By Doug Oakley
BERKELEY -- With a $6 million budget surplus and better state funding expected, the city's 800 teachers say it's time for the school district to share the wealth.
Berkeley school teachers, who do not currently have a contract, have been at the last four school board meetings asking for a raise, telling tales of sacrifice during the hard times and shouldering increased health care costs to make their point.
At a Feb. 28 bargaining session with the school district, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers asked for a 5 percent raise, but the school district countered with a 1 percent bump.
"That's like leaving a waitress a penny for a tip," said Tracey Iglehart, vice president of the union and a second grade teacher. "It's like the school board is sending a message that our work is not valued."
School administrators declined to comment on the negotiations. Berkeley school board President Leah Wilson also declined to comment specifically on the negotiations, but said "we definitely have heard them and are weighing a number of factors."
Iglehart said Berkeley teachers received a 1 percent raise in 2008 and have not asked for, nor received a pay increase since then because the economy and funding for schools has been so poor. She said the last contract the teachers had ended in June of 2012 and the union did not sign an extension because it wanted to wait until the economy improved to restart negotiations.
"Part of the reason district has a $6 million surplus is because we have not had a raise since 2008 and we have contributed to all the increase in health care benefits, Iglehart said. "We know we had to make sacrifices because of the economic climate our country has been in, but now that climate has changed."
Pay for Berkeley teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade ranges from $38,000 for a first year teacher with a bachelor's degree to $80,000 for a teacher with over 23 years experience and a master's degree. Most of the teachers in the district, however, fall in the middle range, making between $44,000 and $60,000 a year, Iglehart said.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.