Corona-Norco Teachers Angry Over Slice of Lottery Pie

Times Staff Writer

Teachers in the Corona-Norco Unified School District are "very disappointed" over a school board decision to give them less than 40% of the district's incoming lottery funds, a union official said Monday.

"It just seems, once again, the teachers are zapped," said Carol McDaniel, vice president of the Corona-Norco Teachers' Assn.

The Board of Education voted 3 to 2 last week to spend half of $841,000--its first lottery allotment--on employee bonuses, amounting to $389 for each full-time teacher or administrator, and $156 for other employees such as janitors and bus drivers. Part-time employees will receive half those amounts.

To teachers, who settled for a 4% pay raise last year, that represents little improvement over the $300 bonuses they--and all full-time employees--would have received under a proposal put forward last month by Supt. Don Helms.

That plan drew fire from the teachers' union, which maintained that lottery funds are intended only for instructional purposes. Since their salaries account for 95.9% of the district's instructional budget, the teachers reasoned, they should receive the same proportion of its lottery revenue.

Widely Divergent Views

Faced with widely divergent views on an issue likely to set the mood for another round of teachers' contract negotiations this summer, the school board Feb. 18 unanimously delayed a decision on allocating the lottery funds to allow additional study of the issue.

But little more than a week later, the board approved a strikingly similar plan in a special meeting.

"I don't think bus drivers or janitors come under the definition of . . . instructional purposes," said school board member Charles Carter, who opposed both plans.

"I think that when you've got a minor wound and arterial bleeding, you take care of the arterial bleeding," Carter said. "Our teachers are unhappy, disillusioned and underpaid. And I think that if this is not addressed immediately, there's going to be an exacerbation of the problem until we reach the point that we aren't going to be able to get competent teachers."

Leaders of the teachers' union, caught off guard by last week's special meeting, will meet this afternoon, McDaniel said, to discuss their next move in the dispute.

"I think we were disappointed mainly because we wanted this to be a show of good faith on the district's part toward salary negotiations for next year," McDaniel said. "As it turned out, it really wasn't.

"We have a number of experienced teachers who are contemplating transferring to neighboring districts," she said, "where they can get more money for their experience."

A quarter of the lottery revenue will be set aside for programs or equipment to benefit students districtwide, said Robert W. Crank, assistant superintendent for business services.

The remaining quarter--about $13 per student from the first allotment--will be divided among the district's 24 schools for materials, equipment and supplies, Crank said. "Each school will devise a plan of how to spend that money, and that will come back to the (school) board for approval."

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