To the Editor:
Last November voters passed Measure G, the parcel tax extension to support academic programs in WCCUSD. One of the Measure G programs is supporting and retaining qualified teachers. WCCUSD teacher salaries are the lowest in the area, with the exception of Pittsburgh Unified. How can the district attract quality teachers without offering a competitive salary and benefits?
WCCUSD salaries are lower than neighboring districts in part because the district had offered an outstanding benefits package that included healthcare for employees and their dependents. In the last contract however the district took away healthcare benefits for dependents.
A teacher who has a spouse or child on his or her Kaiser plan for example, now pays about $300 a month. In January, the price will go up to about $400 a month. Teachers that have more than one dependent on their health insurance, or have Blue Shield, pay even more every month.
Most WCCUSD teachers cannot afford this expense and don’t qualify for public healthcare options either. It stands to reason that there are probably many teachers whose children are going without health insurance. The added burden of health insurance costs paired with low salaries are driving qualified teachers out of our district and likely making it difficult to attract quality teachers.
Measure G won widespread approval among WCCUSD voters. El Cerrito and Kensington had the highest support, with 79.3% and 84.5 % respectively. By cutting health care benefits to dependents the district appears to be out of step with the mood of voters. Voters made their priorities clear. They want to support academic programs through smaller class sizes, improved safety, and technology and attracting and supporting qualified teachers. Measure G provides the funds to support programs to improve our schools. All we have to do now is implement those programs.
I’m proud to teach and live in this community. I grew up in El Cerrito and graduated from El Cerrito High School (‘94). Although WCCUSD has felt the sting of the Great Recession, and suffered financial setbacks, we must believe that our schools can and will return to their former functioning. To do this, some of the Measure G money must be allocated to at least partially restore healthcare coverage for dependents and increase salary for teachers.
– Kristyn Jones
Third grad teacher, Lake Elementary School, San Pablo
El Cerrito Patch welcomes letters to the editor (up to 450 words) and guest columns (more than 450 words) from members of the community. Those interested in contributing can write to email@example.com. To see past letters to the editor, please click here. Past guest columns can be found here.