The talks have progressed to such a stalemate, that an impasse was declared and the state of California appointed a mediator. This despite the fact KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 found teachers in the district are making nearly $5,000 more than the state's average for the job.
Public Information Officer for the district, Francinni Zabata, told KESQ News Channel 3's and CBS Local 2's Katie Widner that 21 out of 52 teachers at Saul Martinez Elementary School and 25 out of 44 at Coral Mountain Academy called out sick Monday morning.
The event occurred less than one week after a similar one at Desert Mirage High School, in which 52 teachers called out sick, and a year into the failing contract negotiations.
While neither the district nor CVTA have confirmed it was a planned "sick out," Zabata said they are looking into the matter.
"I feel they don't have an option because they need more benefits and a raise," said Daisy Falomir, who has a seventh-grader in the district. "But by them doing that, our kids are being affected because as it is our classes that are overcrowded."
District administrators brought in additional staff and teachers and maintained normal school operations and class schedules for students.
According to the district, some teachers receive up to $94,000 per year. In fact, the district said the average teacher's salary is approximately $77,000, nearly $5,000 higher than the state's average. That equates to an average hourly pay of $60, or $420 a day. CVUSD said teachers work seven hours a day, 182 days a year.
A statement from CVUSD to KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 stated the following:
"The Coachella Valley Unified School District prides itself in offering employees a competitive total compensation package. Our teachers already receive up to $94,000 per year, with the average teacher salary at approximately $77,000, which is higher than the state average. Several teachers at the top of the salary schedule receive approximately $74 per hour which works out to be $520 per day. Our teachers average hourly pay is $60 an hour and $420 a day. Teachers work 7 hours a day and 182 days a year. Our benefits package (with an insurance cap of $20,694) is second to none, with CVUSD paying for employees’ health, vision, and dental. The regular salary and benefits package does not include extra services pay for after school programs, tutoring, site tech leads, English learner mentors, migrant program, adult and alternative education programs, to name just a few programs designed to support our students for which teachers can receive additional financial compensation."
Some parents were surprised to hear how much the teachers make, especially in an area where the median household income for a family is roughly $28,000 dollars.
"I am surprised, I was not aware of that," Falomir said.
Jose Lopez whose child is also in the district said he understands both sides but is confused as to why the union has not made a deal or even countered the district's offer.
"Especially this side of the valley where the income of the average household is (sic) far below what they're making," Lopez said. "What do you expect?"
Others say, it may sound like a lot of money but it all depends on the workload.
"If they don't feel that that's high enough then go higher," said resident Elizabeth Hernandez, whose infant son will go to schools in the district.
Repeated calls to CVTA President Richard Razo were not returned Monday, however officials with the association have denied that the large number of absences last week were connected to the stalled contract negotiations. Razo also said last week that the teacher's union "does not condone nor will we authorize a sickout.''
CVUSD Superintendent Darryl Adams posted a letter for parents regarding the impasse over the weekend.