S.F. teachers, district seek mediation for raise date 

San Francisco's public school teachers and the school district have agreed to seek mediation to determine when the teachers' wage increase will begin.

After declaring an impasse at the end of May, both sides returned to the bargaining table this month and came to an agreement on a wage increase — but deadlocked on when the raise should start.

The teachers’ existing contract expires Saturday. Last month, the union declared an impasse after the district offered the teachers a 1 percent raise starting in April 2008, with another 2 percent increase as of April 2009. Representatives for the teachers union, The United Educators of San Francisco, said they wanted a 6 percent raise, starting July 1.

The district agreed to the impasse, and both parties planned to file a request for a state mediator to assist in reaching a settlement.

The teachers union returned to the bargaining table, however, at the request of school board President Mark Sanchez, UESF President Dennis Kelly said, and after two more sessions, the teachers agreed to a 3 percent raise.

The two sides continued to disagree, however, on when the teachers would get the salary increase: the union wanted the raise to start on July 1 and the district wanted to wait until Jan. 1, 2008. At the second bargaining session on June 12, attended by outgoing Interim Superintendent Gwen Chan, the impasse was redeclared.

"As you can imagine, it makes a big difference on the district’s ability to pay if [the increase] goes into effect in January," district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. "Some of the money can then come out of next year’s fiscal budget."

With salaries for experienced teachers in San Francisco ranking last compared with other urban school districts in California, Kelly said the teachers deserved the raise sooner rather than later.

The mediation isn’t expected to start until August, just weeks after San Francisco’s new school superintendent, Carlos Garcia, is scheduled to start.

Kelly said the union is still hopeful that an agreement can be reached with the district, before the new school year begins. Last month, the union started circulating fliers warning that if the contract wasn’t settled this school year, the new school year could start with labor strife.

In April 2006, a threatened strike was narrowly averted, following a 22-hour mediation session that finished in the wee hours of the morning. The agreement reached provided the district’s 5,700 teachers and classroom aides with an 8.5 percent increase, with 2 percent of that increase given retroactively to July 2005 since the classroom instructors had gone without a raise since 2002.

beslinger@examiner.com

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