A Statewide Call to Action

Amid state cuts, board approves teacher contract

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Dennis Evanosky

Students, teachers and administrators joined forces on the steps of the school district headquarters March 4 as part of the statewide Day of Action protests.

Last week was a busy one for Alameda's schools as the Board of Education approved ratifications to the contract between the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) and the teachers' union, the Alameda Education Association (AEA), a local affiliate of the California Teachers Association and National Education Association.

In addition, some district teachers, administrators and school board members took to the streets to protest the drastic cuts to education funding in California.

For almost a year, the school district and the union have been negotiating changes to their existing "Memorandum of Understanding," essentially the teachers' contract. As California is facing serious financial problems, and education cuts have been prominent in the state budget, the parties determined that the memorandum needed some changes for the district to stay financially afloat.

The Board of Education approved the final product of the AEA and AUSD negotiations last Tuesday in a 4-1 vote; board member Trish Spencer dissented.

The alterations to the teacher contract call for increased class sizes for grades K-3, as well as a decrease in the amount of student school days in the next two school years. K-3 class sizes will change from the existing 22:1 to 25:1 in the 2010-11 fiscal year, and 32:1 by the 2011-12 school year. The district will save about $1,735,380 by taking the K-3 measures.

To the expected joy of district students, their school year will be shortened by five days starting in September. Teachers will also lose two work days. The savings to the district because of the joint day shortenings is expected to be $1,520,848.

Other changes to the contract included new rules for teachers' children and instructor leave of absences. Kids of teachers who live outside the district will now have "resident status," meaning they will have the same enrollment options as kids who live in Alameda. In addition, the amount of "leave of absence" days that teachers can take will be increased to 14.

The total cost savings to the district because of the contract amendments are expected to be some $3,256,228 by the 2011-2012 school year. The budget trimming measures are not without problems however because as many as 100 district staff members are expected to lose their jobs.

However, the number of layoffs was not finalized at the time this article was written. When asked for comment about the contract revisions, school board president Ron Mooney said, "I would like to thank our teachers for working with the district to meet the effects of the recession and resulting funding crisis for our schools.

"While we unfortunately will be forced to increase some class sizes over the next few years, it's important for the community to understand that our students and teachers will be facing even more significant effects as we deal with this very serious funding crisis."

The adjustments to the "Memorandum of Understanding" were not the only actions the district and teachers took last week to combat the serious financial problems facing AUSD and the state. Last Thursday, teachers, Board of Education members, students and Superintendent Kirsten Vital gathered outside the steps of the district's administration building to protest state budget cuts.

Among the many items the groups hailed against included: the more than $17 billion in cuts to public schools and colleges in California in the last two years; the fact that the state is ranked 46th in per-pupil funding; the layoff of 16,000 teachers across in California; the cancellation of summer school and budget cuts to physical education, music, vocational education and art.

As Mooney puts it, "While AUSD is facing the severe effects of the State budget problems, this opportunity was a good reminder that this (the budget cuts) really is a critical issue for all levels of public education including our community colleges and universities."

Other speakers at the event emphasized that much of the district's financial woes are to blame on the actions of Sacramento. Vital told the crowd, "So we're standing up together to really demand that Sacramento restore the funding they have cut from schools and to restore the kind of quality education we have here in Alameda."

Contact Sam Felsing at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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