An impasse between the Walnut Valley Unified School District and the teacher’s union appears to be over.
The Board of Education tonight is expected to vote on the ratification of a proposed collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Walnut Valley Educators’ Association.
On the association’s website, a tally dated Feb. 8 lists the teachers’ vote in favor of a tentative contractual agreement with the district at 444 to 19.
Larry Taylor, the association's president, wrote in a letter on the site that the agreement on furlough days is the equivalent of a 5.4 percent reduction in salary.
“For myself, the most difficult part of this settlement is not just the financial aspect, but the blatant lack of respect for the very core of the WVUSD, those individuals that support student learning day in and day out,” Taylor said. “When members of the school board and district level administrators, who are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to district finances, blame WVEA members for this financial crisis, I’m truly sadden and dismayed by their actions.”
District officials announced in December that stalled talks with the association prompted the impasse. Walnut Valley Unified is facing a $4.2 million deficit for the 2013-2014 school year. The shortfall is estimated at close to $11.5 million for 2014-15 without a move to close the gap, officials said.
The district administration requested that teachers take six furlough days this year and nine for the subsequent two years. The association came back with an offer of two, four, and four, according to two Suzanne Middle School teachers who wrote an editorial about the district’s budget troubles.
At a community budget forum last month, Superintendent Dean Conklin said with 90 percent of the budget spent on personnel, a compromise on furlough days was needed.
“We have to do something,” Conklin said. “And the challenge is do we reduce the number of days or do we reduce the number of employees? There’s not a third option. We’ve already dimmed the lights as much as possible.”
Members of the educators’ association say that it is the district’s deficit spending and not the teacher salaries that is the cause of the fiscal difficulties.
Board President Helen Hall said at last month’s budget forum that there is a structural deficit problem that the district has been openly working on for years. The cause of the deficit is due to rising expenses and unpaid money the state owes Walnut Valley Unified. One-time money the district previously had been able to tap is not allowed anymore, she said.
“We have been working with the unions to try to solve this problem,” she said. “And so when you run out of one-time money and the state says you can’t do that anymore, then you’re going to you have to deal with reality. And the reality is we have to deal with the structured deficit that’s in the budget.”
The Board of Education meets at 7 p.m. tonight at the District Education Center, 880 S. Lemon Ave.