School day could be five days shorter

CORRECTION: The print version of this story stated that the contract was approved by the teachers. That is incorrect. The vote is still being tallied. The Mammoth Times regrets the error.

Mammoth Unified School District teachers and administrators are hoping a contract to take five furlough days at the end of the school year averts a potential strike, according to union members.

Voting on the tentative contract ended Friday, Sept. 28 but the final vote has not yet been tallied, according to Mammoth Education Association (MEA) union president Michelle Quirsfeld.

The tentative contract will save the district a total of $188,000 this year, according to the agreement.

For a school district already facing $800,000 in cuts this year, if the contract is approved by the teachers, it’s a beginning—but only a beginning.

The agreement is only good if Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 initiative passes this November.

The initiative proposes to raise money for education by raising the sales tax a quarter of a percent, along with other provisions (see below).

If Prop. 30 does not pass, it’s back to the drawing board for both the district and the teachers, Quirsfeld said.

“We will have to figure it out,” she said. “It could get ugly for the schools, for all of the schools in California, if this does not pass.”

The district’s total annual operating budget is approximately $12 million according to a recent press release put forth by the district. If the initiative doesn’t pass, the district estimates it will need to cut another $500,000.

The news doesn’t get any better down the road.

“Further, the district is looking at future deficits of $1.1 million in 2013-14 and $1.8 million in 2014-15,” the release stated.

The outcome of the election over Prop. 30 is far from certain. The initiative is polling between a 51 percent and a 54 percent approval rating, according to a Sept. 19 article in the Los Angeles Times—but Election Day is still a month away.

The proposition would increase the sales tax by a quarter-cent and raise income taxes by 1 to 3 percentage points for residents earning more than $250,000. If the proposition doesn’t pass, Brown said in the article, there will be almost $6 billion in budget cuts, mostly to public education.

For Mammoth Unified, as noted above, that translates to another $500,000 in cuts.

That’s why the district now must put a strong emphasis on supporting the initiative, said Rich Boccia, the superintendent for the district.

“I know that our local teachers union will be lobbying to support the initiatives as will I, the leadership team and the school board,” he said.

“The failure of the initiatives will continue to devastate public education in California. I find it interesting that people want the best of everything but are not willing to pay for it. If we want great public education it is going to come at a cost to the people of this great state of California, which at one time was considered the golden state. It is not shining very bright these days.”

Quirsfeld said she and other teachers will begin using phone trees to educate voters about how critical it is to pass Prop. 30.