Santa Barbara Teacher’s Union and District End Mediations Without Agreement, Next Stage is Fact Finding

Administrative offices of the Santa Barbara Unified School District (file photo)

Bargaining teams for the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) and Santa Barbara Teachers Association (SBTA) met with the State-appointed mediator for eight hours on April 10 to continue to pursue a contract settlement. At the end of the session, the mediator informed the parties he is “releasing” them from the mediation process. This means the parties may proceed to the next stage of the legally mandated impasse process: fact finding.


Once mediation ends, one or both parties can request to proceed to fact finding where they both submit factual evidence to a panel that will make recommendations for a settlement.  The panel consists of three people: a neutral (either appointed by the Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] or selected by the parties) and one person selected by each party.

Unless the parties agree to extend legal timelines, the panel must meet within 10 days of appointment and must hold a hearing and issue a fact finding report within 30 days of appointment.  The panel must consider a list of factors set forth by law. When the impasse is primarily over compensation, the major factors are usually the fiscal impact of the parties’ proposals and comparability with similar public school employers in similar communities.

The length of the fact finding process depends on many factors, such as the timing and length of the fact finding hearing, whether the parties agree to extend timelines, and whether the parties engage in post-fact finding negotiations. Typically, the process can take anywhere from three to six months, depending on these variables.

The fact finding report is advisory only and provides recommended terms of settlement for consideration by the parties.  SBUSD must make the fact finding report public within 10 days of receipt.


Once the advisory report is provided to the parties but before it becomes public, the parties must determine if recommendations in the report “break the impasse” and can serve as the basis for a settlement. This determination may involve further face-to-face negotiations or other means of communication.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a “second impasse” is reached, and the parties have completed their legal duty to negotiate. Each party now has the lawful right to take unilateral action. This means SBUSD has the legal right to unilaterally impose terms and conditions within the scope of its last, best offer to SBTA, and SBTA may engage in a lawful strike.

It is important for students and families to know that a legal strike typically cannot occur before the parties have gone through the entire impasse process.

The District will continue to participate in the impasse process in good faith in order to reach a fair and sustainable agreement for students, staff and the District community.

Next Steps:

Dr. John Becchio, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources
Kim Hernandez, Assistant Superintendent, Business Services
John Schettler, Executive Director, Student & Family Services
Ann Peak, Director, Human Resources
Dare Holdren, Principal, San Marcos
Jennifer Foster, Principal, La Colina
Kelly Fresch, Principal, Adams
Gregory J. Dannis, Legal Counsel


Written by SBUnified

Press releases written by the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD). Learn more at

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      • Kirk, I saw a “me too” clause referred to in the comments; pretty sure that’s in SB Unified’s contracts. It gets complicated.
        Here’s some info from a news article re: Bay area, dated 4/2/24. The article is a good read.

        “The “me too” clause included in several school districts’ faculty and staff contracts negotiated every three years specifies that when one bargaining unit receives a raise or increase in benefits, other bargaining units or employees will automatically receive the same.
        “We would certainly like to see our principals and vice principals get a raise,” said Cheryl Atkins, president of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers. “When we talk about not wanting to see the ‘me too,’ we’re talking about our superintendent, who makes $360,000 a year and then gets a 10% raise on top of that.”

        The California Teachers Association explained that often the clauses are included for classified staff, such as custodians, bus drivers and office employees, who are usually paid less and have less bargaining power. But in many districts, administrators at school and district offices also benefit from the practice.

        And an analysis by the nonprofit education news site EdSource found that almost a fifth of 53 California superintendent contracts it evaluated contained “me too” clauses.
        Troy Flint, the chief communications officer for the California School Boards Association, pointed out that “me too” clauses can be used by school districts to regulate and predict superintendent or administrator salaries. “By regulate, I mean to provide some structure to the process for which those raises are given, as opposed to a more open-ended negotiation,” Flint explained.
        Unionized teachers have expressed outrage over the clauses, which they say overpay administrators as districts are cutting programs and laying off staff to conserve financial resources.”

        HA! Look at this — he’s OUR ex-superintendent!

        “David Cash, a retired superintendent and a founder of the executive search firm Education Leadership Services, said superintendents’ contracts include “me too” clauses to ensure fair policies across the district. But he declined to comment further on why superintendents — who often make hundreds of thousands more than the teachers in their districts — would need to receive the same raise as teachers and staff.
        “No increase is given to a bargaining unit unless a district can afford it,” Cash said. “The same would hold true for the superintendent.”

        Yeah, administrators need to be, or be able to be, left out of the me too clause!

        • As I said, it gets REALLY complicated. And litigated:

          Treatment of “me too” Clauses and Permissive Subjects in Collective Bargaining Agreements

          Whether a “me too” clause is a permissive or mandatory subject of bargaining in a collective bargaining agreement between a public sector employee and a union?

