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With Looming Budget Crisis, Teachers Vow Not to Strike This Year

Even though there will likely be salary cuts, layoffs and furlough days, there will be no strike.

Despite a very bleak financial outlook that may include lower salaries, larger classrooms and furlough days, teachers in the will not be striking this year, the president of the teachers union said Thursday night.

“I’m giving you my personal guarantee that’s not going to happen,” Vicki Soderberg told parents who had gathered at the school district’s headquarters to hear news and give feedback about the fiscal year 2011-12 budget. The pronouncement was met with applause. Teachers launched a three-school-day strike last year after negotiations with the district deteriorated.

The forum gave the public a chance to ask questions and give opinions about the district’s dire financial situation. Some even offered a couple of new ideas.

Ron Lebs, deputy superintendent for business and support services, kicked off the meeting with a summary of where the school district is, something he likened to “swimming in an ocean of ambiguity—I’ve learned to dog paddle in it."

He was referring to not knowing exactly what the state budget has in store. Capo's budget deficit stands at $21.1 million, Lebs said.

Summarizing the district’s position, parent Darlynn Kitchner of Ladera Ranch said, “We’re at desperate times, and we’re at bare bones.”

Officials are considering several options to plug the $21.1-million hole—which is not easy after the district has already seen $90 million in reductions since 2006-07, Lebs said. Among this year's proposals:

  • Ask employees to take a pay cut, which would save $2.7 million for every 1 percent cut.
  • and  in grades four to 12 (increasing by 1 student would save $3.6 million, by 2 students $7 million and a savings of $10 million for three additional students in those grades).
  • Add more furlough days, which save $1.3 million per day.

A combination of all of those is likely to be employed, said Superintendent Joseph Farley. And all must be agreed to by the district’s three bargaining associations.

Farley reported that the district is just beginning its negotiations with representatives from the labor unions and will follow a tight schedule to reach agreements and get a budget before the school board by June 30.

“We have really positive relationships with our unions. They understand what we’re dealing with,” Farley said.

When a parent asked what guarantee parents have that the teachers won’t strike again, Soderberg, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Association, made her promise.

“Last year was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Soderberg said. But with a new superintendent and a newly configured school board, “.”

The teachers union heavily and successfully supported the . While at first blush it looked as if the old board managed to hold onto a 4-3 majority, in practice, the new members have been in the majority on financial matters, including restoring a number of concessions to employees. The  have totaled about $9.3 million.

“I think we’ve really come a long ways,” Farley said of  the district’s relationship with the employee groups. “We’ve developed the trust where we can collaboratively work out an agreement.”

The suggestions parents made included treating advanced placement classes as true college classes, with the teacher lecturing in the high schools' theaters to large groups. As in college, students would then meet with teacher assistants in a smaller setting.

“The teachers are high enough quality that they can do it,” said parent Heather Paige, whose children attend Aliso Niguel High School.

Parent Cori Preisler, who used to be a teacher in the La Cañada Unified School District, said her district handled the larger class sizes by staggering the start times “so that teachers have an opportunity to have an hour a day with half the class. I think it’s a great answer to the increased class sizes.”

After the forum, Lebs said both those ideas were new and interesting. 

Meanwhile, many parents encouraged each other to contact their elected state Legislators to advocate for more funding for education.

