SOLANA BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) - Teachers in the Solana Beach School District are ready to take drastic steps to force the district to the bargaining table for a new contract.
If they don't have a deal by Monday, the teachers say they plan to only work contract hours.
"That means anything I can't accomplish in the 7 1/2 hours I'm contracted to work, it won't get done," said Judy Wright, a third-grade teacher in the district.
Teachers say they often start working from home as early as 5:30 a.m. and often stay on campus until 5 p.m. They spend their own time answering emails to parents, grading homework, working on lesson plans and even planning a classroom Valentine's Day party.
Cutting back to just 7 1/2 hours each day means they won't have extra time to make class more creative.
"Learning might not be as exciting," said fourth-grade teacher Marlena David. "We might bust out our old curriculum books that are more structured."
"You try explaining all that to a 10-year-old," David added.
The teachers' most recent contract expired at the end of June 2017. The Solana Beach Teachers Association and the district started negotiations on a new deal in December 2016, but are still fairly far apart on several issues.
"We're in a rare year where every article of the contract is up for negotiation," said School Board President Debra Schade. "Most years, only one or two items can be negotiated."
Teachers have asked for a 5 percent raise for the 2017-18 school year and another 5 percent raise in 2018-19. The district has offered 3 percent this year and 3.25 percent next year.
In addition to the salary, the two sides are still working out details on leave policies, benefits, class size and arbitration rights.
"I would say that's in the district's court," said Teachers Association President Cyndy McBride. "This could be over tomorrow if they decided to call us in and truly discuss the things that still remain."
The district says their teachers are already some of the highest paid in San Diego County. Information posted on their website shows that if the teachers accept their current offer, they'll have had salary increases that total more than 30 percent in the last 15 years. And in years where they haven't gotten a raise, the district has increased their benefits.
Teachers, though, say they need more to keep up with cost of living increases.
"If they want the best and brightest, you want the best, the brightest, this is what the prices are," said McBride. "We're competing, not just with other districts in a time of teacher shortage; we're competing with tech industries and more companies to get those people to become teachers."
But the district says they can't go any higher. Even though they currently have money in savings, they don't want to dip into that fund to pay salaries. Schade said they're also looking towards the future when the district will have to expand.
"The Solana Beach School Board respects our teachers and we are looking out for not only providing the best compensation for our teachers, but also the financial health of our district," she said.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled for March 3.