Hundreds of members and supporters of the Huntington Beach Union High School District teachers union flooded the district office Tuesday night during a board of trustees meeting to call on the district to reach an agreement with union negotiators on the union’s two-year contract proposal before the end of the school year.
In a room packed with protesters in red shirts, speakers during the meeting’s public comment period demanded greater transparency in negotiations and district funds.
Contract talks have been stalled on discussions of pay raises, and union representatives said the sides have met 16 times in the past year following the end of a three-year contract in June.
Carissa Rice, a science teacher at Huntington Beach High School, said in an interview before the meeting that the union, the Huntington Beach Union High School District Educators Assn., wants to see where state funding is being allocated for resources such as teachers, textbooks and facilities.
“If it’s not going to go to me, I got to see it in my kids somehow and I’m not seeing it,” Rice said.
Teachers, students and other community members chanted “Value students, value teachers” and “Teachers united; we’ll never be divided.” Demonstrators stayed for all five hours of the meeting, including during a closed session.
Rice said she attended to “try and give voice to my students.”
“We want students to go into this field and we want them to feel respected as they move forward, and that’s not what we’re feeling,” Rice said. “I think the things we try to model for our students about integrity, about how you treat others — we’re not seeing that from our leadership, and that’s really disappointing.
“And so what you tell your students is, ‘You get involved.’ This is how you make change happen, so … I’m out here to model change. Everyone makes a difference.”
District officials declined to comment, and trustees did not respond to statements made during the meeting.
Several students turned out to show solidarity with the teachers. Lauren Taylor, a senior at Edison High School, spoke during public comments about the support teachers gave her in her senior year and said they “deserve your respect and a fair contract moving forward.”
“No matter the day, no matter the time, even if they had something going on soon, [teachers] would listen. Now, that stays with someone a lifetime,” Taylor said.
The contract currently proposed by the union would cover the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The district’s proposal would cover those two years in addition to 2020-21.
The union says the district offered a total 2.5% pay increase over three years, with a 1% increase to be retroactively applied for 2018-19, an additional 1% in 2019-20 and 0.5% in 2020-21. The association asked for a 4.65% increase to be retroactively applied for this school year, plus a 3.5% increase in 2019-20.
Union President Shawn Werner, an English teacher at Ocean View High School, said Tuesday’s rally was intended to show that teachers are unified in feeling they need to be “adequately compensated.”
“The three-year offer they’ve offered us is bordering on insulting,” Werner said. “What you’re telling me is that next year, the $1 loaf of bread is going to be $1.03 and you’re offering to pay me over three years $1 and a nickel. It’s not fair. We have some amazing people accomplishing some incredible things on a daily basis with less and less resources.”
The next negotiations are scheduled for May 22.