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Teachers' union, district at odds over co-pays

Original post made on Oct 15, 2009

The Palo Alto teachers' union has asked the school board to restore $780,000 worth of health benefits to the school district's latest contract offer. But the district said it can't afford to.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 15, 2009, 12:56 AM

Comments (34)

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 15, 2009 at 8:44 am

It might be a good idea for a National Strike for Health Care Reform.

Just shut the whole place down until this nonsense gets resolved.

In a take off of "what would Jesus do?".....

What would the French do?

Posted by Response
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 15, 2009 at 9:40 am

The French would have 52% ( and rising) of their GDP be used in Government use, little of it for their actual security, most of it for entitlements, and think that 10% unemployment is GOOD, not bad since it isn't as bad as they are used to...and be facing total collapse.

We WERE at 32% GDP government use a couple years ago, and even so were facing mounting debt ( remember that was one of the reasons we were all so mad at Republicans, was the ever mounting debt???), and mounting unfunded liabilities ( baby boomers are slamming into Medicare and Social Security), so we elected a full-control party to make us as good as the French ( hahahahahaha). Now we are almost as good as the French, with their unemployment rate ( YES WE CAN), their massive debt load ( quadrupled in only 9 months..YES WE CAN), and their fears of countrywide bankruptcy ( YES WE CAN!!!).

But, dang, it feels so good to have ruined those greedy rich (it wasn't greedy to take what didn't belong to us, though), and the private sector, ( what did they ever do for our economy, anyway??), and given control to government bureacrats who know nothing about cars, industry, banking, energy and now health care. Next? How about a Cultural Revolution a la China's? Let's finish that path of envy right!!

Teachers: Please think twice about trying to squeeze more out of taxpayers. The entire water level has lowered, with all of us on the same boat. I don't want resentment to build against you, now.

Suck it up like the rest of us are.

Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 15, 2009 at 9:54 am

Response is correct. The Teachers' unions, like all public sector employees, must get over the idea that they deserve to be protected 100% from the effects of the economy's meltdown. We are a poorer country than we were a couple of years ago. There is less money to spread around now that the pie has stopped growing and is actually shrinking.

Any money that goes into teachers' or other government workers' pockets has to come out of the pockets of those paying the freight: we taxpayers. Virtually everybody not working for some arm of government is poorer than they were a few years ago - and likely has suffered income drops.

The teachers, the SEIU, city managers - all of them - have to share in the declining fortunes of this city, state and country. We can't afford a selfish privileged class of favored workers protected from the economic vagaries that befall all the rest of us.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

I completely agree with Anna.

We can't have civil servants, immune from what the rest of us are having to deal with in this economy. Teachers around here are fortunate in that their jobs are secure. Among my friends and acquaintances who work for companies who are striving to stay afloat during these recessionary times, are people who have lost jobs, whose full time jobs have become part time, whose hours have been drastically reduced, whose companies have closed around public holidays without pay, whose jobs have disappeared and are now working for the same company but out of some other center and are telecommuting, have had to pay more for their own healthcare and other benefits, have had their offices moved to other locations to save on expensive office rentals, and so on and so on.

These civil servants and teachers don't realise that they are lucky to still have jobs. They are living in a bubble if they think that they really are hard done by.

Posted by JustAParent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2009 at 10:37 am

Those civil servants and teachers are the future for your kids. They are working on the fraction of the pay in private companies. It will lead to the best to leave and you'll be left with losers at schools (like in many other fields, where the best can afford the change).

Posted by observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2009 at 11:05 am

Many parents do not get dental coverage in this valley. Teachers look greedy when making these threatening statements.

Posted by Midtown neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2009 at 11:10 am

I am in the middle. The district needs to do something about those awful teachers, fire them or put them under probation. Right now my child has the worst teacher, who does not respect students, and even worst, she encourages her students to be mean to the ones who are not paying attention. She has been working for the district too long, so there is nothing that can be done. This teacher and others like her do not deserve a raise or any benefit. I think increases should be done based on their good teaching practices and classroom management. I fell bad I am paying taxes and they are used to pay her salary.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

Maybe the economics teachers could teach the rest of the teachers some economics.

Posted by Greenmeadow Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 15, 2009 at 11:42 am

Midtown neighbor: For the sake of your child, please ask for a classroom change. No student should be subjected to disrespectful behavior for an entire year.

On another note: the sense of entitlement by teachers is amazing. It's hard to feel sympathetic about "not asking for a raise" when state workers received a 10% pay cut this year, and there are so many without employment (public and private sector). Reasonable co-pays is not too much to ask (we've had significant copays forever). Quit whining.

