A $270-million school bond lost a key potential ally this week after the Glendale Teachers Assn. voted to not endorse the April ballot measure, citing a lack of assurances from district officials that a chunk of money would be earmarked for classroom instruction.
The union decision on whether to support Measure S — which failed in a 25-15 vote on Tuesday among a pool of teacher representatives — came after they failed to secure a written commitment from the district to use an estimated $19 million that would be freed up by the bond to improve classroom instruction and roll back unpaid work furloughs.
Glendale Teachers Assn. representatives had also been skeptical of district assertions that the previous bond measure, the $186-million Measure K approved by voters in 1997, had been a roaring success.
"Because the district will not guarantee that they will indeed funnel the proposed $19 million into class size reduction and furlough day buy backs as long as their [average daily attendance funding] does not fall more than $50, teachers cannot support the bond," union President Tami Carlson said.
But Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said it was premature to formally designate funds for specific uses given the volatility of the district's revenue sources, pointing out that the full impact of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget on Glendale Unified will remain unclear until June.
He has said that avoiding layoffs, maintaining primary class sizes at 24 to 1, and protecting the instructional calendar were among his top priorities in weathering the state financial crisis.
"We are very disappointed that the GTA leadership is not supporting what we feel is best for the kids of Glendale," Sheehan said.
The school board in December voted unanimously to place Measure S on the April 5 ballot. If passed, it would build on Measure K, which financed projects such as the refurbishment of Clark Magnet High School.
Repayment of Measure S would be phased in around 2017 as Measure K is paid off. Local property taxes would remain the same, about $46 per $100,000 of assessed property value through 2050, according to district officials, who also said they expect to leverage the bond to attract millions of additional state and federal grant dollars.
Supporters of the bond, including members of the Yes on S committee and the school board, said that the bond would pay for essential technology upgrades.
"We are literally in a sea of uncertainty and yet the union leadership expects us to make a commitment to them and to them alone," said school board member Mary Boger. "How else can we help our children compete with students in India and China if we don't have 21st Century technology available to them?"
She also pointed out that she had received 40 support cards for the bond from Glendale Unified teachers.
"I am unaware of any individual teacher who is opposed to this bond," Boger said.
The Yes on S campaign is gaining momentum, said committee co-chair Harry Hull.
The group has established its headquarters in the 900 block of Brand Boulevard, and next week expects to launch a website. Supporters will be knocking on doors, making phone calls and distributing fliers and yard signs, Hull said.
While it would have been nice to have the endorsement of the Glendale Teachers Assn., Hull said supporters were pushing forward.
"We have a wide range of volunteers from the Crescenta Valley area all the way down through the Glendale schools," Hull said. "There is a lot of community support."