Orcutt teachers and District at impasse
February 19, 2016
Teachers in the Orcutt School District are standing up against low pay and demanding respect for their role in the community as negotiations between the two are now at impasse.
There has been an increase of tension between the Orcutt Union School District and the Orcutt Educator’s Association, the union representing our teachers. At a board meeting on Wednesday night, teachers gave speeches and explained why they feel that the pay structure and amounts are unfair. Steve Harris, an Orcutt teacher, shared Orcutt teachers are paid an average of $17,000 less than teachers in Santa Maria. This applies to teachers with over ten years of experience. Harris told the board California itself is “on the brink of a teacher shortage crisis.” As about one third of California teachers are on track to retire in the next decade, there is a higher demand than ever for new teachers. However, since there is such a drastic difference between the annual pay of Orcutt teachers and Santa Maria teachers, Harris believes it will be increasingly difficult for Orcutt to acquire and retain good teachers.
If Orcutt teachers continue to be paid so much less, the OEA argues the quality of Orcutt schools will continue to decrease as the District will not be able to attract the highest quality of teachers.
Another problem brought to light on Wednesday was the irregular pattern of paychecks. In 2015, Orcutt teachers received 13 paychecks, as opposed to the normal amount of 12. While this would seem to increase the annual income, the extra checks increased some Orcutt teacher’s taxes. One account by Jeff Pawley, a Lakeview teacher, explained that a higher income for 2015 put him and his wife in a higher tax bracket, which means they lost more money than the extra check gave them. This problem can be fixed, but it will take cooperation between the Union School District and teachers.
Teachers here at Orcutt Academy have shown support for the OEA by participating in the protest against unfair pay. On February 10, many teachers parked outside of the parking lot in hopes of displaying how the lot will look if the District continues to give the teachers unfair pay. In addition, this Wednesday, and for the forthcoming Wednesdays until negotiations are settled, teachers wore all black to show their solidarity.
The OEA says the underlying issues here are that of fairness and respect. If the District does not compensate for the money Orcutt teachers lost, as well as increase the annual pay, then it will become harder for Orcutt to keep up with the quality and academics of Santa Maria and other neighboring school districts.
Teachers are a key part of our community and deserve respect. If our teachers are not paid fairly, then not only will our schools fall apart, but our community will suffer.