Teachers, union reach stalemate

The Gilroy Unified School District will not restore any of the five instructional furlough days for teachers, administrative and management staff this year, meaning graduation dates will stay the same and GUSD personnel won’t get back any of their 4 percent pay cut.

“We had hoped that the funding picture would improve and we would be able to restore instructional days in this year’s calendar,” wrote GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores in a district-wide letter to staff, parents and students dated Jan. 24. “However, based on the latest news on the state budget, this will not be possible.”

The cancellation of three staff development days (which were sprinkled throughout 2012) and five instructional days in June is already appearing via a 4 percent pay reduction spread evenly across eight paychecks; a measure that saved the district $1.8 million. This commenced in November 2011 and will continue until June 2012.

The question of reinstating some of the instructional furlough days arose in December, when Gov. Jerry Brown released a report outlining the impact of mid-year “trigger” cuts. The state anticipated these cuts due to projected shortfalls in state revenues.

While GUSD was expecting a $1.35 billion hit statewide to K-12 education, the number turned out to be $328 million instead. This means GUSD is “only” losing $60 per average daily attending student (ADA); a stark difference from the previously estimated $260 ADA loss (a blow GUSD braced for by approving the 4 percent pay cut via eight furlough days for 2012).

Because of this, several school board trustees wanted to explore reinstating some of the furlough days, Flores confirmed in early January. This was never agendized for a public discussion, as changes to the calendar year would have to be discussed in closed session with GUSD’s bargaining units. This includes representatives from certificated staff (teachers, counselors, nurses) and para-educators (part-time teachers and aides).

The subject didn’t make it to formal discussions with GUSD’s bargaining units, however.

“We just got a letter,” said Michelle Nelson, president of the Gilroy Teachers Association. “The furlough days are here to stay for this year.”

Not that Nelson was holding her breath.

“Nobody I know in the GTA thought that there was a possibility of restoring the days in the first place,” said Nelson, who teaches science at Christopher High School. “The budget is so much gobbledygook that people can’t make heads or tails of it from one day to the next.”

GTA Vice President Paul Winslow echoed this sentiment.

“Not for a second did I ever believe that those days would be given back,” he wrote in a Jan. 28 email. “I was quite honestly shocked that the idea was being floated, especially before Gov. Brown released his budget proposal. GTA members graciously gave those eight days with the idea of adding stability to the shaky foundation of our district’s financial situation. I agree with our original vote to do this.”

In November, GTA voted to ratify its new collective bargaining agreement, which included a provision for the eight furlough days.

Flores said the final direction she received from the school board was not to bring the topic of restoring furlough days back to the negotiating table because the district simply “can’t afford it,” she said over the phone Monday.

Thus, “based on the budget information that we shared with the board, and in closed session discussion about negotiations, the current negotiated agreement will remain in effect,” she explained.

Although it’s “good news” that the midyear education cut was less than anticipated, Flores reminded in her letter sent out last week: “The trigger still resulted in a loss of about $600,000 in the current school year” – and things could get much worse next year.

Gov. Brown’s recently released 2012-13 budget leaves the fate of education funding to California voters, who will be presented with a temporary tax package on the November 2012 ballot.

The budget includes an initiative that would increase the sales tax by one-half percent, and temporarily raise the personal income tax on Californians who make more than $250,000 annually.

If voters pass the initiative, the Gilroy Unified School District will receive approximately $3 million less in state funding.

If voters don’t pass the initiative, GUSD’s losses will more than double. The district will receive approximately $7 million less in funding, which could shorten the 2012-13 school year by another 15 days.

According to Rebecca Wright, GUSD Superintendent of Business Services, and GUSD Director of Fiscal Services Allan Garde, a possible 15-day reduction to the 2012-13 school year equates to more than a 12 percent salary decrease over a two-year period.

As it is, the current 4 percent pay cut is actually closer to a 10 percent cut when rising healthcare costs are factored in. Healthcare premiums have risen since 2009 by 36.49 percent for Blue Cross and by 23.3 percent for Kaiser Permanente according to Kim Filice, Director of Human Resources for GUSD.

The Gilroy Board of Education will discuss ideas for increasing revenue and decreasing costs, along with strategies for communicating the budget situation to the community, during its next meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in district offices at 7810 Arroyo Circle.

The Gilroy Unified School District will not restore any of the five instructional furlough days currently scheduled. Thus, graduation/ commencement/promotion dates will not change. They are as follows:
– Christopher High School: 7 p.m., Friday, June 1
– Gilroy High School: 5 p.m., Friday, June 1
– Mt. Madonna Continuation High School: 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 29
– Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy (GECA): 6 p.m., Thursday, May 24
– Advance Path Academy: 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 25
– Ascencion Solorsano Middle School: 7 p.m., Thursday, May 31
– Brownell Middle School: 5 p.m., Thursday, May 31
– South Valley Middle School: 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 3

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