Teachers Question Budget Responses

Times Staff Writer

Orange County teachers union leaders said Wednesday that some school districts are overreacting to the proposed education budget cuts with their threats to fire teachers and end class-size reduction.

At their monthly meeting, California Teachers Assn. chapter presidents from about 30 local districts questioned the disparity among districts such as Capistrano Unified, which have lobbied the state for more flexibility in enforcing class-size reduction, and those that say they will be able to weather the crisis without laying off teachers.

"Some districts are bloodletting, and others seem to be able to manage their resources better," said Frank Wells, a CTA spokesman. "If a district is doing something that we consider a gross overreaction, we want to get the word out that things don't have to be that way."

However, state education officials say districts will be affected differently by a proposed $6.2-billion reduction, so it makes sense the severity varies among proposed solutions.

Sending teachers layoff notices is being cautious, not overreacting, said Ann Bancroft, spokeswoman for state Education Secretary Kerry Mazzoni.

"Most are taking a very conservative view so they can be protected should the worst-case scenario occur," Bancroft said.

District leaders, meanwhile, criticized the union's tactics, saying they should lobby the state for more education money, rather than attack districts.

"Districts are having to make and consider serious cutbacks," Capistrano Unified Supt. James A. Fleming said. "I think it's about time the CTA leadership takes its head out of the sand."

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