County teachers, districts still at odds 

More than 33,000 students in San Mateo County currently attend school in a district that has had contract negotiations with local teachers’ unions break down.

Last week, the local teachers’ unions in the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary and Jefferson Elementary school districts voted to go to impasse, which means a state mediator will be brought in to help broker a deal, joining the South San Francisco Unified School District at impasse.

Burlingame Elementary School District is also at an impasse, and the San Mateo Union High School District moved beyond using a state-appointed mediator after talks failed.

Disputes between the districts and the union primarily center on salary and health benefit increases for teachers tired of being pinched by the rising cost of living in the county, officials said.

Districts, however, said that the reserves that unions believe can fund the increases are mostly money from one-time sources and can’t be spent on costs, such as salaries and health benefits, that continue year to year.

If districts want to keep high-quality teachers, they need to start budgeting for increased salaries and benefits, said Melinda Dart, the co-president — with Paul Hagen — of Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers.

Last Thursday, the union rejected a 3-percent raise, wanting the district to contribute $700 per month — $50 more than it currently does — for health care benefits.

Jefferson Elementary School District has nearly 6,000 students, 4,000 less than the roughly 10,000 San Mateo-Foster City Elementary has within its halls. Despite size, however, problems between the district and the San Mateo Elementary Teachers Association also focus on salary and health coverage.

The union wants a 15.35 percent raise and full family health coverage, but the district calls the health demands "high cost" and offered a 4 percent increase and other stipends.

"We truly are really far apart," Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Mary Willis said.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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