MVLA approves 2% teacher raise

Local high school teachers are getting a salary bump, but one that falls below historical averages.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees approved a 2% pay increase for teachers last week, along with a 2.85% one-time lump-sum payment.

Because of the way the district and teacher’s union negotiate, the increases will apply retroactively to the current school year.

Union president David Campbell said the increase is “far” less than he would have liked, but that he understands the district’s budget is tight.

Teachers received a 4.62% raise for the 2017-2018 year and 5.75% the year before.

According to Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen, multiple factors are currently combining to put pressure on the district’s budget.

“When we talk about the budget being a little tighter, growing enrollment is the driver for us and then second would be pension costs,” Mathiesen said.

The district is largely funded by property-tax revenue, which Mathiesen said hasn’t kept pace with the costs of growing enrollment.

More students mean more money to hire teachers and support staff.

Four years ago, the district commissioned a demographic study that predicted the increase. A big driver for the growth has been new housing construction in Mountain View, Mathiesen said.

“We’re not surprised by it, we know it’s coming,” he said of the district’s growth. “We just have to adapt and account for it.”

MVLA has also been hit by rising pension costs, which have affected all California school districts.

This year, districts are on the hook for paying 16.28% of a teacher’s salary to the state to cover their pension. That’s up from 14.43% last school year.

Although Campbell said he understands that the district is in a tight financial spot and has a lot of trust in district administrators, he also noted that teachers aren’t being paid enough to afford the area’s high cost of living.

“We can’t afford to live in this area with the salaries we’re making, so at least make it so that we can commute here,” he said.

Mathiesen agreed that it’s expensive to live in the Bay Area and that it’s important to value teachers, but said administrators are also responsible for “being good stewards of the district funds for future students.”

Other contract changes

In addition to the salary bump, the contract includes other tweaks.

One change is to the work teachers can do in retirement. Previously, for five years or until they turned 65, whichever came first, retired teachers could work 25 days per school year in exchange for medical benefits and $12,500.

Now, retirees can work on four days the district selects and receive $2,000, plus medical benefits. Retired teachers can also choose to work more days, earning medical benefits, plus pay up to the state postretirement earning cap of around $45,000. When retirees earn more than that, their retirement benefit is reduced.

Changes were also made to the district’s paid leave provisions. Employees can now in some cases get leave time credited back to them once they return to work. When teachers are out for long-term leave, there were changes made to increase the percentage of their salary they receive.

Teachers and counselors can now also get time off to write students letters of recommendation.

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