Deal means no layoffs

Burbank Leader

WEST BURBANK — The Burbank Teachers Assn. approved an agreement Monday with the school district that saves the jobs of all 67 teachers who received pink slips earlier this year, officials said.

By a vote of 463 to 206, teachers voted to take six furlough days in 2010-11 and pay a greater share of their health-care plans. The average class size will also increase, from 30.5 to 31 students per teacher.

"It contributes toward the solutions that the district needs to address the reduced funding from the state," said Interim Deputy Supt. Lori Ordway-Peck. "We will have an improved budget."

Union President Jerry Mullady said that negotiations were tough and thorough, and that the contract was the best deal teachers could get.

"We were able to voice out our concerns face to face," he said. "I felt that was a good thing, and I really would like to continue that kind of dialogue."

That all jobs were brought back was a big achievement, Mullady said.

"These are colleagues, and the future of the profession and I would not like to see them disappear."

Brianne Chandler, a fourth-grade teacher at Harte Elementary School, was only slightly relieved she'd have a job next year.

"The entire reduction-in-force process has been exhausting and will continue to be exhausting until the economy of the state of California turns around," she said in an e-mail.

The tentative agreement moves to the Board of Education, where members must also ratify the contract. Officials expect that to be done by early June.

Soon after, the school board is scheduled to adopt a budget, at which point district officials will know how close they are to solvency. State law requires school districts to maintain balanced budgets every year for three consecutive years, but Burbank Unified officials project bankruptcy by 2011-12.

Not until administrators evaluated the concessions against a final state spending plan would they "have a better sense of if we've improved our status dramatically or only a little," Ordway-Peck said.

The contract essentially preserves the status quo for one more year, with district officials warning that further concessions seem inevitable.

"Because the state has such an enormous revenue problem, coupled with their inability to bring their expenditures under control . . . they are going to have to keep cutting programs," Ordway-Peck said.

Before negotiations began, the Burbank Teachers Assn. pressured school board members into moving $10 million from a maintenance account into the fund that pays for employees and some school programs. The board moved $5 million, but could tap other funds that Mullady said would have negated the need for pink slips.

"There are funds they could've used to avoid going through this," he said. "I feel that we're sacrificing . . . there are a lot of people who feel like they are subsidizing other people's jobs."

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