WATCH: Special Ed Teachers Closer to Strike Vote

“It just doesn’t feel good to be undervalued and underpaid.”

In a symbol of solidarity and strength, about 100 educators and supporters of the San Mateo County Education Association (SMCEA) attended the board meeting earlier this month of the San Mateo County Office of Education. Union members wore red t-shirts with their association's logo and the message "High quality contracts for high quality educators."


SMCEA consists of approximately 140 educational professionals who are contracted by individual school districts to serve students that the district schools can’t, or won’t serve.

Union members say they’ve been working without a contract since August 20 and most haven’t received a salary increase in 5-8 years.

Programs are provided for students with intensive needs, such as severe multiple disabilities, hearing, visual, orthopedic, communication and/or emotional disabilities or with autism. Students range in age from infants to teenagers.

At the March 6 board meeting, several SMCEA members and parents addressed the board requesting among other things, a salary increase.

“The county has offered a one percent salary increase with no retro; the offer was made one week after the county board of education put $7M into reserve,” said one member.

“We wouldn’t be here if they weren’t sitting on so much money. It’s an insult—one percent? We spend so much out of our own pocket said one Patty Ozeri, a teacher at the Early Childhood Education Center on Tower Road.

Union members say the county office of education has a $7 million surplus and they are frustrated that part of that surplus can’t go toward salary and benefit increases.

“We just want a living wage, and not have health insurance premiums take our whole check, “ added Ozeri.

SMCEA has also requested a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) increase, an improved benefits package and funds for supplies and improved technology in the classrooms. Some county classrooms have aging computers; some have none at all.

Members say they work with students that districts can’t or won’t work with. When combined, SMCEA salary and benefits are at the bottom for total compensation, according to one union member.

 “The time has come to offer this dedicated group of educators a fair, amicable, substantive contract package and let us all return our full attention to our passion for teaching, as valued workers who are treated as such,” said Shelley Viviani, lead negotiator for the San Mateo County Educator Association.

But San Mateo County Office of Education officials say the $7 million in reserve funds is untouchable when it comes to special education teacher's salaries or benefits.

SMCEA members and union representatives will meet Monday night to discuss next steps and a possible strike vote.

The next round of negotiations between SMCEA and the San Mateo County of Office of Education has been scheduled for March 20.

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Sandy March 19, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Those teachers that strike are idiots that could care less about the students they teach. All they care about is money not actually caring for these kids. I volunteer full time with kids like this.
Erica Henry Rein March 21, 2013 at 06:04 AM
Sandy - while I respect your right to your opinion that the teachers who strike are "idiots", I have to disagree with your statement that they could "care less about the students they teach". As a former County Special Education teacher, I can state that this is not true. Furthermore, "all they care about is money not actually caring for these kids" is also not an accurate statement. While it is possible that you have had negative experiences with some teachers, you cannot possibly know the hearts and minds and motivations (or bank accounts) of each and every teacher. I did not choose this profession, or the years of education and thousands of dollars of tuition money it took to get my credential, in pursuit of a high paycheck, but I believe that all teachers deserve fair compensation for their efforts. The teachers that I was privileged to work with while I was at County were passionate, talented and dedicated. I am sorry for the frustrations that you must feel that lead you to post a comment such as this, but it is a baseless attack that does not add to the discussion; additionally, it does not add to the well-being of the students.
Robert Sawyer March 29, 2013 at 08:09 PM
How much of this money has been taken away over the years by outrageous pensions? How 'bout if these teachers ask about the overinflated pensions that are dragging the education system down, before they come to the taxpayer? Or, how about the 300K administrators that are now part of the state's education system? There are Superintendents with 2-4 schools under their belts, making in excess of $250K!! On the east coast, much less, and with many more schools. There is no money left, there are no excesses, there is a broken system that these unions continue to keep broken. Look in the mirror, start firing the bad teachers (which hardly EVER happens) and show us some fiscal restraint, THEN I'd support you, and others like you.
ronee groff March 30, 2013 at 03:45 AM
If Sandy hasn't any respect for the teachers she is working with she needs to find another job. Her remarks are vacuous and insulting and as the other writer mentioned Sandy adds nothing to the discussion. The argument and frustration with salaries of administrators is one that should be explored. However, it also does not directly address the special education teachers situation. No matter what state these folks work in their job is as specialists with very fragile children. It is difficult and requires teaching certification and additional skills, talent, and specialized certifications. We have a sunami of identified Autistic Spectrum children and others who require these professionals and who should be making a respectable living. Sadly, no matter the state, we are seeing a roll back to a time before the Federal Mandates for the protections of these children for the services and accommodations they require. On the front lines of this are the teachers. And no I am not a union member but a person who spent years as a schoolboard member and board president of a special services school for the most profound and disabled children. My admiration goes out to each and everyone of those special educators who have dedicated their lives to the disabled. It is a tough job but very rewarding. I wish them well. Ronee from New Jersey


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