What was supposed to be a united rally against state budget cuts and a push for local school funding turned into an attack on the Fremont teachers’ union and the no-layoff clause for permanent teachers in its contract during last night’s education/budget forum.
Overall, the event was a tame affair. Three or four dozen people attended — about half of which I recognized as elected officials, school administrators or the super-involved parents who serve on various school committees. A couple of the organizers said after the event that they had hoped for a larger turnout and agreed that perhaps they had been preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, they’re hoping those who heard their message will pass it on to others in the community.
That message being that the fiscal crisis the district finds itself in (about a $20 million deficit) is the fault of the state Legislature which keeps making cuts to education; that there needs to be a Constitutional amendment so that state budgets no longer need two-thirds legislative approval to pass; and that it behooves everyone in the community to support a local schools parcel tax.
The superintendent and the presidents of the school board, Fremont teachers’ union and Fremont Council PTA sat side-by-side, speaking of the need to work together for the common good of the children.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement for the most part until the Q&A session. One audience member asked whether it’s true that the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association is the only teachers’ union in the state with a no-layoff clause (answer: yes, at least as far as anyone in attendance could tell). Someone else asked about the seniority system used in determining layoffs.
Larry Sweeney, school board president, said the no-layoff clause was added to the contract long before any of the current board members (and probably teachers’ union reps, for that matter) joined the board and that any changes to the contract would have to be negotiated and agreed to by both parties. “Like it, hate it; it is what it is,” he said.
Brannin Dorsey, head of the teachers’ union, said that even teachers with seniority could be dismissed if (s)he is proven to be ineffective, but that there is a process that must be followed prior to dismissal. She also said the no-layoff clause did not cause the budget crisis and isn’t the problem here, to which a man in the audience cried out, “It makes the problem worse.”
There was one more question after that (about something not as controversial), if memory serves me, before the forum ended.