Manhattan Beach Unified teachers reject District’s offer of six percent pay increase

Biology and marine sciences teacher Olie Smith (foreground), and about two dozen fellow teachers picketed in front of Mira Costa High School Wednesday morning. Photos by Kevin Cody

by Kevin Cody

The Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association responded to their district’s most recent salary offer by picketing Wednesday morning on Artesia Boulevard, in front of Mira Costa High School. 

Approximately two dozen teachers waved signs reading “Inflation up, buying, power down,” and “Honk 4 Your Teachers.”

MBUTA president Shawn Chen joins fellow teachers picketing in front of Mira Costa High School Wednesday morning.

MBUTA president Shawn Chen, who was on the picket line, said the district has offered a six percent pay increase, and a one-time, one percent bonus. Chen said that since the teacher contract expired last June her five-teacher negotiation team has met 11 times with the district negotiation team. The two parties are scheduled to meet again on June 3. But the district has said the six percent is its “best and final offer.”

Chen said the union is asking for a “double digit” percent salary increase, but declined to say specifically what that percent is.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Tom Stekol, who is leading the district’s negotiating team, expressed surprise at Chen’s mention of a double digit salary increase.

“At our last negotiation meeting, the union asked for 8 percent,” he said. 

“My approach is to put all the numbers on the table. The challenge is does the union believe the numbers,” Stekol said.

Chen contended the district is well positioned to offer higher raises because it will receive $20 million more from the State this year than it did last year. 

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard, who is in charge of the district’s $100 million budget, said the state revenue increase is closer to $3 million.

She said the district received $64.2 million from the State last year and expects to receive $67 million in fiscal year 2023-24

Chen also pointed to the district’s $14 million beginning balance in 2022-23. 

Murakawa-Leonard countered that the $14 million included mandated reserves, restricted funds, $2.5 million in parcel tax revenue, and $800,000 the district receives under its shared use agreement with the city for school facilities.

The parcel tax expires next year and the shared use agreement is currently being renegotiated, Murakawa-Leopard said. As a result, neither can be depended on in future budgets

The district projects a $2.3 million surplus this fiscal year, Murakawa-Leopard said. The school board is expected to ask voters to approve a new parcel tax next year.

Murakawa-Leopard said district revenue is projected to decline by roughly $10 million in the two upcoming budget years. She attributed the decline to the loss of pandemic related funding.

Chen said a bigger salary increase would benefit the district by making it easier to retain teachers, and hire new ones.

“Not many of our teachers, especially our new hires, can afford to live in the Beach Cities,” Chen said. “We have already lost many teachers to districts where they can make $10,000 more per year, and have shorter commutes.” she said. 

Murakawa-Leopard said even the proposed six percent salary increase will lead to budget cuts, which most likely would include teacher layoffs. She said the proposed six percent salary increase would cost the district $2.73 million annually; an eight percent increase would cost the district $3.63 million annually.

Stekol said he is not aware of any teachers going to other districts because of higher pay. He said the district’s 2.5 increase percent last year, and proposed six percent increase this year matches Redondo’s 4.4 percent increase this year, and its previous 4 percent, and that MBUSD’s proposed increases are greater than Torrance’s recent increases.

Stekols said the district’s “best and final offer,” follows a statutory process that includes declaring an impasse, mandatory mediation, and fact finding. If the process does not result in an agreement, the district could impose a contract, and the union would have the right to strike, Stekol said. ER


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