Capo Parent May 06, 2011 at 03:02 PM
I guess there wasn't a financial crisis last year when the economy was even worse and CUSD had to cut millions from its budget. Taking control of the board and getting over $9 million back was sufficient payback to the unions so they won't strike this year. Surprise, surprise.
Julie Flores May 06, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Increasing class size for any student is not good. I would argue that students who struggle would be more adversely affected by an increased class size. My daughter is in all honors classes and her class sizes are well over 32. No matter the class size most honors students don't require that individual attention, while students who struggle will. No one wants bigger class sizes but students in AP, honors or IB are the ones that will be less personally affected as these classes will have fewer students with behavioral issues and are able to handle the curriculum, otherwise they wouldn't be there in the first place. And let's face it, when you go to college you better be prepared to be a little fish in a massive pond.
Dan Avery May 06, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Here's what I don't understand. California has the 7th largest economy in the world. And we rank near the bottom of all 50 states for class sizes and for dollars spent per student.
shelly May 06, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Capo Parent, Did you not read how they are going to try to deal with the crisis. "•Ask employees to take a pay cut, which would save $2.7 million for every 1 percent cut. •Lay off teachers and increase class sizes in grades four to 12 (increasing by 1 student would save $3.6 million, by 2 students $7 million and a savings of $10 million for three additional students in those grades). •Add more furlough days, which save $1.3 million per day." Last year the board did not negotiate with the teachers and employees. The board imposed its will, and it did not go over well with the majority of parents and the teachers. There was much animosity in our district. This year there is more of collaborative relationship. Where is the parents' responsibility in all this? Is it all the teachers and employees responsibility to fix this budget shortfall? Before you tell me that parents pay taxes and that they have paid enough. The teachers and employees also pay taxes and they took a pay cut last year. The reality is they will take a pay cut this year. But what about us, the parents, how can we help?
Capo Parent May 06, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Shelly Right, the board didn't negotiate with teachers' union. I suggest you go back and review what actually occurred and see what side actually made written proposals. Maybe a review of the facts will dispel the myth that the board did not negotiate with the teachers' union. As for this year being more of a "collaborative" relationship, $9 million in givebacks at at time when CUSD needs to cut at least $20 million buys a lot of union love. Yes teachers pay taxes, but all over their compensation is tax payer funded, and we the tax payers are tapped out. As for what the parents can do, they can sit back and watch the show. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of parents don't care until something happens that really and immediately affects them, e.g. Barcelona Hills.
shelly May 06, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Capo Parent, The board last year imposed and did not negotiate. The people and the teachers did not agree with this (two of the former board members were recalled and one other was voted out). The board then had to back pedal and sign a contract that included restorative language. Again the 9 million was not a "give back" the teachers worked the restored days and our children were in school for 2 more days. I do not know what parents you know but the overwhelming majority of parents I know are willing help their children. Please don't generalize on people you do not know or assume that the parents you know are the "overwhelming majority" of parents in CUSD. The majority of CUSD parents aren't sitting around and watching. People have jobs and lives and children. And most parents are extremely busy but that does not meant that they do not care. When a crisis hits it brings the overwhelming majority of people together.
cp May 06, 2011 at 10:07 PM
My point is that parents in this area are acutely aware of the importance of their children's high school resume. When we looked at high schools 6 years ago, the Capo district high schools compared favorably with local private schools such as SMCHS and others. This was mainly due to the strong AP programs available. If these programs are sacrificed, parents who can afford it will go private. All others will be stuck with a diminished advanced placement program. I don't consider an AP class of 35 - 40 a problem. But if arena style classes are being considered, our students will suffer. How can one teacher, teaching 6 arena-sized classes of AP Comp, for example, correct 600 writing assignments?
cp May 06, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Demographically, the parents of AP kids (who on average have higher incomes) are paying a larger portion of the taxes which fund our schools. Why must the programs which serve their children be first on the chopping block? These students are also the ones whose future incomes will generally be middle or upper income, providing the tax revenue for future Capo education budgets. Can we please not squeeze the life out of the goose laying the golden egg?
