SEIU faces big dues hit in California

Maggie Canela and her co-workers in the attendance office say they are called "haters" by the students they serve at Edison High School. Their job, after all, is to phone parents and inform on students who haven't been showing up for class.

But every now and then, a student has an epiphany.

"I'm here graduating because of you," a grateful female student told Canela near the end of last school year.

But Canela, 43, may not be around much longer. She is one of 42 workers filling clerical, instructional assistant or custodial jobs - classified positions, in educational terminology - who may soon be laid off as Stockton Unified School District works to slash $10 million from next year's budget.

The cuts are in response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to cut $4.8 billion in education spending as California deals with its budget crisis.

But officials from the California School Employees Association say the classified employees they represent are unfairly taking the brunt of proposed cuts in Stockton Unified and in Lincoln Unified school districts.

Lincoln is considering a $2 million cut in spending, and its school board will vote Wednesday on a resolution to send layoff notices to 28 of its 461 classified workers.

The dialogue over this issue is particularly harsh in Stockton Unified, where district spokesman Rick Brewer confirmed that layoffs could affect less than one-third of 1 percent of teachers, but nearly 3 percent of classified staff.

Labor relations representative Dan Morris accused the district's chief financial officer, Paul Disario, of exacting a toll on classified workers because the union withheld its endorsement of Stockton Unified's successful school bond measure two months ago.

Disario responded: "The governor has proposed that districts cut their budgets 10 percent. These cuts were not initiated by the district. Stockton Unified has been forced to cut its budget by $10 million. The district has proposed reductions of both certificated and classified positions to achieve these cuts."

Morris complained that the district has been "creative" in protecting the jobs of 19 assistant principals by proposing to change how those positions are funded, but has not explored similar measures to protect classified workers.

Budget cuts must come from "unrestricted" money - public funds that can be spent at a district's discretion. Assistant principals are paid with unrestricted money, but the district has proposed altering their job descriptions so they would be allowed to be paid with "categorical" money, for which spending rules are narrower.

Disario said he would meet with Morris but it would be difficult to alter all job descriptions so that all classified workers would qualify to be paid with restricted money.

Lodi, Manteca and Tracy school districts have yet to send any layoff notices, and some of them may not need to.

But Lincoln Unified is another story. The district has sent out 12 layoff notices to its 490 full- and part-time teachers (2.4 percent), Superintendent Steve Lowder said.

The 28 proposed classified layoffs would represent 6.1 percent of the district's classified workers.

"I don't think they've fairly dealt with this," said Dorsey McCowan, president of union's Lincoln chapter. "I think they should be cutting out consultants, travel, attending conferences, field trips. There are a whole lot of things they could have done prior to cutting people."

Lowder said items such as travel are paid from categorical funds, which does not need to be reduced for budget purposes.

Lowder said the classified employees who may receive notices are paid from unrestricted funds, but he added that he's still holding out hope of finding ways to reduce the number of layoff notices.

Back at Edison, Canela became teary-eyed when discussing the possibility of losing the job she has held for two years. She has two sons who attend Edison, and said she watched many of the school's students grow up while working at her previous job at Hazelton Elementary School.

"To me it's really frustrating," Canela said. "I love being here."


No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails