LA QUINTA, Calif. - Red filled the Desert Unified School District board meeting Wednesday night. Teachers wore the color to a show a united front, asking for something they haven't gotten in more than seven years, a raise. "The district in my opinion, does not respect the work that teachers do," said Reginald Powell, an eighth grade teacher in the district. "We should get equal pay for what we do."
The Desert Sands Teachers' Association wants equal compared to the pay raises at districts around the county and its neighbors, Palm Springs Unified. PSUSD is voting on an almost 6% increase to teacher salaries, retroactive to the beginning of the school year in August. "You know, you can't compare to Palm Springs, they work an 8 hour day, we work a 7 hour day that the teachers contract," said Sherry Johnstone, DSUSD's assistant superintendent. "There's a lot of differences."
The teachers' union says the biggest difference is what's being offered by the district. DSUSD put two offers on the table.
One proposal offers the following:
- Increase the salary schedule by 2% retroactive to January 27, 2014
- Increase the salary schedule by an additional 3% beginning July 1, 2014
- Increase the district's contributions towards the cost of medical premiums up to $1413.60 on a tenthly basis beginning July 1, 2014
As an alternative, the district also made this proposal:
- 2% salary increase retroactive to August 29, 2013, to resolve salary, and health and welfare benefits for 2013/2014
- Effective July 1, 2014, to resolve health benefits for 2014/2015, increase medical cap to $1413.60 tenthly, and raise dental and vision plan caps to reflect total cost of the highest dental and vision plans for 2014/2015
- Salary increase for 2014/2015 open for negotiations. "Be competitive in this local market, and be as we were many years ago, number one in this valley paying the best that we can," said Kevin Colburn, part of executive committee for the Desert Sands Teachers Association.
The district says it wants to, but other issues take priority; things like replacing janitor and librarian positions lost during hard times and hiring more teachers to reduce class size for students.
"To do that, you need to have highly qualified teachers," said Colburn. "To do that, you need to pay them the compensation they need."
The district believes things will only get better in years to come, but right now, wants its teachers to be patient until the May budget evaluation comes back. "We are optimistic, we are doing the best we can with the funds we have at this time," said Johnstone.