Julie Flores May 06, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Having a college degree does not guarantee you a higher income anymore. But I would agree you that education is greatly affected by budget cuts, but so are a lot ofother programs that have more dire consequences. Like medi-cal, Californians in dire need of medication are having their benefits drastically cut and it could cost them their lives. But it seems that many folks are reluctant to increase taxes on the highest earners to pay for the education that we all want for our children. We (not directed at you) want what we want but we don't necessarily want to pay for it. There are also some who have no children who do not want to pay taxes so your/our children can be educated. I have seen that statement made time and again. I don't at the moment have a link to direct you to on that but I will post if I come across it again. It's a bad situation all the way around but it is not my understanding that they will be cutting AP classes just increasing the sizes and if your child (and mine) are committed to their success a larger class size will not deter them. You and I are fortunate that it seems we have children that are striving to be the best and at the end of the day class size will not be a factor. I worry more for my son who is extremely bright but struggles in the classroom and the support that he needs at the school is not there. Good luck to you!
Shripathi Kamath May 06, 2011 at 11:31 PM
"When a crisis hits it brings the overwhelming majority of people together." Not quite. It depends on the crisis, and the political leanings (assumed or otherwise) of the people in charge. More often that not, we have rather divisive rancor. The crisis has been around over the last few years. Headline: "budget shortfall expected" "The teachers did not cause this, they should not be penalized" "The teachers are leeches, their compensation should be slashed, just like the rest of us" Headline: "Teachers strike" "We have been asked to take cuts without anything in return in assurances" "The teachers are union leeches, they do not care for our children" Headline: "Compromise. Teachers take pay cut, board agrees to revisit issue in better times" "This seems reasonable" "The unions are bullying the board into sucking taxpayers money. Bad teachers need to be weeded out" Headline: "Board restores furlough, committed Brown act violations, says DA, watchdog" "FALSE accusations, besides, the language allowed it" "Unions own the board, pay needs to be slashed, teachers need to care for children. Even the DA agrees" Headline: "Teachers agree to negotiate, not go on strike" "See, that is a nice thing, they seem to care" "Bah humbug. They will go on strike, and their pay needs to be cut" Headline: "Penny Arevalo responsible for budget crisis" "Agreed" "Agreed" SK: "I told you so!" (OK, that last one was not intended as a factual statement)
Penny Arévalo May 06, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Oh SK, if only I had enough financial resources to influence the economy!
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Labor costs are high. That is the natural downside of living in California. It is a great place to live, but it also costs more. That means you have to pay more for equivalent labor than in some other states. California teachers, a large portion of the education labor force, make amongst the highest salaries in the nation. Top 2 or 3 most of the time, if not #1. Of course, if you adjust for the cost of living in California, they are compensated about average. So, if you spend low dollars per student and have high labor costs, you will have larger class sizes. As to why we have low dollars per student in California, well, it is we the people, who elect officials who want to spend "only" 52% of our budget on education. Or depending upon your view, we elect officials who waste a "ridiculous" 52% of our budget on education. About 80% currently goes towards labor costs (not just teachers, but all labor). http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/articles/article.asp?title=california%20comparison
shelly May 07, 2011 at 04:25 AM
I am tired of the rancor. I am tired of the sarcasm. I do believe that people would help if asked and given the opportunity. Political leanings should not matter but they do. The goal should be for our children and our district not which side wins. The rift was brought about before on other issues but no common ground is found just new differences.
shelly May 07, 2011 at 04:55 AM
We are all the minority who post on these comment boards . The majority of people don't read post or even read the comment board. The same people post and repost their points of view and their knowledge. We read what each other posts and debate and insult but it is just the same people. Probably because we feel strongly one way or the other. We don't post to learn but to convince or voice our frustration or insult or appear clever. Our common ground for many of us is our children. We should try and find it and do what's possible to help instead of what is politically correct for our side. The teachers are going to take a cut. Parents should help. Common ground is what is best for our children, our schools, our district and our community.
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 05:30 AM
