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Trustee budget decisions under fire from teachers, school employees
TUSD meeting pic
Turlock Unified School District classified employees makes it clear that they are tired of salary cuts before a board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Over 70 teachers and classified employees marched on the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday to show their solidarity in opposition to proposed salary cuts. 

California School Employees Association labor representative Kyle Harvey said the march served as a way to raise public awareness about the ongoing labor negotiations between employees and the district.

The climax of the meeting occurred when the union members chanted “no more cuts” as the trustees exited closed session meeting prior to the public portion of the meeting. 

District officials are under fire for demanding a 3 percent salary reduction for all district employees.  Employees believe the district has sufficient funds in its reserve account to withstand the current economic climate.  Next year the district is expected to hold a 16 percent reserve, much higher than most districts in the region. 

During public comments, Turlock Teacher Association President Julie Shipman asked, “Why are you demanding permanent cuts?  If someone breaks a leg, you put a cast on it.”

Shipman said that in the past the district has predicted falling reserve levels which never came to materialize in the healthy budget year of 2005-06. The district had an 11.15 percent reserve that year, and in 2008-09 the district had a 14.8 percent reserve and district officials had projected four years into the future in 2012-13, the district would have a reserve level of 3.8 percent. 

“We’ve heard this before and it hasn’t happened and we don’t understand,” said Shipman.

The negotiations between the district and employees have stalled and are very likely to reach impasse because the district refuses to exchange furlough days for the salary cut. The Board of Trustees did not report action from Tuesday’s closed session meeting.

“I’m disappointed in the impasse.  I know this district wants to foster a productive environment and positive morale.  Unfortunately, the facts are producing otherwise.  This lack of negotiation of the district’s part has taken down the morale of the staff which in turn affects our students,” said Kathlyn Donaldson, a math teacher at Turlock High School for 28 years.

District officials maintain that furlough days would have more of an impact on students’ performance than cutting teachers’ salaries. 

The overall feeling of the night on both sides of the negotiating table was one of fear and hopefulness in Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.  District officials, as well as labor unions, are counting on voters to approve the taxes in order to essentially rescue the state’s educational system.  According to Assistant Superintendant of Financial Services Lori Decker, the district will lose $5.4 million dollars next year if the initiative is rejected by voters.