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No end in sight for school district contract woes

Posted by on Jul 1st, 2010 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By Michael YEGHIAYAN

Negotiations between the Glendale Unified School District and its employee unions have stalled, threatening the job security of Glendale teachers and classified employees.

Cutbacks have impacted the budgets of the Glendale Teachers Association as well as the California School Employees Union. In order to close the gap of the budget shortfall, both organizations have been presented contracts offering scaled back health benefits and an increased in employee furlough days. However, both unions voted down the most recent propositions.

A new budget passed by the Glendale Unified School District also called for the layoffs of 66 teachers as a result of an increase in class sizes in primary school grades. The new standard in the district will be a 30-1 student to teacher ratio in Glendale elementary schools. Approximately 24 classified employees face pink slips without the passing of a new budget.

Dr. John Garcia, assistant superintendent of Human Resources, expressed disappointment that the most recent proposal was not accepted by the Classified School Employees Union.

“We signed an agreement that we felt was strong and that our classified employees negotiation team felt was fair as well but unfortunately it did not pass.”

The proposed contract offered to the California School Employees Union fell 46 votes short of being passed despite optimism by school district officials. The final vote on the measure was struck down by a count of 242 to 196 with union officials reporting a strong voter turnout. The agreement was slated to save the district approximately $1.2 million.

“We recently met with CSEA and had a very productive discussion,” commented Garcia. “They had a membership meeting and have since been able to share some of their concerns with the district which hopefully will translate into a successful budget compromise.”

A main point of contention in negotiations was an increase in unpaid furlough days for school employees. They would be asked to take between four and seven days off a year.

“Because 90% of our employees are salaried by payroll there are only three ways in which we can realize savings: decreasing wages, containing health benefits or less total employed individuals,” said Garcia. “My understanding of their priorities is their strongest concern is to preserve jobs.”

Although the school district faces the challenge of closing a $21.9 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 school year, district officials maintain optimism to the possibility of rehiring all laid off teachers and decreasing the class size ratio. Additional unpaid furlough days and an increase in teacher health care contributions to shrink the deficit are among the solutions offered by the district, but have thus far been rejected by the union.

Garcia also expressed frustration at the apparent lack of willingness on the part of the Glendale Teachers Association to come to the negotiation table.

“The board has prioritized bringing teachers back as much as we possibly can. We had requested the GTA to come back to the table on June 10 and 28 to sit down and hear our proposal to bring back the remaining teachers, but these requests were declined.”

Rising health care costs are among the main driving forces in the increasing budget deficit faced by the district.

“We know that for 2010-11, our PPO family health benefits are going to cost approximately 20,000 annually per individual,” commented Garcia. “We need cost containment in our health benefits.”

The district has approved a number of actions to minimize the total number of teacher layoffs. From the original 105 teachers noticed, thirty-nine jobs were saved through a combination of specialized credentials, early retirements and teacher transfers.

Garcia cited the fact-finding meeting between the district and the Glendale Teachers Association on July 16 as the
next key date in ongoing negotiations.

“The district remains hopeful that the union comes forward to negotiate before that meeting. At this point, unless we strike an agreement with our teachers association that we can bring all of those teachers back we are moving forward with the layoffs.”

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