Lassen High School district teachers picket for COLA
The Lassen Teachers Association is comprised of certificated teachers within the Lassen Union High School District including Lassen High School, Credence High School and Diamond Mountain Charter High School and Diploma Gold adult school. Special education teachers and Regional Occupational Program teachers are not included as they are hired from the Lassen County Office of Education.
In addition to the LTA, other staff members and the California School Employees Association members were in attendance at the picket, uniting the two groups for the first time in about 29 years, Crosby said.
Currently, LTA is in contract negotiations with the district. The teachers have asked for COLA money, but Crosby said the district is saying there isn’t money to give.
He said negotiators tell LTA members the district might be in trouble and it can’t afford giving COLA, but Crosby said LTA found out the district has a vast amount of reserves.
School districts are required to maintain a 3 percent reserve for economic uncertainty, but the board’s policy requires a 5percent reserve.
Crosby said the reserve fund is well over 20 percent and he also said the district is putting COLA money into the reserve fund.
The current COLA percentage given to the district by the state is 4.53 percent.
Crosby said the teachers, especially the beginning teachers, need COLA money to help with the rising costs of living, such as gas prices.
He said district teachers are the most underpaid teachers in the valley, yet they also have the highest administration costs.
According to LUSHD Chief Business Officer Debbie Fry, the district is not putting COLA funds into the reserve fund, the money is put into the general fund as unrestricted money.
Money put into the reserves are leftover funds from categorical programs or unspent money from prior years.
Fry said the money supports the district in times of deficit spending, which the district is currently in.
If people were to look at the balance of the reserve fund, Fry said it would seem the district has more than 20 percent in the reserve. However, some of the money is already set aside for district obligations, but the district has to identify it, making it appear in the reserve fund balance.
Prior to the picket, LTA and negotiators had met several times. LTA was asked to identify ways to save the district money, which Crosby said it did.
LTA representative met with negotiators later Wednesday, May 21. According to Fry, the negotiations went well and there could be a settlement soon.
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