The Glendale Teachers Assn. leadership came under heavy public criticism this week for its opposition to Measure S, a $270-million general obligation bond that would fund facility improvements and technology upgrades throughout the school district.
The union leadership voted in January to oppose Measure S on the grounds that Glendale Unified officials declined to guarantee that from $19 to $20 million in general money freed up by the bond would be spent on teacher staffing. They also have argued that pushing a bond measure would make a parcel tax — which typically comes with fewer spending restrictions — politically unattainable in the future.
But Measure S supporters contend that potentially drastic state education funding cuts may cripple the district, and so time is of the essence in securing at least one source of revenue that would be independent of what happens in Sacramento.
“I know [union leaders] say it is for the kids, I get that; but it often doesn’t sound that way,” Franklin Elementary School parent Amiee Klem said. “For GTA, you need to get with the program and work with the parents and the kids and the board of education, or at least sound like you are, because it doesn’t sound that way to most of us.”
The bond has garnered endorsements from dozens of elected officials, parent groups, civic organizations, teachers and prominent community leaders.
If passed, Measure S would build on Measure K, a $186-million bond approved in 1997 that financed several major projects, including the refurbishment of Clark Magnet High School. The new bond would be phased in just as Measure K is paid off, meaning the add-on to local property taxes would remain the same through 2050, about $46 per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to the school district.
On Tuesday, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson again called on district officials to commit to maintaining class sizes.
“Measure S money cannot be used to reduce class sizes, to pay for teachers, and these are some of the things I think people are confused about and I just want this board to clarify so our community members can have a well-informed vote,” Carlson said.
There is nothing more important in a child’s classroom then a teacher who can provide one-on-one time, she added.
“I am just here to implore you to please listen to your teachers, listen to your students, listen to your parents, and make a commitment and put it in writing that you will use the portion of that $19 million that will be freed up by Measure S, should it pass, to maintain class sizes where they are for the next two years,” Carlson said.
Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan reiterated that his top priorities are avoiding layoffs, reducing or eliminating scheduled furlough days and maintaining primary-grade class sizes at 24 students. But he added that with the outcome of the April 5 bond measure and Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extension still uncertain, it is premature to make promises.
“We want to protect class size, that is part of the irony — we are in a sense arguing for the same thing,” Sheehan said. “The big thing is, Tami wants it in writing, and until we see the budget, we cannot do anything.”
Union leadership and Glendale Unified officials in recent weeks also have exchanged barbs regarding alleged misuse of district resources to influence the outcome of the bond measure, a practice forbidden under state law.
District officials issued Carlson a cease and desist letter after she used the district e-mail system to encourage teachers to vote “no” on the bond. At the same time, the district has been sending information on Measure S and its potential benefits home with students — a move that Carlson called unfair.
But the district has the right to educate and inform and is consulting with its attorneys to make sure all materials that go out comply with state rules and are purely informational, Sheehan said.
“When we are in the wrong, we are definitely trying to correct it right away,” Sheehan said.
More than a dozen people on Tuesday publicly voiced their support for Measure S at the school board meeting. Johnny Richardson, president of the local chapter of the California School Employees Assn. — which represents maintenance workers, secretaries, food service workers and other district employees — said classified employees overwhelmingly support the bond.
Glendale Unified maintenance staff has shrunk to about 48 people — half of what it was a few years ago, placing a heavy burden on those who are left, Richardson said.
“The work tickets are building up tremendously,” he said.
Measure S revenue would help upgrade existing facilities and build new ones, benefitting all stakeholders, especially the students, Richardson said.
Sitting in a new class or using a new computer can make the difference between a boring and an exciting educational experience, said Glendale High School senior Nicolette Atran.
“In Glendale schools, the money from Measure K has not only improved technology and structures, it most importantly made me a proud student,” Atran said. “I want the next generation of students to be as excited and proud to attend our schools as I was.”