Negotiators for the Faculty Association, which represents 500 full-time and 1,000 part-time employees, have been fighting for months to convince district officials to raise salaries for the 2017-18 school year, arguing that making no increases to the salary schedule is unreasonable for the district's under-compensated workforce. The association has held a firm stance that a 1.56 percent increase across the board would be a fair increase and should have been "passed through" when the state gave the community college district a $2.3 million cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
But district officials say they are in no position to offer a pay raise, at least not at the moment, arguing that there is too much uncertainty over state funding for Foothill-De Anza in the 2018-19 school year. What's more, the district's financial position has been weakened by relentless budget cuts caused by chronically decreasing enrollment.
Faculty Association chief negotiator Kathy Perino told the Voice in an email that she went into a May 16 negotiation meeting "optimistic" that the district may change course, but that negotiations remain stalled. She said she understands that funding calculations in the state budget are a moving target and that worsening enrollment is putting the district in a financial bind, but that staff still deserve a modest 1.56 percent raise.
"We feel strongly that the district's stance of $0 (raises) for this year is unreasonable," she said.
Faculty Association representatives responded to the Voice but did not make themselves available for an interview in the nine days leading up to the Voice's press deadline.
Foothill College's student newspaper, The Script, reported last week that the Faculty Association's latest move toward a compromise was to ask for a one-time pay increase instead of adding to the district's contracted salary schedule. That offer also fell through, union officials told the paper.
While other public school agencies in the region are financially healthy and have benefited greatly from the state's economic upswing, Foothill-De Anza has been quietly struggling for years. The state's funding formula for community colleges means the district relies heavily on student enrollment for financial support from California, and the number of students has been steadily declining for close to a decade, according to district reports.
The number of "full-time equivalent" students in the district is expected to drop from 25,967 in the 2016-17 school year to as low as 24,482 students this year, triggering an estimated $7.6 million reduction in state funding. This would be in addition to the $10.3 million in deficit spending already assumed for the district's 2017-18 budget, which had to be offset by reserves.
In a statement, district officials said they were "surprised and disappointed" that the Faculty Association would say the negotiations stalled, and that they made clear the district would not commit to any changes in compensation until the state adopts the 2018-19 budget. The funding formula for community college districts is volatile and bound to change, with recent moves by lawmakers to reject the governor's proposed funding formula just last week.
"The still-undecided funding formula represents yet another possible change in our budget forecasts," according to the statement.
District officials also contested the argument that the 1.56 percent COLA increase for 2017-18 was "extra" money available for the district to pass through in the first place, and that it was more than offset by rising retirement costs as well as automatic increases in compensation laid out in the 2016-17 salary schedule. Monthly pay in the schedule ranges from $5,706 to $10,594.
"Until the district has a clear understanding of the revenue picture for 2018-19, offers of increased compensation are fiscally imprudent," district officials said in the statement.
In an April 30 newsletter, the Faculty Association told its membership that no increases in salaries or retirement benefits means the association should start preparing for "work to contract" starting in fall 2018. Under the protest, full- and part-time faculty would only do contractually obligated work on the campuses, including "primary" assignment work — like teaching or counseling — and the minimally required office hours and department meetings.
Plenty of work, including club advising and communicating with students during off-hours, would fall by the wayside during the protest. Teachers would not have to teach any students who are not registered on the first day of class, and could reject requests for add codes that would allow additional students to sign up for courses even if there is room. Faculty could ditch welcome emails, reminders of exams and due dates and other "voluntary" communication before and after class.
"Though eliminating these notices to students may seem harsh, administrators and the board must clearly 'see and hear' that their decisions not to compensate faculty fairly do have consequences," according to the newsletter.
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