PALMDALE – The Palmdale Elementary Teachers Association (PETA) will unite at Thursday Night on the Square on July 18 to talk to the public about what is at stake following the Palmdale School Board’s vote for salary reductions, furlough days and a hard cap on health benefits for teachers for the upcoming school years.
“We will be handing out flyers and we will be asking [people] to contact the school board and ask them to rescind their decision,” said PETA President Hugo Estrada. “The public has the last word. They’re the ones that need to put the pressure on the board.”
Teachers, parents and supporters are hoping the public can help pressure the Palmdale School District’s Board of Trustees into rescinding a decision made at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
During the packed to capacity meeting, the school board voted 4 to 1 on a resolution to impose the District’s proposal from July 12. The proposal includes a 3.8% salary cut in the upcoming school year, an additional 8.4% cut in the following year, and nine furlough days in each year. It also includes the implementation of a $15,550 cap on District expenditures of health benefits for teachers, with the teacher absorbing any additional costs above that amount (read the proposal here).
The Palmdale School District has maintained that the reductions are necessary to allow the District to present a balanced budget for the next three years to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (“LACOE”), as required by law.
This proposal “is identical to that agreed to by CSEA [California School Employees Association] and overwhelmingly ratified by our classified employees, and also identical to what is being applied to all management and confidential employees so that more than half the District will already be experiencing these identical reductions,” Gallizzi said in open letter to the Palmdale School District Community last week.
The board’s decision will have a devastating impact on the community, Estrada said.
“The average loss of income [for Palmdale teachers] will be between $900 to $1,100 a month,” Estrada said. “What it means is that 900 local people will have less money to go out and spend in our community, which is bad for our businesses.”
“The furlough days will impact instruction dramatically and many of us are worried about our benefits… it’s a really big impact,” Estrada continued.
Teachers, parents and supporters will be wearing PETA’s colors and gathering at 5 p.m Thursday at Poncitlan Square, just before the Thursday Night on the Square event.
The gathering is not a demonstration, rally or protest, Estrada stressed, but a way for PETA to solicit public support for teachers who are facing an uncertain future.
“Many of us are devastated, and I know many of our members are in tears right now looking at their situation and hoping for the best still,” Estrada said, adding that PETA is still hopeful that both sides can return to the negotiation table.
“The best way the public can help is to contact the board members requesting them to rescind the decision,” Estrada said. “Ask [the School District] to return to the table with good faith intentions, not the intentions that we’ve seen lately, which is more of a bullying approach… They really need to come to the table ready to negotiate and look at every option.”
A strike is the last resort.
A status report on PETA’s website explains the steps that would be taken leading up to the union’s decision to strike this fall.
PETA will conduct informational meetings for all unit members once the 2013-14 work year begins. Zone meetings are scheduled for August 14, 2013. It is likely that PETA will conduct a strike authorization vote after holding those informational meeting with unit members. This would not be a vote to strike, but rather one that authorizes the PETA Executive Board to call a strike if it deems necessary. If a simple majority vote yes on the strike authorization, the decision to call a strike then rests entirely with the Association’s Executive Board. A strike is always the last resort. The PETA Executive Board must weigh all factors and work in close consultation with the Rep Council and with CTA advisors prior to calling for a strike.
For status updates from the Palmdale Elementary Teachers Association, visit their website at http://avpeta.org/.
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