Kati Bassler, President of the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1020, says the salary formula the local has had since 2011 ensures members they will get a fair share of district funds.

“Their increase in salary is based on financial standing of district,” she said on a video call. “It creates a culture where everyone understands that if the district gets more money, they’re going to get a raise.”

On the same video call, Steve McDougall, President of the EC/TK-12 Council who was President of Local 1020 when they first enforced the salary formula language that was negotiated during the Great Recession, calls it the “gold standard,” saying it has completely changed bargaining. For him, unlike most things in life, it’s all pros and no cons.

“In contract negotiations, we don’t talk about salary because that is contract language that we enforce, so the district doesn’t have a salary raise to hold at the table in exchange for something else. That’s gone. That’s removed from the discussion. And now we’re negotiating everything else, and the district has no carrot,” he said. “We have reduced class size, we’ve used equity to provide smaller class sizes for students with disabilities with adult support and English Learners, we’ve created stipends for teachers, and extra compensation for teachers of English learners — I could go on and on. And the district has nothing — nothing — to hold over our heads. So, we’re always chipping away and improving our contract.”

McDougall says the formula has meant raises of more than 37% over 10 years for their members, making them the best compensated Prop 98 Revenue Limit District in the county. And it hasn’t hurt the district, he adds.

“At no time have we put our employer in jeopardy of going in the red. They tried to say that once when Kati was president during a previous term, and they brought in School Services of California and gave their presentation, basically on the back of a cocktail napkin, saying that if they gave us a 6% raise, that the district would go bankrupt,” he said.  “We fought them, we organized and made them pay out six and a half percent. Well, guess what? Nothing happened to the district’s reserve.”

Miguel Rodriguez, a middle school physical education teacher active in Local 1020, loves having the salary formula. It means that in negotiations they can expend their energy on other issues, he says.

“When we go to bargain our contract because we already have a salary formula, what we get to bargain now is all the stuff that matters, like class size, like hours of employment, special education — everything else you can think of,” he said. “We have been blessed with this salary contract that we have. And what ends up happening is that when there’s a surplus in the district’s budget, it gets applied to our wages. And it’s an automatic — it’s something we no longer have to bargain for. The only thing that we have to do as a union is we have to crunch the numbers together.”

Bassler adds that it isn’t only teachers who want to work in the district because of better salaries. She says it also means they can focus on students’ mental health.

“Our district this year was able to attract seven social workers from surrounding districts,” Bassler said.

“And the County of Monterey !” McDougall added, laughing gleefully. “And guess what? They’re making more money, and they only work 10 months instead of 12.”


Written by: Emily Wilson