SANTA PAULA : Teachers Working Without Contract

Teachers in the Santa Paula Elementary School District are working without a contract after rejecting a proposal to increase class sizes.

Two-thirds of the nearly 110 members of the Santa Paula Federation of Teachers voted Sept. 4 to reject the one-year agreement because of objections to larger class sizes, union President Mike Weimer said. Teachers in the 3,200-student district have been without a contract since June, Weimer said.

Supt. David Philips said the proposal teachers voted down was one that union negotiators brought to the district last school year as a side agreement to the main two-year contract.

However, Weimer said that the negotiators no longer represent the teachers and that teachers believe class sizes should be smaller.

Under the proposal, class sizes would increase to a maximum of 32 students for kindergarten to third-grade classes, 34 students for fourth- and fifth-grade, and an average of 34 students for middle-school classes.

A 1987-90 contract agreement limited class size to a maximum of 29 students for classes with more than one grade, a maximum of 30 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade classes, and an average of 30 students for middle-school classes, Philips said.

Last year, state officials put the financially strapped district on a list of 26 districts statewide facing possible bankruptcy. Last spring, the district made more than $500,000 in cuts to balance its $13.1-million budget, including eliminating nearly a dozen full-time teaching positions.

A negotiation meeting to settle the dispute over class size has not been scheduled, union and district officials said.

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