Farmersville district, teachers hit salary stalemate

Teachers picket and encourage the Farmersville School Board to invest in their students.(Kenny Goodman)

Farmersville Unified School District, Teachers Association reach impasse over teacher salary negotiations; enter mediation

FARMERSVILLE – After months of salary negotiation between the Farmersville Teachers Alliance (FTA) and Farmersville Unified, the FTA had officially declared an impasse and will be moving toward mediation as soon as a mediator is scheduled.

The FTA is holding firm in its demand for higher wages while Farmersville Unified School District (FUSD) has not budged in offering its teachers a 2% raise. From FUSD’s standpoint, Superintendent Dr. Sergio Chavez said the district simply doesn’t have the funds to support an increase higher than 2% this year.

From the standpoint of the FTA, president Richard Dybas said FUSD’s pay rates for its teachers should at least be comparable to other districts of similar size, such as Exeter and Woodlake school districts.

“(Otherwise), if you’re a brand new teacher, why would you come here over here?,” Dybas said.

It is unclear what the outcome of negotiations will be as the entities move into mediation. According to Chavez, If the pay schedule for the next year is not resolved in mediation, then the budget and pay raise offered will be evaluated by an outside agency to see if the district has given a reasonable offer.

BUDGETING NEEDS

On the side of the FTA, Dybas explained the association has been negotiating with FUSD for months now, and consistently the school district has only offered a 2% raise. When compared to other school districts of similar size, he said the other district’s wages have knocked out FUSD as a competitive option for teachers.

According to the pay schedules of other comparable districts in the area, all the other school districts have received pay raises between 7% and 9%, which is leaving Farmersville behind. Dybas explained and The Sun-Gazette confirmed that over the last two years educators at Lindsay Unified received a pay increase of 9.3% in 2022-23 and another 7.5% in 2023-24.

Woodlake Unified teachers received 10% in 2022-23 and 7% in 2023-24, Exeter Unified educators received 6% in 2022-23 (plus $5,000 off schedule) and 11% in 2023-24 while Cutler-Orosi Unified teachers received 10% in 2022-23 and 7% in 2023-24.

Chavez said while he agrees Farmersville teachers deserve higher pay, the school district simply doesn’t have it in the budget to offer a higher pay raise. He explained not only would he, himself, be in support of granting teachers higher pay if the district could afford it, but pointed out that he was also in favor of the district last year when it offered its teachers a 9% pay raise.

“There’s restricted and unrestricted funding. We can’t use all the money that is being claimed for negotiations, because the funds come (to the district) with very specific purposes,” Chavez said. “My own personal philosophy is very much pro-worker. … The problem is the money’s not available.”

Chavez explained there are three factors keeping FUSD from giving teachers a significantly higher pay increase this year. These factors include decreased student enrollment, decreased government funding and Farmersville’s small class sizes. He said these factors are making it difficult for the school to stay in line with government regulations regarding the budget while also providing a pay raise at the same time.

Chavez went on to say he is hopeful the new apartment developments coming into town will help increase enrollment, thus replacing some of the funding the district lost.

“We’ve been taking active measures through our community liaisons, and we put together brochures to entice those parents to enroll their kids in Farmersville (Unified),“ Chavez said.

FUSD also has a high teacher-to-student ratio, which Chavez said spreads out the funding they have even thinner. He said the district is planning on decreasing some of the class sizes by not backfilling some of the teachers who leave, thus increasing class sizes for the remaining teachers.

“It’s not an issue of ill will, or that we do not want to compensate our teachers, but we have to do it based on a budget that we can afford,” Chavez said. He said since the district negotiates pay every year, it should hold off on disturbing a higher pay raise for another year to allow the district more time to rework its finances while minimizing layoffs.

The FTA, however, does believe the district can afford to foot the cost of pay increases for teachers. Dybas explained in his email statements that California’s cost of living adjustment (COLA) for this year was 8%. COLA funding is a calculated increase given out by the state to allow schools to offer salaries that keep up with inflation rates, and according to Dybas, the 2% salary increase proposed by FUSD does not fulfill the recommended 8% COLA adjustment.

We actually got 4.26% less than our share of the new (district) money,” Dybas said.

Dybas went on to say the FTA does not wish to bankrupt the school district. However, he explained he believes maintaining teachers long-term is essential for the students to succeed.

“Every study that I’ve (seen shows that) longer-term teachers create lasting relationships and connections with kids,” Dybas said.  “They yield better results as far as test scores and education by building connections with students.”

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