The Los Banos Teachers Association (LBTA) and staff members across the Los Banos Unified School District peacefully assembled at the Feb. 15 school board meeting to protest a cap on healthcare benefits that would bring down their previous 13.1% in insurance to 7.3%. 

The LBTA said it has made increasing efforts to meet the district in the middle and stated it has negotiated a proposed amount which it deems necessary to keep up with the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) and to keep health benefits stable without a cap.

LPTA members said that the district has received high amounts of funding which the board has budgeted but that the district seems as if it does not have enough money to support teachers. But, the association said, the district has more than enough, since the state may provide monies based on Annual Enrollment figures.

Board members, however, disagreed with this allegation, noting the district has “restricted funds,” and to tap into these allocated budgets would be “illegal. Board members also said that funding for teacher’s benefits is based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which has taken on a significant decline since the pandemic. The figures of the ADA, the board suggests, are drastically different from those for Annual Enrollment.

LBTA Representative Jennifer Wilkin raised awareness to the fact that many teachers commute and that an insufficient COLA will indefinitely outweigh the benefits of their jobs.  “Yes, we choose where we live,” Wilkin said. “What some people seem to forget is that we also choose where we work. For many, the pay scale and benefits have far outweighed the time loss with family and friends. She added that “You will lose people who make our district amazing.”

Another teacher in the district, Leila Gurgen, said, “We have a lot of great teachers who stand strong each day to provide a top-quality education for all of the amazing students in our district. We have worked hard to keep and retain teachers in this district because of the health benefits and decent salary. So many teachers came out to assemble, stating that they are working together, negotiating and looking for peaceful solutions.”

Later on in the school board meeting, the LBUSD School Board passed a “Declaration of Need” which would be carried out until June 30, 2024. This motion stated that there is an insufficient number of certificated personnel who meet District employment criteria, and that the district could, if needed, hire permit teachers who may not be fully credentialed for any designated positions in the District.”

As we know,’” said Dr. Tammie Calzadillas, LBUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, “it’s become increasingly difficult to find fully credentialed teachers in math and sciences.”

Prishaa Vala