Teachers Rally in Belmont Over Higher Pay, Benefit Contributions

Teachers on the Peninsula say they’re being priced out of living in their communities, and they say that's not a good sign for the future of the Bay Area.

About 75 teachers rallied outside the Belmont-Redwood Shores Faculty Association office in Belmont Thursday night, where the superintendent and school board were meeting behind closed doors to discuss labor negotiations.

According to teachers’ union poll, 58 percent say they’re struggling to pay their mortgage and rent, 26 percent plan on moving in the next three years, 18 percent say it’s tough to put food on the table, and 6 percent have lost their homes.

In addition to pay, at the heart of the issue are health plan costs. According to the teachers’ union, 10 years ago they paid 7 percent of the costs, and now it’s 50 percent.
Those numbers show that, for a family plan, teachers went from paying $800 to now paying $15,000 a year.

According to the California Department of Education, when it comes to average salary, Belmont-Redwood Shores is actually 8th on the list out of 23 school districts in San Mateo County, but teachers say, with the district doing better financially, it’s time they get paid back for previous concessions.

“The district over last three years needed us to concede class sizes,” said Michael Bradley, who's taught at Ralston Middle School for 22 years. “They have not been putting any money into health and welfare benefits over last 10 years. They are paying benefits, but they have not increased their portions of the payments. The teachers have been absorbing all the costs.”

Ralston 8th grade teacher Angela Sveda said she would like to upgrade from her studio apartment.

“I would like to branch on out. I would like to start a family of my own,” Sveda said. “I would like to own a home.”

The superintendent, Michael Milliken told NBC Bay Area he has been in the position for nine months and says talks before him stalled because the district wasn’t sure it would get money from a parcel tax that contributes roughly $2 million to a $33 million budget. Voters passed it in November. Milliken says, since then, talks have improved.

“I think [Milliken’s] open to working with us,” Bradley said. “We just have to convince him this is the right path to go and he needs to, with the district, take the teachers into consideration and put them as the top priority.”

The problem is there have only been a handful of meetings. No next meeting is scheduled.

Both sides say if they could meet now – they would – but they have to agree on a middle-person and scheduling. Both sides say that has been difficult.

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