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Teachers say ‘Yes’ to contract with furloughs

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, April 1st, 2011 at 1:04 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Mike Langley was in high spirits this week, after learning members of the Mt. Diablo Education Association, or MDEA, approved a tentative agreement with the district in a landslide 1,148 to 136 vote.

“They said, ‘Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!’” Langley joked, commenting on the fact that there were more than 1,000 “yes” votes.

This was a twist on the saying, “No, no, a thousand times no!” popularized by Betty Boop.

“I was a teeny bit concerned about this vote, because most of the phone calls I was getting were people who were upset,” Langley said. “I’m happy. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was hoping I could say, ‘Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.’ But if there were only 900 votes or so, it wouldn’t have worked. It’s very melodramatic.”

All kidding aside, however, Langley was pleased with the level of support teachers showed for the bargaining team, which spent months wrangling with district officials over contract terms that include three furlough days. Students and teachers would not have classes May 6, 27 and 31, if approved by trustees later this month.

A handful of union members said they would rather strike than accept the deal because it will mean less money and less time to teach students what they need to learn by the end of the year, Langley said.

Superintendent Steven Lawrence pushed for the furlough days to help balance the district’s budget in the wake of California’s education funding cuts.

“We appreciate that our MDEA recognizes the difficult place the state budget crisis has put the district, and their willingness to work with us to find solutions help get through these difficult financial times while still keeping our primary focus on meeting the learning needs of all our children,” Lawrence wrote in an e-mail.

District officials also wanted to eliminate elementary teachers’ prep periods, which are now covered by librarians, PE and vocal music teachers. But the union didn’t budge on that. This saved numerous jobs.

The district has been unable to come to agreements with other unions, which are at impasse. The district wants to cap its contributions to health benefits, requiring employees to pay larger shares as costs rise in the future.

The board has already built seven furlough days into its budgets for each of the next two years, including five school days and two staff development days annually, which still need to be negotiated with unions.

Do agree with the district’s plan to cut school days to save money?

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