SMFCSD Settles Contract Dispute with Teachers, But What Comes Next???

A new contract has been reached but what are the budget implications?

Unfortunately I was under the weather this last week and missed the announcement on December 1st of the contract settlement between the San Mateo-Foster City School District and SMETA, the union representing district teachers.

The text of the announcement is here, and an article about the settlement also appeared in the 12/1/2017 issue of the San Mateo Daily Journal.

The district’s announcement states:

“The agreement, which covers the 625 teachers and support staff, will be in effect through June 30, 2019.  Highlights of the tentative agreement include:

  • Salary increases that include 5% retroactive to July 1, 2016 and 3% increase retroactive to July 1, 2017
  • Increases to teacher stipends
  • Increase to hourly pay rate for supplemental work”

As is customary in these contracts, a fixed percentage raise was negotiated once again.

Unfortunately no details were provided in either the district announcement or in the Daily Journal article as to how this settlement will impact the current district fiscal crisis caused by the failure of Measure Y.

I have commented in the past that this fixed percentage practice funnels much more money to the higher paid staff instead of providing the most help to the youngest teachers who desperately need it.

Many high-salaried teachers are not far from retirement, and these salary increases will also increase the district’s pension obligations.

The young teachers represent the future of the district.  They are the lowest paid, and the ones who are struggling to afford a place to live near where they work.

I once again encourage the incoming Board of Trustees to “think outside the box” when they consider a new parcel tax ballot measure.  Property taxes are soaring due to the current inflated real estate market.  Combine this with several recent proposals to raise bridge tolls as well as other proposed taxes to fix congested local transportation, and we have a significant danger that voters will rebel.

I continue to believe that our citizenry wants to support our teachers, but will desire to do it in a way that guarantees the money goes to where it is needed.

To allow the district to attract and retain new talent, I believe that the salary scale needs to be made competitive with surrounding districts, and this should be done by raising the salary brackets, NOT by giving an across the board percentage increase.  The Board needs to determine the cost of doing this, and, if it requires more money than they think can be raised from voters, then consider possibly raising only the salary brackets for, e.g., the first 5-10 years of service.

Any such parcel tax proposal should be “evergreened,” i.e., written not to expire unlike Measure Y.  It is difficult to give raises if one knows that the revenue source will evaporate a few years down the road.

The ballot measure would also have a much greater chance of success if it explicitly states that the money be used solely for the purpose of increasing the salary brackets.  The proposed increases in each bracket should be explicitly part of the proposal.

If we continue with business as usual, several years down the road we will find the SMFCSD budget consumed by pension payments while our children are being “taught” by substitute teachers because new recruits can no longer afford to work here.


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Author: David Kristofferson

Retired Ph.D. scientist, teacher (after retiring from industry, taught in private and public high schools and then worked a decade in my own private tutoring business), bioinformatician (managed both the NIH-funded GenBank National Nucleic Acid Sequence Databank and the BIONET National Computer Resource for Molecular Biology), IT director at Eos and Raven Biotechnologies, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist, and backpacker!

3 thoughts on “SMFCSD Settles Contract Dispute with Teachers, But What Comes Next???”

  1. Still waiting to hear back from officials regarding the budgetary impact of the recent salary settlement. Meanwhile I found the following CalMatters article describing the overall magnitude of the teacher pension issue in CA. The increases described below are hitting all school districts in CA. At least it appears that a plan is in place to bring the unfunded liability under control.

    I want to emphasize that most teachers do not get lavish pensions and *** I am completely in support of them being able to retire well after long service to the community.*** That said, taxpayers need to realize the challenges that the system faces and provide adequate support for education, and politicians need to ensure that taxpayer funding goes for the purposes for which it was raised.

    If the current SMFCSD settlement results in bad consequences for new teachers a few years down the road, that is not a solution that we should be endorsing. I do not know if this will be the case, but no one who does has commented yet. It concerns me when a previously intractable budget problem is suddenly solved in the last few days before the turnover of the majority of the school board.

    From CalMatters:

    “One reason is the growing pension contributions for 880,000 working and retired teachers and administrators in the California State Teachers Retirement System. The retirement system has an unfunded liability of more than $67 billion as of last June. Under a schedule for paying down the debt that Brown and legislators approved in 2014, school district contributions to the teacher pension system will ramp up from 8.25 percent of their budgets in 2013 to 19.1 percent in the fiscal year that begins July 2020. The agreement also raised teacher and state contribution rates, but only slightly.

    This means taxpayers who contributed $3.6 billion into CalSTRS through the state and local school districts back in the 2013-14 fiscal year, will see those payments more than double to $7.7 billion by 2019-20, according to projections by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget analyst. The total school budget for the current fiscal year is $69 billion.

    The increased pension payment is projected to consume about 38 percent of growth in the education budget between now and 2019. In other words, school districts will pay $3.1 billion more to the pension system in 2019-20 than they do today while the state’s minimum school funding guarantee, called Proposition 98, is projected to be about $8.3 billion higher in that same year.”

    The entire article dated 1/6/2016 can be found at


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