The Lodi Education Association announced on Monday that it has rejected the latest tentative agreement proposed by Lodi Unified School District, citing a lack of transparency from officials and a misuse of cost of living adjustment funds.

The tentative agreement was proposed Dec. 12, and LEA president Michelle Orgon said that the union voted to reject it last Friday.

“The (agreement) was defeated because our members believe that LUSD is not using state allocated funds in the best interest of students,” Orgon said in a media statement released Monday.

“I want to be clear — we want to be back in the same room with our students, but just wanting is not enough to make it safe,” she said. “We need to see action from LUSD to implement a robust testing and tracing program, along with safety protocols in every classroom, not just a select few.”

Orgon claimed the LEA has seen a lack of transparency and disorganization form the district with regard to ensuring state allocated funds are serving the best interests of students.

“This is very concerning, especially while we are still in the purple tier and two schools have shut down due to outbreaks,” she said. “This puts not just our students and educators at risk, but the entire community. Educators have gone above and beyond to ensure the needs of every student are met during the pandemic, and we hope LUSD acknowledges these efforts in our next bargaining session.”

Orgon said LEA members were concerned students were not receiving supplies promised by LUSD in an equitable manner, and that teachers were using their own funds to teach from home.

Expenses included increased costs for Internet, electricity, and electronic devices such as web cameras. Teachers have said the district was not providing these items or was denying the purchase when requested, according to Orgon.

In addition, LEA members said teachers have been working outside of contract hours to “fill the void” created by the district’s lack of funding and organization around meeting the needs of students and parents during the pandemic.

Teachers also claimed the district has been allocating cost of living adjustment funds — or COLA — toward its reserve or for other uses, such as increased security at the James Areida Education Support Center on East Vine Street.

The LEA further claimed the proposed agreement did not contain budget details to keep qualified teachers in the district.

The agreement, posted to the district’s website at tinyurl.com/districtTA, states that each union member employed by the district on the date of ratification will receive a one-time, off-schedule payment equal to 3% of their current salary.

In addition, the agreement states that permanent employees and Career Technical Education teachers who have worked for at least two consecutive years may request leave credits if they or a family suffer a catastrophic illness or injury.

The district said it was disappointed LEA members did not ratify the tentative agreement.

However, we appreciate the collaboration with their bargaining team that led to the agreement,” the district said in an email response. “The agreement would have settled the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years in regards to the articles that were under discussion: salary (a 3% one-time payment) and leaves or absences.”

District spokeswoman Chelsea Vongehr said the LEA’s decision not to ratify the tentative agreement does not impact the Nov. 6 agreement that stated students would return to in-person instruction when the San Joaquin County is allowed to move to a less restrictive tier.

The union and district will return to the bargaining table to address the concerns raised by teachers, Orgon said.

“This was the second TA voted down by members, because LUSD will not acknowledge the concerns from parents, community members, and educators,” LEA Bargaining Chair Aimee Ramsower said in Monday’s statement.

“(The union) hopes that LUSD will put these concerns first as we move forward with our next bargaining session,” she said.

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