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San Rafael teachers authorize strike in unanimous vote

PIX Now -- Friday afternoon headlines from the KPIX newsroom
PIX Now -- Friday afternoon headlines from the KPIX newsroom 09:16

SAN RAFAEL – Teachers in San Rafael have voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike after state-appointed mediation was unsuccessful, the San Rafael Teachers Association said Friday. 

The union, which represents 258 teachers in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, said that its educators voted to authorize a strike as a last resort.

Teachers have been negotiating with San Rafael City Schools (SRCS) since November, the union said, but are now at an impasse.

According to the union, 83 percent of its members voted on the strike authorization Wednesday and Thursday and it was formally approved by 99 percent of its membership.

Now each party is headed to fact-finding before a three-member panel, the union said, the final step before a strike.

The district said it is striving in good faith to reach a resolution.

"We believe our latest contract offer achieves the goals of significantly increasing teacher compensation," the district said on March 7. "We are optimistic that we will reach a resolution which is in the best interests of our students, teachers and the District."

SRCS management's last official proposal was a 4.7 percent salary increase, the union said. The teachers association did not say how much of an increase they have requested. 

However, the school district updated the community on March 7 about the negotiations with the union and said it offered teachers a total compensation increase of 15 percent over two years, which includes a 13 percent increase in salary. 

The district said it did at first offer a 4.7 percent increase, but would now apply grant funds it has available to districts with disadvantaged students to raise teacher pay. 

"The board is willing to do something it has never done and use these funds for salary increases to remain competitive with other districts with our compensation, but we also need to ensure we are using the funds to increase or improve services to the students for whom they were intended," said the district. 

The district also said it offered to protect prep time for teachers of 50 minutes per week and to move to a seven-period schedule, with teachers leading five periods instead of six at the middle school, to bring it in line with other Marin County districts. 

"Currently, a beginning SRTA educator can earn $52,308, while their counterpart with the same experience in the high school branch of SRCS can earn $64,831," said the union in a statement released Friday. "After 10 years of experience, an SRTA educator can currently earn $88,270, while SRCS high school educators earn $107,126. Educators are calling for equity and equality across the board." 

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