WHILE LOCAL TEACHERS TWIST IN THE WIND, DOWNEY DISTRICT APPROVES A LAYOFF-LESS CONTRACTBy The Downey Patriot
While top officials of public school districts in Long Beach and Compton dangle doomsday letters over the mailbox, the Downey Unified School District has reached a three-year contract with its teachers union that avoids layoffs, furloughs, salary reductions or loss of medical benefits. Instead, class sizes will increase slightly.
Meanwhile, Long Beach Unified’s Board of Education in February approved layoff notices for 755 positions, including K-12 teachers, counselors, social workers, assistant or vice principals and adult school educators. In March, LBUSD approved 28 more, and ordered most managers to take three unpaid furlough days next academic year. Ultimately, 1019 notices were mailed, but about 175 were later rescinded, and the latest count for prospective employee layoffs in the LBUSD is 849, mostly teachers. This after the LBUSD voted in January to enlarge some elementary school classes from 20 to 30 students.
In the Compton Unified School District, 161 teachers and certificated employees have been notified that they could lose their jobs next school year. They’ll learn their fate May 15. Last year, 114 such letters were sent out by the CUSD, but only 10 people were laid off.
According to the Compton Bulletin, 91 of the prospective teacher layoffs would be in kindergarten through third grade, where class sizes will be increased from 20 to 25 students per teacher. In grades seven through 12, layoffs will affect five multiple-subject teachers—10 in math, nine in English, five in life science, four in social science, six in physical education, one in teen living, two in music, one in graphic arts, three in art, three in Spanish and eight counselors. The remaining potential layoffs are of administrative employees.
The deal between the Downey district and its teachers’ union (the Downey Education Association) orchestrates graduated class-size increases in three categories over the course of an agreement that retroactively begins on Sept. 1, 2009 and continues through Aug. 31, 2012.
The teacher-student ratios: in grades 1-3, they go from 1:20 to 1:26 (2010-2011) and then to 1:27 (2011-2012); in grades 4-5, they go from 1:32 to 1:34. Other cuts have included voluntary retirement and the suspension of middle-school sports programs.
DUSD Superintendent Wendy Doty is trying to put the best possible spin on the agreement.
“There has been no known study signifying that increased class size has deleterious effects on students,” Doty told the Downey Patriot. “Besides, this is the best we could do, under the [tight] circumstances.”
Most people seem to think it’s pretty good.
“We worked hard and made sacrifices, but we had a very good round of negotiations,” teachers union president Jeff Orlinsky told the Patriot. “In the end I think we came up with one of the best agreements in the state of California.”
On the other hand, Downey only had to cut $5.5 million from its budget. Long Beach’s deficit is something like $32 million, depending on what day you ask for the estimate.