Despite parcel taxes that support class sizes capped 20 in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, the district and teacher’s union reached a tentative agreement today to eliminate the cap and raise class sizes to an “average cap” of 23 students. The move, which could permanently eliminate 12 elementary school teaching positions, is part of a retirement incentive plan. The agreement has yet to come before the Board of Trustees. It remains to be seen how this agreement aligns with the voter-approved Measure P which passed on a campaign explicitly capping class sizes at 20 children in every Kindergarten, First, Second and Third grade class in Santa Cruz City Schools.
From the Sentinel article:
Monday, the two sides tentatively agreed on a retirement incentive plan that will reduce the layoffs if approved by the school board. Forty-one teachers agreed to retire at the end of the school year under an offer to pay them 80 percent of their final salaries over time. In exchange, the district will cap K-3 class sizes at an average of 23 students per teacher, which is an increase of three from the current ratio.
Kirschen said the retirements will equal nearly $900,000 in savings, or about 15 percent of the $5.4 million the district needs to trim. But Tanya Krause, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, said saving that much also would have meant laying off counselors with less seniority than some junior teachers who could be saved by the retirements – a trade-off she said the district isn’t willing to live with.
In the meantime, both sides said they are getting closer to a furlough agreement that could mean nearly an additional $1 million in savings. Teachers are willing to take a reduction in work days, but details are still being negotiated.
“We will have some calendar concessions, but I just don’t know how many and where on the calendar,” Krause said.
Armed with employee budget balancing concessions resulting from the last faculty survey, the GSCFT negotiating team agreed to the K-3 class size increases that the district included as a contingency in the retirement incentive agreement. This satisfies the outstanding district contingency for the PARS SRP Retirement Incentive and clears the way for the agreement to go to the board on March 24th for approval. The incentive produces $740,000 in budget balancing savings for the district. The retirement of 41 senior faculty will yield 19 vacancies and should result in an equal number of preliminary layoff notice rescissions among the 57 faculty who received these. The team also put furlough calendar days on the table which would yield hundreds of thousands of dollars targeted toward undoing general fund budget cuts to counselors, librarians, elementary Spanish and intervention but the district seemed reluctant to accept them, given union demands for assurances that must go along with agreements resulting in financial impact to faculty members. The next negotiating session is scheduled for March 29th.