          Whether a permissive subject of bargaining clause in a collective bargaining agreement between a public sector employer and a union is automatically included in future contracts between the public sector employer and other unions?

          Whether a “me too” clause is a permissive, mandatory or illegal subject of bargaining requires a case-by-case analysis due to conflicting decisions by courts and state employment relation boards.
          A permissive subject of bargaining clause in a collective bargaining agreement may not be automatically included in future contracts. The permissive item remains in effect only during the term of the agreement.

          I’m retired, I’m no longer up to this stuff!

      • Adm/mgt by tradition (not by contract) but a small number compared to probably over 600 classified employees that are covered with a “me to”agreement. These are the people who make every school function daily. In budgeting the district must consider the total amount of salaries not just to teachers. Does the teacher’s union?

    • The board wants to be judicious in managing a budget in the long term. They have to show a three year budget model and maintain reserves. The amount of reserves they should keep is arguable. School finance advisors recommend districts maintain a much higher amount than the state minimum. Unions argue they only should keep the state minimum. The greatest difficulty in school budgeting is the uncertainty. Employee costs go up every year and the exact percentage is unknown (teachers get paid different amounts depending on experience and college units, many teachers get a salary step increase each year of 2-3%, insurance costs increase each year at an unknown rate, etc) and the amount of funding is unknown. If they commit to a raise that they can pay for one year, they may or may not be able to afford it the following year. School districts have over committed to raises and it gets ugly as they make have to make massive cuts in later years. Interestingly, a district and union could add to their agreement (if it is a multi year contract) a clause where if they end up with higher than expected reserves in following years, they can do a payout to teachers.
      In my opinion, there are no good or bad guys in this – I do believe that all wish to pay teachers more, but do not want to put the district in financial jeopardy. Hopefully, the fact finding brings a shared understanding of the budget so a resolution can be found.

      • The district currently has a HUGE amount of reserves, and it’s only projected to get LARGER over the next 2-3 years. They need to pony up and pay what other local districts pay. I’m tired of my kids losing teachers. It would totally suck for my kids to deal with a strike at the end of this school year or beginning of the next. But if that is what it takes…

      • Thanks for the explanation. Since the district is funded by property taxes (right?), and those revenues are pretty consistently reliable in SB, can’t we confidently say that the district will have the money in the short term? The board must know this. Why not act on it?

        • 68% of the funding for SBUSD comes from property taxes (you can look up their financials on their website). When the districts do budgets in our county, they do use a 5% estimate for future property value growth. However, in recent years, they have seen 4%, 4% and 8% growth – it could be 2% or 10% though. It is still uncertain and the state revenue is even more volatile. But if revenue ends up lower than expected for a couple of years, they then rely on the reserves to make payroll and not have to make emergency mid-year cuts.
          In the big picture, when a district ends up with larger than expected reserves, they easily agree to pay increases since this becomes a glaring figure and I do believe that most do want to pay their people more. You see this statewide. For SBUSD, they are offering 9% this year and 5% next year – that is pretty significant coupled with class size reduction which increased costs and the district paying a greater load of health insurance costs. Now some, as some commentator just did, may say the district has HUGE reserves – This goes back to my point about the size of the reserves being arguable. Personally, I would not consider the current levels huge. They do have excess reserves hence the raise proposal. And if you look at their budget models with the raises included, their reserves would be at similar levels as other unified school districts in the next two years. Hopefully, fact finding will ring clarity to this – I will say that a bigger issue seems to be in the background of distrust for the superintendent – that is problematic and I feel for those involved…

          • Read it GoG, so let’s say we cut to the chase – do you think that teachers here should be paid better or not?

            I do. We live in a very property tax-rich place. That’s means a ton of money is going out, and it would be a lot more of not for Prop 13, but that’s an argument for another day. I doubt anyone would argue that. So where’s all the money going if not to teaching the kids?

            • What I think does not matter. They should be paid better, but salaries are limited by the budget and I am not responsible for managing that budget. There have been districts where boards have taken chances with optimistic budgets and they had to make massive cuts and faced a state takeover. Would not want to be one of those board members – The intent of my comments have been to point out the complexities in this – Just heard that the property tax estimate is below 4% for this year which will change the models. Take a minute and look at the district’s website to see budget information if you want to see where the money is going.

  1. So sad to see how long this is taking. This top down model is not working for anyone. Admin should not get the same raises by “tradition”. So sad what this Superintendent’s Machiavellian policies are doing to our vulnerable students, teachers, staff and community. Our outcomes are painfully low. Doing what’s best for students and teachers does not appear to be a priority at all. Just last board meeting’s student report showed only 3% of 9th grade english language learners and only 12% of 9th graders with learning difference are proficient at reading. Without foundational skills many students especially those with socio economic hardship go from the education system to the justice system. It is heartbreaking to see us hemmoraging talented teachers and dedicated staff while salaries in admin are bloated and off limits to cuts apparently. Let’s all see the budget and have some much needed transparency.

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