Ventura Unified teachers’ wage agreement: How Foothill Tech has been affected

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Gigi Richardson Seifert

Recent salary negotiations for Ventura Unified School District employees has affected Foothill Tech teachers, students, and administrators alike.

Amber Duhs and Beatrice Barnes

While the Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) campus buzzes with news and tidbits involving the wage agreement for educators within Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified), many students are confused about the situation and how it has affected the Foothill Tech campus. On Jan. 1, 2023, a 10 percent wage raise agreement was enacted after six months of negotiations. 

The initial negotiations began when Ventura Unified proposed a one percent raise with a three percent bonus for the district’s teachers and classified employees. While this was far less than what neighboring districts were offering, Conni Carr expressed that, “​In my 27 years in the district, teachers have most often received very little in terms of a salary increase across-the-board.” However, this year it was taken into account that there was an increase in state funding provided to all public schools at the beginning of the year. The proposition was met with protests and negotiations from Ventura Unified teachers, but district officials argued that they couldn’t afford a more substantial raise. Those involved were persistent with their efforts, especially in the face of recent inflation, speaking at monthly board meetings and participating in local protests

The ratification process wholly affected Foothill Tech teachers. As Carr shares, “It was horrible to be at odds with the district administration and not to feel valued.” This feeling of being underappreciated was not unusual during the negotiations, as Mrs. Ferris said that she “felt demoralized” when the “measly” one percent raise was first proposed. When asked about the toll it took on the school in general, Carr explains how the, “negativity, anxiety and stress added to an already difficult recovery from the pandemic situation.” 

I felt demoralized by having my school district of 16 years offer a one percent raise and then continue to refuse to increase this offer to an acceptable level. For myself and many other teachers and classified staff members, there was a sense of feeling unvalued by [Ventura Unified].”

— Heather Ferris

Rallies, rousing speeches and slogans emerged as teachers unions fought for a higher raise. “Over a period of several months, our union [Ventura Union Education Association (VUEA)] and the classified union [Ventura Education Support Professionals Association (VESPA)], worked fervently to improve the increase,” according to Heather Ferris. After an extensive negotiation process, Ventura Unified proposed the approved wage agreement, giving all teachers and classified employees a 10% raise along with a two percent bonus.

The additional raise percentages took into consideration the inflation rates of California. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index advanced 4.9% between Dec. 2021 and Dec. 2022 in the Los Angeles area, causing the prices of foods and other goods to continue to increase. Foothill Tech teacher Daniel FitzPatrick acknowledged how the agreement will help: “[the agreement] allowed me to offset some of the high costs of inflation.” Ferris agreed similarly.

This was taken well, as many voted to ratify said raise, but payroll discrepancies between districts still remain. As Ferris points out, “it doesn’t bring us anywhere near being more in line with neighboring school districts such as Oxnard Union High School District & Santa Paula School District, whose salary scales are much higher than Ventura Unified.” 

Foothill Tech teachers are generally satisfied with the negotiations, but only as a provisional settlement. In light of the wage gap between Ventura Unified and neighboring districts, Ferris explains that, “the recent agreement provides temporary relief, but there is still progress to be made.” 

Even though the initial negotiations have been solidified, the push for equitable pay is not over. In the face of recent inflation, Ventura Unified teachers are counting on the district to respond with appropriate wage increases going forward. The path to this year’s negotiations were not linear and took a definite toll on educators. Carr hopes “that moving forward, there is a more cooperative and compassionate approach from the district admin with a focus on making the situation better for everyone involved in our educational community.”

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