Palo Alto teachers and school staff members will get a 3 percent raise plus a 1.5 percent bonus for the current school year in tentative agreements announced Friday, April 19.
The new contract also specifies that teachers will provide students and parents with updated information about grades "at least every three weeks," although "the vast majority of secondary teachers already do so," the school district and teachers union said in a joint statement.
The teachers' contract also mandates required but compensated "professional development" training for teachers amounting to at least 18 hours every two years starting in 2014-15.
The tentative raise for Palo Alto's more than 800 full- and part-time teachers would be the first permanent cost-of-living increase since a 2.5 percent boost in 2007-08.
If approved by the Board of Education and the teachers union, the raise will be retroactive to the start of the 2012-13 school year.
Last year, teachers and staff got a one-time bonus amounting to 1 percent of 2011-12 pay.
"Both parties believe that this agreement will help us retain and recruit outstanding educators to our district and support the common interest of PAEA (Palo Alto Educators Association) and the district to provide the best education for students," said the joint statement, signed by Superintendent Kevin Skelly and union president Theresa Baldwin, a kindergarten teacher at Addison Elementary School.
"Our improving local economy and less uncertainty at the state level helped create an environment where this has been possible," the statement said.
Similar pay terms were announced in a parallel contract with school staff members, who are represented by the California School Employees Association.
Both proposed contracts will be the subject of public hearings and discussion by the Palo Alto Board of Education at its Tuesday, April 23, meeting.
In March, district finance officials said the district's situation had "significantly improved" since adoption last June of a $162 million operating budget for 2012-13 that contained a $5.5 million deficit.
Projections for county property-tax revenue as of March were $4.4 million higher than had been assumed in last June's budget, and November's passage of California's Proposition 30 tax package saved the district another $5.4 million.
Salaries and benefits consume about 84 percent of the district's operating budget.
Arguing for a raise, teachers had said the Bay Area's cost of living has gone up nearly 8 percent since 2008, and many young teachers struggle to find housing near their jobs.
Palo Alto's average teacher salary of $85,721 ranked fifth among averages in nine nearby school districts according to a comparison published in February by EdData, which publishes fiscal, demographic and performance data about California's K-12 public schools.
Under the current salary schedule, a brand new teacher in Palo Alto earns $51,422; a teacher with seven years' experience and 60 units of graduate work earns $74,753; and an experienced teacher with 20 years' service and 90 units of graduate work earns $97,666.
The maximum salary for a teacher with 30 years' experience is $103,836.
Teachers get additional stipends for master's or doctoral degrees as well as for national board certification.
Additional costs to the school district include around $13,000 in health benefits and 12.5 percent contributions to the California State Teachers Retirement System.