I do want to say that I find the private sector folks comments interesting. Many believe that public employees should "suck it up" in bad times and share the poor pay or reduction in benefits, but there is never any noise about equivalent pay levels in the good times. Except in places like Palo Alto, bonuses in the public sector are rare to non-existent, whereas those I know in the private sector may receive $10k to 50k in bonuses on a regular basis (in the good times). Pay raises for the state are generally low or somewhat above COL, rarely the 10,15, 25+% you see in the private sector during (again, during the good times). The highest raise I've ever received in a single year was 8% -- AFTER several years of no raises at all. Most in the public sector do not have the luxury of negotiating raises for individual accomplishments or workload. It is always across the board for those in same rank. So, unless you are willing to support equivalent pay in the good times, your complaints now are a bit hypocritical.

Posted by zanon
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

As government employees, such as teachers and the SEIU, think they are completely immune from the broader economy, they do their best to ruin the broader economy through being greedy and destructive.

They take too much money, make bad policies, and are focused on protecting their own rather than serving the community (their customers).

Fire them all. Start fresh.

Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm

"Most in the public sector do not have the luxury of negotiating raises for individual accomplishments or workload. It is always across the board for those in same rank." You have only your membership in a public sector union to blame for this. Unions always prop up the shirkers at the expense of the productive members of their organizations. By definition, they scorn recognizing individual merit.

"... unless you are willing to support equivalent pay in the good times, your complaints now are a bit hypocritical." Unfortunately for the poster's credibility and for the rest of us, virtually every analysis done reaches the conclusion that when all benefits and perks are included, public sector workers get 25-40% more than private sector workers for the same jobs. Those $50,000 bonuses you mention make good newspaper stories, but they represent a tiny fraction of job holders - even in the tech sector and even in good times.

Posted by midtown dude
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 15, 2009 at 3:00 pm



Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2009 at 3:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Teachers in PAUSD got a 2% increase in salaries in 2009 (adopted in the spring and retroactive to the beginning of the year as far as I recall). Don't they consider themselves lucky?

If not, we can cut back the copays AND retroactively eliminate the 2% pay increase they got in 2009. How's that?

Posted by One Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 15, 2009 at 5:35 pm


Don't attack Mr. Habib--he is the messenger for the techers union and he is a VERY good teacher who cares about his students.

That said, the teachers should NOT be asking for anything now. The district needs to go back to the voters this spring or summer to extend the Parcel Tax. Even with that passing, the district will be in the red by the tune of $4-6 Million in the next 2 years (starting in 2010 school year) and may be asking for more money to be raised by PiE (from parents).

Employers need to quit hiding the cost of healthcare benefits. With costs rising 10-20% per year, the school district is saying that they need to keep their contribution to benefits constant (the amount of money they pay per employee) but that equates to a bigger copay for the employee (costs for coverage went up so they have to take a lesser plan to keep their outlay the same year over year). This is not unlike your auto insurance going up so you opt to have a larger deductible.

If PAUSD does keep the current level of benefits, then the teachers are in fact getting a pay raise (to cover an increased expense). We don't ask employers to pay us when the price of gas goes up (or groceries), because we have direct visibility to those costs--they are not "bundled". Why do we expect employers to contiinue to cover the raise in costs for healthcare, and why do we feel entitled?

Maybe the cost of those extra benefits should be taxed as income, then we would all appreciate the need to revise the healthcare system and work to get costs down for everyone.

All employers (private as well as public) need to list the cost of each "benefit" (medical, dental, life, car, etc) on the pay stub, so that we all know what the benefits cost and that they are not "free".

Posted by Mary
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 15, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Teachers make many financial sacrifices to work with your kids. We spend out of pocket a great deal on copying fees, treats for the students and other job related items. We are not reimbursed for these expenses.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Mary - many teachers spend extra time and money on their students, but then there are the ones who won't even share a kleenex with a student (and no I am not kidding). I believe most of our school PTA's have funds to reimburse teachers for their expenditures.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

This is Palo Alto, no teachers are paying for treats or kleenex out of their own pockets because of no funds for them. They only have to send an email out to parents and we get them anything and everything they want from hand sanitizer to pizza to raising money for a replacement digital camera. If a teacher is doing this then it is because they have never sent out a wish list at the beginning of the school year or an email during the year. In fact, many of us would rather give to the teachers directly than to larger fundraisers because we know it is our own kids that are directly benefiting.

Posted by pateacher
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Parent: I am one of those teachers who hasn't made a direct appeal to parents for supplies, tissues, etc. for the classroom -- until this year. First, a couple of givens: I know parents are asked for a lot and everyday I know how lucky I am to not only have a job, but one I love. That being said, for Back to School Night, I put out a wish list along with a couple of other handouts for parents. The info was clearly labeled. The two other handouts disappeared. The wish list - with please's and thank you's and smiley faces - remained and no 'wishes' (tissues, hand sanitizer, etc.) were fulfilled. Frankly, I was shocked and kind of discouraged... I won't be asking again.

