Claremont Insider: Look for the Union Label

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Look for the Union Label

The Claremont Unified School District and the Claremont Faculty Association (the district's teacher's union) agreed Friday on a three-year contract that's retroactive to the 2009-2010 school year.

Wes Woods II reported in the Daily Bulletin that the agreement saves the job of 41 teachers who'd been given pink slips earlier this year as part of the district's budget-balancing measures. CUSD had been facing a roughly $6 million deficit over the next 3 years. Woods' article also said the district agreed not to implement the six furlough days that they had proposed. The agreement will have to be ratified by a vote of CFA members.

Woods wrote that the union gave some concessions as well:

Have its members receive $1,500 less per year in benefits contribution, which would save the district $500,000 per year for the next two years without impacting retirement benefits.

Increase the maximum class size and class average in seventh through 12th grades by one student for the next two years. This would save the district $100,000 per year for the next two years.

Wood's article didn't address concerns that the union and the district may have colluded to have the union support the district's upcoming $95 million bond measure in exchange for the concessions. There's been much talk of such a secret agreement, in which the teachers would get their concessions back with bond money once the bond passes. Notice that the agreement came less than 24 hours after the district voted 4-1 to move forward with the bond.

As we've noted, bond money cannot legally be used for teachers' salaries or benefits, so the bond money would have to be shuffled around so that the district can say they're just taking general fund savings made possible by the bond and using those savings on teachers' benefits.

So, we can probably expect CUSD teachers to be working on getting the bond passed and trying to scare parents into voting yes on the bond measure by raising the spectre of teacher layoffs and expanded class sizes.

The concern of collusion between CUSD and the CFA was reinforced yesterday by Claremont Courier a Viewpoint piece titled "Enough is Enough." The Viewpoint author's name withheld at the writer's request.

(Sorry we don't have a link. The Courier piece isn't available online without a Courier subscription.)

The writer said that she had voted for Measure Y in 2000 but was very concerned that CUSD's promised repairs and upgrades were not completed. The writer is very much against this 2010 school bond. The woman also gave $30 a month to the Claremont Educational Foundation's 365 campaign and to a number of other fundraisers at Chaparral Elementary School.

The unnamed writer further wrote of a CUSD faculty member who said that the district's teachers where never going to give in on the furlough days and that they were going "to put a bond out." At the Insider, readers have written us with similar reports of the teachers being told by their union that benefits would be restored if the bond passes.

The Viewpoint writer also pointed out that Glendora's school district, which is ranked higher than CUSD, implemented furlough days without any problems. It's no surprise, then, that Glendora's district isn't having the same degree of financial problems that CUSD has.

It's not surprising to see a piece like that in yesterday's Courier. It's quite likely that the school district and CFA are overreaching with this bond. These are pretty tough economic times, and when district officials and the teachers' union play these sort of dishonest games with voters, they face a backlash.

Most people are inclined to support a school bond when there is a real need. But when "needs" are ginned up in order to circumvent the spirit of the law, these officials and agencies lose all credibility.