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Manhattan Beach Unified offers teachers 3 percent raise, no health cuts

The two-year contract includes a 3 percent raise without initially proposed cuts to health care. It's the first raise the teachers have seen in five years.
The two-year contract includes a 3 percent raise without initially proposed cuts to health care. It's the first raise the teachers have seen in five years.
Tami Abdollah/KPCC

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Manhattan Beach Unified and its teachers' union reached a tentative agreement that includes a pay raise for teachers, officials said Friday.

The two-year contract includes a 3 percent raise without the district's initially proposed cuts to health care. It also includes measures to help the district cut costs, should ballot measures to raise taxes not pass in November.

The tentative deal was reached late Thursday between the district and teachers' union after meeting with a state mediator. The parties have been negotiating since March; the district declared an impasse in July.

Teachers and union officials were in negotiations with the state mediator Thursday, from 9 a.m. through 8 p.m.

"It was a long day," said Manhattan Beach Unified Superintendent Mike Matthews.

He said the contract definitely provides the 3 percent increase for this contract year but, depending on whether voters pass a measure to raise taxes in November, that raise may or may not stay in place.

"We're all hopeful that the measure passes and it stays at 3 percent," says Matthews.

The negotiations have ignited community debate because of the unions' tactics to put pressure on the district. Union officals told teachers to not write college letters of recommendation for students; to not open their classrooms before or after class, or during lunch; and to perform no additional duties.

Teachers say they have been forced to these extremes because of the district's unwillingness to provide fair compensation. Unlike many other districts in the state, Manhattan Beach Unified has a $16 million budget reserve — 10 times above what's required by the state for a district of its size.

However, Matthews said unless voters approved the November ballot initiative, those funds would disappear within a couple years. He said the district needed to remain conservative and maintain its ability to avoid layoffs or furlough days for teachers.

Manhattan Beach teachers have not received any pay increase or cost of living adjustment in five years, and have seen no increase that matches inflation in the last decade.

Union officials said they were pleased by the district's willingness to increase pay. The tentative agreement will be voted on by teachers next week, said Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers' Association President Karl Kurz.

“Manhattan Beach teachers continue to deliver a world class education to our students, no matter what is going on with the budget and our negotiations," Kurz said in a statement. "We are committed to what we do and want only the best for our students, but our own families are just as important and just as deserving."

The school board will vote on the agreement after the union's members have weighed in. That could happen as early as Sept. 19, Matthews said. 

The district and teachers will probably return to the negotiating table in March to determine whether the increase remains in place.

"This is good for the employees, good for the students and for the long term health of the district," Matthews said.

One issue that remains to be negotiated is a teacher evaluation system that Matthews said the district has spent a year and a half developing. The district hopes to implement that new system for the 2013-14 school year. 

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).