Posted by Response
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 15, 2009 at 7:50 pm

The benefit of union membership is a more secure job. For security, one loses the "highs", but doesn't experience AS MUCH OF the "lows". It doesn't mean NO lows, it means less-low lows, and a lot more job security in a time when the private sector is terrified.

In addition, it is really bad form for the very ones who have gotten the dream they have pushed for since Carter to not want to share in the pain the realization of their dream has brought the rest of us. It is bad form to not suffer some of the consequences of being the "winner" in the House elections in 2006, in the California funding battles of 2006, and in the Presidential election in 2008.

Votes have consequences, and we are paying for the "lefting" of America right now.

Lastly, contrary to the comment above about not sharing in the "good times", I figured out that teachers with 25 years experience made much more than ANY health care professional with similar education if compared on a month to month working basis ( the rest of us work a couple months longer than teachers do), and even more than that if all benefits are included. So, no, they are not poorly compensated. If it were such a bad job, then we would have troubles finding teachers, wouldn't we, yet we never do.

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful to teachers on the whole, and would wish them and many other professions I admire a lot more money than they get. But, I have to say, I also blame much of the absurd thinking that goes on now on the lack of teaching critical thinking, history and economics combined with a constant hard left slant that has brought us to this point, where most Americans under 35 don't even know that we are repeating history, ,most recently a little in 1992, a lot in 1970s, and even more in the 1930s...right now, in a completely predictable, and not good, way. And paying dearly for re-learning the history.

So I don't really feel too bad if teachers feel some of the effects of their politics now. I feel bad for the very few libertarian/conservative teachers there are who have to pay also, just like I feel bad for all the people who have consistently voted FOR good economic policies ( and lost) who have to pay the price of something they didn't vote for. But that's life, we all pay the consequences of votes whether or not we voted for it.

Maybe we will learn something from all this, as a nation? We can always hope, can't we?

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 15, 2009 at 8:04 pm

In case any teachers are reading this, or any city workers, or anyone who works for a living or non-living wage...

I hope the general gist and sentiments of many of the rightist here are having an impact...though not the ones they intend...

What was it, with a twist...first they came for the city workers, invoking SEIU and ACORN, next they went after the teachers (as police and middle management dove for representative cover).....

We fight together or we hang alone.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2009 at 9:24 pm


I am truly sorry to hear about your experience. This is not something I have experienced as a parent in PA schools, particularly elementary and middle. I have not heard of wish lists generally from high school teachers. I wonder if other parents would care to comment on this.

Posted by pta funds
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2009 at 9:46 pm


Sounds very odd. At least at in my children's classes, the teachers only need to ask. The PTA pays for most/all of the supplies in any case but the teacher is welcome to ask for more.
Which grade to you teach?

Posted by Response
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2009 at 7:40 am

A Noun: You had a great start to a thought! If we finish it, it goes like this in modern America:

First they came for the Bank Owners, but I said nothing because they had more than I had and I greedily wanted some of what wasn't mine...and in fact rejoiced at their humiliation and fear.

Then they came for the Auto Owners and CEOs, but I said nothing because they had more than I had and I wanted some of what wasn't mine, and I rejoiced in their humiliation and fear.

Then they came for energy and manufacturing companies, but I said nothing because they are bad and I wanted some of what wasn't mine.

Then they came for the health insurance companies, but I said nothing, because the 80% of the USA insured by them had too much, and I want what isn't mine. Then they came for the doctors because they make too much, but I said nothing because I wanted some of what wasn't mine.

Then they came for everyone else who earned more than I did, but I said nothing because I wanted to take what wasn't mine.

I never cared about the millions of lives I was destroying to get what wasn't mine.

Then they figured out there was nobody left to squeeze, tax "revenues' were down 40%, and the rules were in place that killed any incentive to try to bring back the taxpaying base.

So then they came for me, because now I had more, and they wanted some, and there were no more constitutional or cultural barriers to protecting my private property...somebody else wanted it who had less..

This is the culture of trickle down theft, of envy and greed we are now fully in, and we have to pay the price.

The only way to stop it is to return the concept that, no..nobody owes you anything at all, except the freedom to keep your life, your liberty, and your ability to pursue your happiness. You are free to succeed, and to have the freedom to succeed, you must have the converse freedom to fail. Without being able to force others to bail you out.

