Home Career Covina-Valley Unified teachers are preparing to strike as final negotiations are underway

Covina-Valley Unified teachers are preparing to strike as final negotiations are underway

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More than 300 picketers demonstrated outside the Covina Valley Unified School District headquarters Wednesday morning as negotiators began a last-ditch effort to avoid teachers’ strike scheduled for Thursday in the 13,400-student school system.

Primary point of contention proposed health benefit changes. The district would like to establish a two-tiered system in which dependents of new employees would have strict health care spending limits. The union wants to maintain the status quo, where all family members have the same benefits, with fewer limits on the amount available for health care.

Two sides too did not reach complete agreement on compensation, although they are close to the allowance that union members would have received for the already completed 2021-2022 school year.

“We think we can get closer to the salary” and other issues, said Adam Hampton, the president Covina Unified Education Assn. “The trigger is health care.”

“I have to advocate for younger teachers,” said Susan Ricker, an instructional specialist and longtime teacher at Manzanita Elementary School in Covina. “There are young teachers here. They have to live outside our area because they don’t have enough money to live here. They may have young families. They can’t afford insurance.”

District officials declined to be interviewed but released a statement Wednesday.

“We are dismayed that the unions’ time, talent and energy will be focused on the strike rather than trying to reach an agreement, especially given that Covina Valley teachers are among the highest paid and have – and will continue to have under the proposal district – one of the best medical packages in the entire region.”

Negotiations began at 9 am, shortly after the rally.

The district’s statement added that officials “hope we can resolve our differences and come to an agreement.”

While the benefits agreement could prevent a strike, both sides still have a lot of work to do. As with other union contracts, either party can raise a number of issues within the existing ratified contract. They are called “repeats”. These issues – although small – can include salary negotiations. In Covina Valley, the previous teacher contract, which expired at the end of June, has unresolved questions about compensation and how the cases of students with disabilities will be handled.

Additionally, both parties must reach an agreement for the current school year and beyond on a fully reasoned new contract.

The school system serves Covina, West Covina, Glendora, San Dimas, Irwindale and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. There are nine elementary schools, three middle schools, three comprehensive high schools, a continuation school and an online school, as well as pre-school and adult education.

About 70% of the district’s students are from low-income families and about 80% are Latino.

About 575 teachers work in the district. Some parents and students also participated in the morning demonstration that started at 6:30. The teachers’ union also represents nurses and speech pathologists in the district.

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