An overwhelming majority of teachers in the Chula Vista Union Elementary School District were paid more in 2013 than they were in 2012, despite the union’s consistent claim that teachers haven’t received a raise since 2007.
Chula Vista teachers are on the brink of strike after months of labor negotiations about salaries, health care benefits and class sizes.
NBC7 Investigates requested data from the school district on salaries and benefits of teachers and found that at least 86 percent of Chula Vista teachers made more in 2013 than 2012 in total pay and benefits, according to the latest salary data available.
“Teachers have received nothing in the last 7 years,” wrote Manuel Yvellez, head of the teacher’s union, in an Aug. 15 e-mail. The phrase or a version of it has been repeated at rallies, school board meetings, on the union’s website and in media interviews.
The Chula Vista Educators (the teachers’ union) says the salary schedule is the main sticking point in contentious labor negotiations that have led the district and teachers to the cusp of a strike. The district is offering a 6 percent increase to pay.
“Inflation has basically increased over 10 percent since our last salary schedule increase in 2007,” said Yvellez.
Since 2007, Yvellez has in fact seen a 17.19 percent increase to his base pay from $68,801 to $80,631, according to district data.
The explanation for some of the unrecognized increases in pay is automatic raises given to teachers called “step and column.” The “step” refers to the number of years the employee has worked. The “column” refers to the amount of education the employee has.
The 2 to 3 percent automatic increases in teachers’ pay don’t necessarily happen every single year, but they do come at regular intervals.
“It is only now that the district is losing the PR campaign that they are introducing this argument that we’ve received raises in these step increases,” Yvellez said.
Yvellez said the teachers are arguing for a salary schedule increase to fight inflation and to be competitive with other districts. He added the step increases do nothing to address increased costs in health care and are basically wiped out by health care increases teachers have had to absorb.
“This is their desperate attempt to say, ‘Oh you’ve gotten raises,’ and essentially that’s disrespecting teachers even more,” Yvellez said.
A spokesman for the Chula Vista Elementary School District sent this statement in response to NBC7 Investigates questions about the data:
“Teaching is rightfully a well-paying profession,” said Anthony Millican, Director of Communications for the school district. “For Yvellez, a classroom teacher until last year, the 17 percent salary growth reflects the full extent of automatic raises over the last seven years and outpaces 12 percent inflation that the union cites in its own social media posts.”
All but one member of the seven-member bargaining unit had a base pay increase since 2007. The one teacher who didn’t is capped-out for her education level at $87,533 a year in base pay. Four of the seven bargaining unit members had more than a 10 percent bump in base pay, and three of those had more than 17 percent increases in base pay since 2007.
Contractually, Chula Vista teachers are required to work 185 days a year and seven hours a day, according to the district. In 2013, 67 percent of Chula Vista teachers made more than $70,000 in total pay and benefits – which works out to $54 an hour, if you divide total pay and benefits by days and hours required. However, many teachers work longer hours than contractually required and even grade papers and tests at home, according to district officials.
NBC7 Investigates compared median salaries for teachers at elementary school districts across the county, based on data provided by Transparent California, a taxpayer advocacy group. NBC7 Investigates examined the data and found pay for Chula Vista Elementary School District teachers fall about in the middle when compared with median salaries for teachers at other elementary school districts.
Median Salaries for the Elementary School Districts in the County:
(Based on 2013 total pay and benefits from Transparent California)
Solana Beach Elementary: $97,671.9
Cardiff Elementary: $90,936.78
Del Mar Union: $87,372.82
Santee School District: $83,412.82
Julian Union Elementary: $81,216.28
San Ysidro School District: $80,259.825
Chula Vista Elementary: $79,591.79
Fallbrook Union Elementary: $79,287.49
Lakeside Union Elementary: $77,511.51
San Pasqual Union: $76,931.975
Rancho Santa Fe: $73,323.75
Dehesa Elementary: $62,196.57
“Without going over your figures and seeing how you calculated it, I think you’ve made our argument for us,” Yvellez said. “If we are in the middle and you combine that with us being essentially dead last in health care benefits, we would, by your calculations, be below average in the county, which is not the way to attract the highest caliber teachers in the county.”
In 2013, the latest data available, 21 Chula Vista school district teachers made more than $100,000 in total pay and benefits, according to school district data.
By comparison, Superintendent Francisco Escobedo made $266,716.46 in total pay and benefits in 2013.