Once we slip into forcing, by law, one person to give up some of what he has earned to "give to" someone else who didn't earn it, we erode the fundamentals that spring forth sustainable economic growth. And we end up with nobody having the right to keep the fruits of their labor, and nobody willing to risk planting the tree in the first place, since it will just be cut down by the government.

Just making sure you complete your thought. As for the Teachers in our city, thank you for your work....and good luck.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2009 at 10:17 am

With the city finances in shambles it is time to to cut back on entitlements. Everyone else (not on the government gravy train) copays. I know teachers are under paid for the enormous contribution they make in our society. But unending entitlements jeopardize all our futures.
Salary increases, such as gained by the union, are the way to go instead.

Posted by Greenmeadow Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Anna -- "Most reports"? Citations?

Posted by Teacher Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I'm a teacher in another district, but my kids go to PA schools. I too feel the PA teachers need to wait until the economy recovers before asking for more. The elementary teachers probably don't feel the economic squeeze in the classroom like the high school teachers do.
When my kids were in elementary school all the teacher had to do was ask and they received whatever they needed. The same cannot be said for the high schools. These teachers desperately need tissues, hand sanitizer, and paper.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm

"This is Palo Alto." This the attitude that drives most teachers crazy. It is the same attitude that causes your kids to throw themselves in front of trains. Wake up! When I first came to Gunn, we had trash cans in the back of the classrooms to collect water dripping from the ceilings. We had 20 year old trailers which were unbearable most of the school year. Currently, there are no phones in most of the so-called B4E remodeled classrooms. These same rooms don't have any insulation nor safety glass in the windows. We spend money from our own pockets to support your kids. We work in overheated & crowded rooms because we love teaching. But our love should not be taken for granted nor go unrewarded. We are not part of your extended household staff, nor second class citizens. Wake up!

Posted by anony mouse
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2009 at 1:12 pm

This is also a marketplace for teachers. This is Palo Alto, but as you can see from the starting salaries at other districts, PA is not the be all and end all. Other districts are far ahead of ours in implementing technology in the classroom. You need top notch talent and the infrastructure for that. PA falls far short compared to other districts. I know, I've been in many classrooms in the region. A complacent attitude will lead to decrepitude

Posted by Response
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 17, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Mary, please tell us which rooms in which buildings at Gunn have no insulation nor safety glass...

BTW, if you are a teacher here for 20 years, you know that Facilities funds are from a different source than salaries, and that we are just about to build all new Gunn and Paly facilities..right?

You also know, if you are a teacher here, that all buildings were brought up to code with Measure A funds. IF they weren't then please tell us which ones are not up to code, so we can fix Measure A fund use.

So, I think the hyperbole can stop, you don't help the teachers' cause.

I DO agree about not being air-conditioned rooms..that is absurd. But, I guess it is in keeping with the "greening" of Palo Alto, and with the fact that we have pushed the start of school back ever more into August as we add days off during the school year.

Back to the Union pushing at this time..are they still pushing on restoring the almost $1,000,000 in payouts?

Posted by anony mouse
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 17, 2009 at 5:21 pm

What's wrong with ASKING for the benefits that they are asking for? The attitude on this thread from some people seems to be "how dare they"? This is a negotiation. This is still early in the negotiation. Everyone can relax. Compromise is part of the process. Depending on your political persuasion, you can get pretty worked up. In the end a middle course seems to be achieved. There is neither labor nirvana nor a free market likely in this situation.

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2009 at 10:39 am

Data from American Federation of Teachers:

The average salary for traditional public school teachers increased 4.5 percent in 2006-07 to $51,009, the first time since 2003 that teacher salaries surpassed the annual rate of inflation.

CA had the nation’s highest average teacher salary in 2006-07, according to the AFT Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2007.

The average teacher salary in CA for the 2006-07 school year was $63,640—a 6.4% increase from the previous year.CA was ranked ninth in the nation for beginning teacher salaries at $38,875, an increase of 5.4% from the previous year.

Full survey: Web Link

State-by-state fact sheets: Web Link

Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm

To Mary:
IF you are a PA teacher - quit!

"It is the same attitude that causes YOUR kids to throw themselves in front of trains... We work in overheated & crowded rooms because we LOVE teaching...We are not part of your extended household staff, nor second class citizens. Wake up!"

As a parent I hoped:
1) it would be OUR kids who we all, as a community will try to stop from taking the life;
2) After remodeling, EVERYBODY (including yourself) will get a better facilities and recourses.
3) The fact that some PA families do have a household staff has nothing to do with this particular topic.
4) With that "love" you need to rethink a career path.

Thank God for a wonderful PA teachers that still exist and DO LOVE OUR KIDS. I will vote for THEIR benefits.

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