So you agree with me, but dislike saying so? I can live with that. The way I look at it is that we have these options: 1. Get tax hikes already in effect extended, so that the cuts and the inconveniences are not so drastic. This will allow more acceptable reductions in teacher compensation, and more acceptable increases in class size. 2. Let the legislature be forced to enact drastic/draconian cuts. That will result is less acceptable reductions in teacher compensation, employment, and increases in class size. 3. There is nothing else realistically possible that can be done within the budget time-table. Whether you want to bust up the unions, get federal or state monies through legislation, or any sort of reform. That is reality. I am resigned to Option 2. People want, but don't want to pay, they want someone else to have less. I would prefer Option 1, even though it is likely to cost more to me personally. I prefer it because it is the better option for my kid. I have been and am in a position where I make decisions on compensations for people. What I have learnt is that while an increase in compensation is not necessarily a motivator, a decrease is most definitely a de-motivator. I think teachers are *way* underpaid. I also think that unionization as it exists, isn't conducive to progress. But I also confess that teachers will suffer badly if unionization ends. Also, think satire, not sarcasm as we continue to flog this dead equine.
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 05:35 AM
OK, please tell us what have you learnt as a result of posting that caused you to change your opinion in the slightest? I understand that your position NOW is "The teachers are going to take a cut. Parents should help." What was it before, and what caused you to change to what you hold now?
cp May 07, 2011 at 08:23 AM
Best to you and yours as well. Capo's AP program is special - I credit one Capo district teacher with giving wings to my child's already strong writing skills. I don't think this would have happened in an arena style classroom with 100+ students. Regarding taxes, Californians already pay some of the highest rates in the country and are leaving the state in droves to avoid them. Check out the link below - it's a little old (2008) but gives a fascinating look at where Americans are moving to/from. I think we have reached the point of diminishing returns with regard to raising taxes. http://www.forbes.com/2010/06/04/migration-moving-wealthy-interactive-counties-map.html
Julie Flores May 07, 2011 at 04:48 PM
That's great and I would ask you, what is that type of influence worth? I get that not all teachers are great (and trust me, I have had my share of them) but I feel that overall what teachers do is priceless. What is more important (besides health) in your child's life that his education? It's disingenuous (not directed at you) to run around trashing teachers for wanting job security, medical coverage and some retirement security, because at the end of the day isn't that what we all want? So why would we begrudge anyone else for wanting it. Its ugly and everyone can jump on the band wagon of hating unions and resenting teachers for our current situation. I find it ugly and unproductive and those types of accusation shut down reasonable thought and cooperation. Also when it comes to taxes I have paid a lot but there is no where else I would want to live than this amazingly beautiful state. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country and someone will have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming. Thanks for listening to me blather on.
shelly May 07, 2011 at 04:50 PM
SK, I have learned nothing. I am not open-minded on this issue. I admit it. My mind is made up. Most of us comment to comment and read the zingers we zing and to feel good about how clever we are or to vent or defend a point of view and rally for our side. No one learns anything except the side the other stands firmly on. I read the article to learn and will check out the content to see if it is factual or biased but little is learned from the comment boards because it is opinion and most of us have made up our minds. I did find the article on the DeVos family board interesting. the link was posted on another article's comment board. I strongly support my children's teachers because I see them as people who live, raise their children, contribute, and work in my community and care about my children and my children's schools. My opinion was formed from the almost 12 years at least one of my children have been attending CUSD schools. My opinion before was the same as it is now. I do no think teachers should have to take a cut but the reality is that they will be asked to and they will. My opinion is that since there is less money coming to our district and we, the parents, would like the same programs and class sizes then we should be willing to help out financially and I believe the majority will if asked. I was not saying you are sarcastic. I find your posts well informed and similar to Jon Stewart.
Dan Avery May 07, 2011 at 05:07 PM
The "let's bust union" talk greatly bothers me because my grandfather had to quit school in the 3rd grade and go to work in a lumber mill to help support his family. He was eight years old. And that was common practice because unions didn't exist and companies didn't pay a wage anyone could live on. Do you really think companies won't go back to those practices? I think it would be much more productive to look into why we're the 7th largest economy in the world and why we rank near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to class size and dollars spent per student. There's a serious disconnect for that to be the case.
