The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education approved a contract to increase teacher salary by 12 percent over the next three years on Tuesday in the board chambers at the district office.
The teachers’ contract was accepted by a vote of 4-1, with board member Ken Dauber casting the only opposing vote. Teachers and board members have been negotiating matters in regards to teacher salary for months, according to board member Melissa Baten-Caswell. The contract will enact a 5 percent raise from July 2015 for this year, a 4 percent raise in the 2016-17 school year and a 3 percent raise in 2017-18. It will also include bonuses to teacher salaries that depend on property tax growth in the area.
In the presence of a crowd of Palo Alto Educators Association members, Baten-Caswell expressed her support for the contract.
“I am completely in support of this contract,” Baten-Caswell said. “The thing that makes the biggest difference isn’t the buildings textbooks or class sizes, but the teachers.”
According to Dauber, the 12 percent increase is much less desirable than his proposed 9 percent increase, as a smaller increase would allow the district to hire approximately 35 additional teachers, which would decrease class size.
“It [the contract] doesn’t strike the balance that we need between reducing class size and continuing to get excellent teachers,” Dauber said.
Board member Camille Townsend denied Dauber claim about teacher salary increase linking to decreasing class size, which was largely supported by those who attended the meeting. Townsend emphasized the importance of increasing the salaries to make living in this area affordable for them, as many current teachers currently commute to Palo Alto because the cost of living is too high.
PAUSD parent Susan Ozman echoed Townsend’s points, adding that the district will miss the opportunity to hire high quality teachers if there is no raise. According to Ozman, paying teachers less will not equate to being able to hire more of them, as potential teachers will be deterred by the salaries that do not cater to the high living costs in the area.
According to board member Terry Godfrey, the contract will be beneficial and affordable for the district.
“We [the district] currently have $30 million in reserves,” Godfrey said. “Much of that is for economic uncertainty … so that we can make deals and negotiations like this.”
Raising teacher pay allows for the district to be a desirable place for teachers to be employed, according to board president Heidi Emberling.
“Let us continue to be a destination district for educators,” Emberling said.