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SF teachers closer to getting raises: ‘It’s the most insane time to be an educator’

United Educators of San Francisco President Cassondra Curiel calls for raises outside of San Francisco Unified School District's main office on Tuesday, Aug. 23. | Ida Mojadad / The Standard | Source: Ida Mojadad/The Standard

For the first time since 2018, San Francisco educators may be about to land a raise.

The San Francisco Unified School District and United Educators of San Francisco took first steps this week to reopen educators’ labor contract, which was extended in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

Since Covid prompted school closures and forced tens of thousands of students into distance learning, scores of demoralized educators have left the profession or district upon returning to fully in-person instruction. 

The resulting staffing shortfalls compounded pressures for remaining teachers while SFUSD also made major cuts in the face of a budget deficit being monitored by state authorities. The district also rolled out a disastrous payroll system that continues to produce new errors around paycheck and benefits, leaving teachers in the lurch as money they’re owed is late to arrive—if it posts to their accounts at all. 

Like many other districts, SFUSD headed into the new school year contending with a stark teacher shortage. To plug that gap, the district said it repositioned 91 teachers on special assignment, known as TSAs, who usually coach and support regular classroom teachers. 

UESF President Cassondra Curiel said raises are a must given all teachers have been through. The district expects to receive $20 million more from state revenues than previously budgeted for the current school year.

“There will be no room to waver on this issue,” Curiel told The Standard. “It’s the most insane time to be an educator. In San Francisco, it’s not just insane, it’s questionable. You shouldn’t be wondering if you’re going to get paid every month.”

San Francisco public school educators last received a salary bump as a result of Proposition G, a parcel tax passed by voters in 2018. 

UESF proposed revisiting work days, salaries, fringe benefits and substitute teachers while SFUSD responded with renegotiating largely around pay and classification. 

Negotiations can’t begin until the formal letters come back for a second reading, Superintendent Matt Wayne noted. Bargaining for a fully new contract would come sometime in the spring semester, according to UESF. 

“We know we need to step up our investment,” Wayne told audience members at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “We know it’s a priority for us. Our most important job is to make sure we have classrooms and educators with our kids so they are safe and learning.” 

Educators on Tuesday once again argued that raises are urgently needed to retain and recruit experienced and new teachers—particularly in light of the ongoing payroll glitches and inflation. Several were SFUSD graduates themselves, like Jackson Whittington. 

“We hope we can afford to stay in the city we grew up in and send our kids to SFUSD also, but that seems increasingly unlikely,” said Whittington, a teacher at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School. “Please raise our salaries so we can continue to do the work we love.”

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