Aid isn't enough for school districts

News this week that states would be in line for millions in emergency federal aid brought two very distinct tales from Glendale and Burbank unified school districts.

In Glendale, which stands to collect up to $5 million, district officials used the one-time windfall to recall all 66 teacher layoffs approved earlier this year when the school board adopted a slimmer budget. But in Burbank, where the district expects to get about $2 million, administrators have kept their options open, hinting that they may use the money to instead plug their reserve spending on expenses that now outstrip income.

That could come as a particular sting to Burbank Unified teachers, who this year agreed to a number of concessions to avoid 67 layoffs — six nonpaid work furlough days, slightly larger class sizes and increased contributions to their health-care plans.

Their union president has said he will push the district to use the federal aid to rescind three of the furlough days scheduled for the spring semester.

But Burbank would be loath to try and follow Glendale's act, where the teachers union has yet to sign a new labor deal with the school district amid strong disagreement over unpaid work furlough days versus longer-term salary concessions.

With Glendale Unified deciding to use the one-time money to bring back the 66 teachers who were laid off as a result of the contract stalemate, it appears the union's stonewalling has paid off, winning it a one-year reprieve. But what of next year? And the next?

The latest jobs and consumer index reports point to an ever-slowing economic recovery, which means it will take longer to pull out of this mess that has ravaged the state budget, and in turn, the allotments Sacramento makes to education.

While it's a feel-good headline to see teachers brought back into the fold — admittedly, the primary purpose of the federal aid package — it's nothing more than a temporary air refill to a leaking tire. Without long-term concessions from the Glendale Teachers Assn., we will no doubt find ourselves back in the same position next summer, when California will again likely face a multibillion-dollar deficit, putting renewed pressure on education spending.

Burbank Unified and its teachers union should be commended for successfully going through the arduous negotiating process to strike a deal on concessions, but we would caution them about getting thrown off by the federal stimulus.

If Burbank sticks to its hard-fought deal, it will no doubt be in a better position than its larger neighbor come next summer.

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