the new coronavirus may do to quash economic growth and slash state funding.

The unanimously decision at the Saturday morning board meeting grants salary increases for the bulk of the district's employees, including principals, supervisors and management staff, as well as an additional one-time bonus equal to 2.5% of employee salaries. The agreement will cost the district $2 million in the current 2019-20 school year and $1.2 million in ongoing costs for future years.

The big question at the meeting was whether the district can afford the pay bump amid a maelstrom of budget uncertainty. The spread of coronavirus in Santa Clara County prompted public health officials to shut down schools and nonessential businesses last month, which was swiftly followed by a statewide order, and it's unclear when they will be able to reopen.

Along with a significant drop in economic activity, district staff say they're still not sure whether schools will even be permitted to open on the first day of the new school year in August. The exact cost of switching to distance learning -- which includes buying Chromebook laptops and food services staff working overtime to provide meals for children -- is a moving target

Some of those costs could conceivably be paid for by emergency federal funds, said Chief Business Officer Rebecca Westover, but it's going to be a while before the district sees any of that money. It typically takes one to two years for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reach local school districts.

Former school board member Chris Chiang cautioned trustees against the pay raise, arguing instead for a freeze as the state braces for an "unprecedented" drop in funding. He said the district has done a good job ramping up salaries in recent years, but doing so now would be risky.

"Anything to secure their job from future layoffs would be even more welcome in these uncertain times," Chiang said in an email, read aloud during the meeting. "It would be a tragedy to pink slip educators next year because of spending this year."

School districts across the state are already requesting that the state take action to dampen the fiscal effects on public schools, calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to avoid slashing state funding for schools and ease mandatory payments into the state's teacher pension fund, CalSTRS.

Despite the concerns, Westover said the district should insulated from the fallout of the coronavirus for now. Public schools in California are being "held harmless," meaning that state funding will be maintained regardless of drops in student attendance, and that the true impact of the virus and likely won't be felt for years.

That's because Mountain View Whisman, like neighboring school districts, is fully funded through local property tax revenue, making it less dependent on a healthy state budget. The district's budget forecast largely depends on how much assessed property values rose or sank that year, and it's going to be a while before that puts a dent in the district's funding.

"Even in the great recession it took us a couple of years to impact us," Westover said.

Trustees swiftly approved the contract agreement with no discussion.

The 3% pay raise is slim compared to past years. Since the 2014-15 school year, the school district has been granting teachers raises averaging 5.7%, with the single largest being an 8% increase in 2016. Before that, many teachers argued that the Mountain View Whisman School District's pay scale was far below comparable school districts, which was leading to a mass exodus of employees leaving the district each year.

With the latest raise, teachers will be making between $65,899 to $118,146, depending on level of education and years of service in the district.

Another divergence this year is that the pay increase will be for the 2019-20 school year, meaning much of the pay is retroactive and will come in a big check to employees in late May. For years, Mountain View Whisman School District was the regional anomaly, granting employees pay raises based on the upcoming school year rather than the current year. Doing so gave employees more stability in knowing what they'd earn in a school year, but also relied on economic predictions that could be wrong.

The turning point, according to Assistant Superintendent Carmen Ghysels, was in the 2018-19 school year when property tax growth slumped below the 5% anticipated by the district's financial team, meaning administrators had to honor the agreement despite the lower-than-expected revenue.

The district's contract agreement with classified staff will be approved at a future board meeting. The California School Employees Association (CSEA) labor union traditionally receives the same pay increase as teachers.

Comments

Lizzy
Shoreline West
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:10 pm
Lizzy, Shoreline West
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:10 pm
15 people like this

I support these raises for teachers! They are working so hard to transfer all of their lessons to an online learning environment. Thank you, teachers!


Teachers are doing what?
Whisman Station
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:20 pm
Teachers are doing what?, Whisman Station
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:20 pm
19 people like this

"Money is no object" for this district. Voters just authorized hundreds of millions in more borrowing to be repaid through higher property taxes. The district does not run on student attendance - just tax money.


Dan Waylonis
Jackson Park
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:25 pm
10 people like this

Kudos for the teacher's unions for their continued success to browbeat the beleaguered city council into fiscal submission yet again. Hopefully, people will see merit in homeschooling or even neighborhood smaller schools to avoid the public school system.


John
Monta Loma
on Apr 20, 2020 at 4:16 pm
John, Monta Loma
on Apr 20, 2020 at 4:16 pm
10 people like this

Good to see that they have their priorities straight


Otto Maddox
Monta Loma
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:25 pm
Otto Maddox, Monta Loma
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:25 pm
16 people like this

While companies all over the district are cutting salaries or laying people off the district hands out a raise.

When tax revenues are surely going to decline.. let's hand out a raise.

When the rest of us are cutting back.. let's hand out a raise.

Sounds like a really smart move when you think about it.


Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on Apr 20, 2020 at 9:47 pm
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on Apr 20, 2020 at 9:47 pm
20 people like this

What's hilarious is that the two district administrators quoted above, Ghysels, whose reputation proceeds her and who is up for retirement, and Westover, whose reputation coming from Palo Alto is not much better, have ZERO expertise or training in state financing and the economics of recession or anything besides public education!! They are both former teachers and principals turned district office cronies now charged with 'splaning how it all works to the dumb folk or Mountain View. Pigs at the trough. Plain and simple. With absolutely no shame or concern for what might lay on the other side of this pandemic. And the Board? Not a whisper. An utter failure. My lord we should all be scared.


from PAUSD's Board Meeting
another community
on Apr 20, 2020 at 10:57 pm
from PAUSD's Board Meeting, another community
on Apr 20, 2020 at 10:57 pm
10 people like this

"The closures, combined with local, state, and national related fiscal impacts will dramatically change the assumptions used to build the 2020-21 [PAUSD] school budget." Web Link


know the difference
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:32 am
know the difference, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:32 am
6 people like this

Dan Waylonis, you may want to fact check your statements in the future.
Mountain View City Council had nothing to do with the salary increases.
The elected Mountain View Whisman School District Board of Trustees makes the decisions on salaries. Dan, now you know the difference.


Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2020 at 10:11 am
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2020 at 10:11 am
9 people like this

@know the difference

You should also know that the two individuals quoted, Ghysels and Westover, 'splaining it all with deep-thought economic theory to the taxpayers, are both in line to benefit from the raises substantially. How more subjective and biased can things get? Oh, and "Trustees swiftly approved the contract agreement with no discussion." Why?

Now you know.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:18 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:18 am
2 people like this

I'd partly agree with my fellow former MVWSD Trustee Christopher Chiang. I think it is poor public fiscal policy to negotiate (this is not 'give') a ONE YEAR "BONUS" that is on top of a 3% cost of living adjustment.

It is too bad that the Trustee decided to LET THE CONTRACT EXPIRE and did not force the administration to negotiate this before the school year started. IMO, fiscal policy error. (which is why you don't much hear this Board in serious budget discussion)

Think that the teachers' union did a quite reasonable negotiation. I would have preferred to see local-inflation-linked COLA yearly for next three years (about 10% commutative) contingent on keeping Fiscal Reserves at the current designated % of total yearly Budget.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:29 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:29 am
14 people like this

= contracts for Ghysels = are separate from regular Principals or other lower management. As Chaing and I noted on the 'sweetheart deal' contract with the Superintendent, the employment contract with Ghysels contains a SUPER HEALTH CARE BENEFITS clause, where she is guaranteed the 'all costs covered' deal that the Board gave to the Superintendent.

Who else has all copays/deductibles paid for by their employer? [we shall see with the Transparent California salary+benefits reporting how much this SUPER HEALTH CARE BENEFITS clause is costing the District] [it wasn't clear to me that the contract text excluded optional cosmetic surgery for instance] Teachers and other get nothing at all like this benefit! Only top management.


Knowledgeable Neighbor
North Whisman
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:03 pm
Knowledgeable Neighbor , North Whisman
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:03 pm
5 people like this

The District failed when they couldn't finalize the contract terms last year. Teachers have been working months on an unapproved contract. Good job teachers for fighting for your raise that you deserved months ago - you've been working hard to adjust your careers even without an appropriate contract and now are having to relearn your entire career through online learning.


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on May 7, 2020 at 7:44 am
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on May 7, 2020 at 7:44 am
3 people like this

Another set of raises being voted on tonight, now nearing $3 million total. The board could have asked the district to delay voting on raises until after more is known about next year's budget or to place a fiscal emergency rollback clause in the contracts. Either way, no one is asking to spend the money on things other than educator compensation. Rather, they could have put aside the $3 million to ensure no educators get laid off next year.

Voters remember what the district says right now, from the board report:
"History indicates that MVWSD will not feel the true impact of COVID-19 for a few years due our basic aid status." [sic/words quoted exactly]
Web Link

However, from around the state:
"Property tax relief [suspending property tax] announced as coronavirus hits California budgets"
Web Link

This historical move will make the idea that the county will hold MVWSD's portion of property tax harmless overly idealistic.

"The coming storm: big budget cuts, rising costs for California schools"
Web Link

This means that state categorical funding for MVWSD will be cut and likely cut larger than revenue limit districts under the fair share principle for basic aid (property tax) districts.

Want to honor teachers in our crisis, let educators know via strong planning that they don't need to worry about their job security. Provide long term zero-interest loans to both classified and certificated educators facing a family fiscal crisis. Bring teachers into the planning process for the fall, given that they are the ones who will implement it and bear the risks. Teachers should be at the table of plans that directly impact their safety. And when the crisis is over, give them the full raises they deserve and more.


District watcher
Rex Manor
on May 8, 2020 at 1:10 pm
District watcher, Rex Manor
on May 8, 2020 at 1:10 pm
9 people like this

Now the question is what sweet deal will the Board give the superintendent this year. Last year he got 10% plus district-paid health benefits (and he has the most expensive plan) while the rest of the staff only got a small percentage and has to pay a portion of their health benefits Seems like someone who is making almost $300K per year would be able to pay for his own benefits. The Board is enamored with him despite his many flaws and seems to always give him preferential treatment.


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