shelly May 07, 2011 at 05:08 PM
sk, I admit when I am wrong and have many times on these comment boards, but, no, I don't agree with you on the crisis thing. I believe if parents were given an option to help they would. I see parents do this all the time. I vote for option 1. I think that NCLB has not been conducive to progress. I believe if we valued education for what it is worth then there would be no need for unions for teachers. But for right now option 1 is my choice but try convincing others who think tax is a dirty word but will demand to have their homes safe, their roads pothole free, and their children in small class size classrooms .
Julie Flores May 07, 2011 at 05:37 PM
The Labor force needs protection. I have never worked a union job but both my parents did and be cause they did, they were able to earn a living wage, take us to the doctors, have time off to spend raising their children and put money away for retirement. And by the way, neither of them finished high school. Consequently, they raised productive and responsible people and have a daughter that went to UC Berkeley. Isn't that the American dream? oops continued -
Julie Flores May 07, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Unions aren't perfect and there needs to be some changes but I don't agree they should be abolished. Working in the private sector without any union protections companies are free to treat employees as they please. I have been harassed, retaliated against when complaining to HR about it, sexually discriminated against and have had family members careers destroyed because they dared to get sick. This has happened in large and small companies from many types of businesses. Somehow it feels that people are constantly on the side of corporations and not labor, but folk, unless you are a millionaire we should all be fighting for each other because the labor force is what made this country great. Trust me, the corporations love that you all hate unions and that you all begrudge each other job security, health and retirement benefits, it makes it easier for them to take it away from everyone. America was not founded on the idea of "If I can't have it, why should you?" Me thinks that doesn't sound like the "Christian" ideal that keeps getting rammed down my throat.
Pam Sunderman May 07, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Unions also serve an even more valuable purpose than protecting workers. They protect the middle class in general by offering a way for them to fight back against the interests of large corporations and the wealthy folks who have the resources to advance their own personal agendas (the Kochs and the DeVos' come to mind). Individually we are helpless but together (in unions and other groups) we can combine resources. Those wealthy institutions and people know that and it is why they have so recently targeted unions. Anyone who has a just cause will fight for it in the light of day. Stealth campaigns serve the best interests of no one.
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 09:24 PM
You pick the same option as I do, you agree with me that we should take better care of our teachers, that unions may be unnecessary if everyone agreed with that, you agree that it is all but impossible to convince people that Option 1 is the best available one, and then vociferously insist that you disagree with me. Well fine, be that way. I want you to know that I disagree disagreeing with you too. :-)
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 09:28 PM
You may not have learnt anything, but you have taught me something, that there are more people that do appreciate the value of a good education than I might have known. So thanks. And, no, there is nothing wrong in not being open-minded about something. I just wish you'd not get discouraged when you similarly find others who are equally opposed and not open-minded. Appeals to finding a common ground is rarely the panacea it is idealized to be. Sometimes, you just have to fight the good fight
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 09:31 PM
aaaargh, Dan! I did not ask to "bust the unions". What I said is that those who want to do so should realize that option is not available -- there simply is no time left to consider and implement the busting.
Shripathi Kamath May 07, 2011 at 09:43 PM
Here, something I just read: http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2011-05-05-tax-cut-record-low_n.htm We have the lowest tax burden in 50 + years, Congress cut the social security taxes temporarily by 2.3 percentage points, and we have fevered protests against being "taxed to death". (Which coincidentally were not much of a problem prior to Jan 21, 2009). At this point forget voting on it, certain legislators do not even want the people to vote on it. This is why I am resigned to Option 2.
cp May 07, 2011 at 10:10 PM
True enough about the amazing teachers which cross our children's lives and the value of the influence they yield. It's one of the reasons I would love to see some sort of merit pay instituted. Teachers like the one I mentioned earlier should be paid generously (I'm talking $150K and up). Teachers who are just there for the summers off should be compensated minimally. It should also be easier to replace the latter group with new blood. This would provide incentive to the best teachers and weed out the mediocre/poor ones.
shelly May 09, 2011 at 10:04 PM
cp, There are many great teachers in CUSD who are worth more than 150K.

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