(Note to families of SFSD students: this message went out on ParentSquare at 4:00 pm on January 24, 2023)

Good afternoon, Silver Falls Families.

We’re writing today to share an update on the ongoing collective bargaining process between Silver Falls School District and the Silver Falls Education Association (SFEA), which represents our district’s excellent teachers. As of today, the parties have met eleven times since April of 2022. We’re grateful for the efforts of both bargaining teams – we enjoy an excellent relationship with the leaders within SFEA and appreciate our continued collaboration.

Though the District and SFEA have reached tentative agreements on nine articles, we remain far apart on several key areas of the contract on which we have not seen substantive forward movement. As a result, at our last meeting on December 1st, both parties mutually agreed to move to mediation. The first mediation date has been set for February 1st.

What is mediation, and why would we move to it now?

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party assists the two negotiating sides to reach a collective bargaining agreement. Collective bargaining agreements belong to both parties, and describe how we will do business and solve problems together. Districts and employee associations move to mediation when one side or the other feels that there is little chance of successfully resolving their differences without the assistance of an unbiased third party.

What issues remain unresolved?

The District and SFEA remain far apart on two key issues: teacher compensation (Article 23) and class sizes (Article 19). A complete log of bargaining sessions, including all submitted proposals, counter-proposals, and supporting documentation, is available on the District’s Licensed Bargaining page for 2022. This communication will detail the specifics of the gap between the district’s current proposal on compensation and SFEA’s proposal.

Bargaining Infographic. This information is also included in the following paragraphs.

For more information, read on:

Teacher Compensation

District Proposal

The District believes that our current proposal of an 8% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase over 3 years is fair, regionally competitive, and fiscally viable. This offer is detailed below:

  1. 2022-23: Step increases*, a 3% COLA, a market adjustment to the bottom-right of the traditional salary schedule, a $1,000 retention bonus, and an additional $50 per month in health insurance contributions (to a total of $1,700 per month).
  2. 2023-24: Step increases, 2.5% COLA, $25 additional per month insurance (to a total of $1,725 per month)
  3. 2024-25: Step increases, 2.5% COLA, $25 additional per month insurance (to a total of $1,750 per month)

The total added cost to the district of this proposal over three years would be $4,477,719, broken down as follows:

  • In 2022-23: $1,100,500
  • In 2023-24: $1,394,300
  • In 2024-25: $1,982,900

*note that many teachers receive a step increase based on years of experience worth anywhere from 2.2% to 4.5%, depending on their current location on the salary schedule. Those costs are not factored into the total proposal costs of either side and have already been granted.

The proposal above is the fourth submitted by the District since the bargaining process began, and takes into account specific feedback from the SFEA negotiating team. The District’s current total offer is 60% more than its original offer. This increase came in direct response to a list of comparable districts and their pay scales provided by the SFEA bargaining team.

SFEA Compensation Proposal

The current compensation proposal from SFEA is a 17% cost of living (COLA) increase over three years, in addition to a $1,000 retention bonus in 2022-23. The District’s position is that meeting SFEA’s request would jeopardize the long-term fiscal sustainability of SFSD in the following ways:

  1. by creating a situation where layoffs would potentially need to occur, thus significantly increasing the average class size throughout the district as classrooms closed, and/or
  2. by depleting the district’s general fund.

The District finds both of these scenarios unacceptable, as we value our educators and also have a responsibility for wise stewardship of public funds.

SFEA’s current proposal would cost the district an additional:

  • In 2022-23: $1,954,000
  • In 2023-24: $2,899,400
  • In 2024-25: $4,172,600
  • For a total cost of $9,026,000

SFEA had previously submitted a compensation proposal which would have carried a total cost of $10,720,680. That proposal can be found on our bargaining site labeled from May 24. SFEA submitted a second proposal on September 28, which would have carried a total cost of $10,423,680. The current SFEA compensation proposal was submitted December 1.

Proposals Comparison

For a total cost comparison of the two current proposals:

Total Added Cost (over three years)
Silver Falls School District Proposals Silver Falls Education Association Proposals
Initial: $2,798,880 Initial: $10,720,680
Current (4th proposal): $4,477,719 Current (3rd proposal): $9,026,000
Difference between initial and current proposals:
$1,678,839 or a 60% increase from initial proposal $1,694,680 or a 15.8% decrease from initial proposal
The total difference between the costs of the two proposals is just over $4.5 million.

SFSD Board Policy states that the district should keep a general fund reserve balance of 10% each year. For a current picture of the general fund ending balance each year for the past nine years, see the chart below:

A graph of the ending fund balance for the past 9 years, showing that in the 2021-22 school year the balance was only 2 million dollars.

The District simply can not meet SFEA’s requested proposal and remain financially viable. Our most recent ending fund balance reflected above is just 4%. The District’s annual total general fund is about $48 million.

For those interested in reading the fine details related to the issue of compensation, including a comprehensive presentation from SFSD’s Business Services department, see the following links:

We’ve heard rumors throughout the community that while the district is currently spending grant money and other special funds on teacher training and program development, this money could be used for an across-the-board pay raise for all teachers instead. This is incorrect. Current grant money, including funds from the Student Investment Account (SIA), the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), Title 1A, and similar funding sources are specific-use funds or funds for specific purposes based on state and federal law. It is possible to use some of these funds to create entire positions or programs, and we have done so. We used some ESSER funds for retention bonuses last year – this was also an allowed use. However, blanket pay raises or COLA’s for all teachers is not an allowed use.

For additional information on these funding sources, see the following resources:

  1. ESSER Fund FAQ (US Department of Education)
  2. SIA Fact Sheet (Oregon Department of Education)

Next Steps

You may have heard the statement that our teachers are working without a contract. More accurately, the District and SFEA are working with an expired contract – a situation which is allowed by our mutually-agreed upon bargaining agreement. All teachers continue to receive all the benefits and protections of the previous contract while the new contract is negotiated. Once the compensation package is determined, and a new collective bargaining agreement is signed, teachers will receive retroactive pay to the point of the previous contract’s expiration date.

The district is committed to supporting all employee groups, including its teachers, classified staff members, administrators, and others. The current implementation of comprehensive teacher development programs, alternative methods of obtaining pay increases, opportunities for customized professional development, as well as our ongoing process of creating a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum for all students, district-wide, are all reflective of this commitment.

We believe that satisfied, well-compensated teachers are good for students, families, and schools. We are serious about our desire to retain existing staff members and are committed to providing regionally competitive compensation packages, balancing the needs of all of our employee groups, as well as other needs such as building maintenance and transportation, while maintaining the long-term fiscal viability of all district schools.

We look forward to continuing to work with SFEA leadership team members throughout the mediation process, and we’re confident that a mutually acceptable CBA can be achieved with the assistance of a 3rd party mediator.