10:00 PM PDT on Monday, March 22, 2010

By DAYNA STRAEHLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Some Inland teachers unions are pressing their districts to cut more waste and offer more early retirement incentives to avoid laying off hundreds of their colleagues.

Other districts have already cut enough that teachers are ready to consider pay cuts or furlough days to save some jobs.

Their union, California Teachers Association, has sent analysts to go over budgets, looking for dollars to save jobs, local union presidents said.

“They have the money,” said Mark Lawrence, president of Riverside City Teacher Association. “They don’t need to make these deep cuts.”

Riverside has 400-plus layoff notices out of more than 2,250 across the Inland area.

Each district has different budget areas that teachers say need to be considered, such as busing and cutbacks to high school sports.

But most of the operating budgets go to salaries and benefits. In Corona-Norco Unified that’s 84 percent of the district’s general fund, said Bill Angel, administrative director of business services.

That doesn’t leave much else to cut, administrators say, but teachers want to see them try.

“What we’re trying to say is there are a lot of things out there yet,” said Gary Hardgrave, president of the Alvord Educators Association. “We have to get back to basics.”

Riverside’s union chief Lawrence questions an increase in that district’s books and supplies budget, $33 million.

Deputy Superintendent Mike Fine said that category includes everything from textbooks and paper to gasoline and is actually close to what was spent last year.

RETIREMENT OFFERS

Early retirements help save younger teachers’ paychecks.

The Hemet Unified School District expects to save almost $4 million in the 2010-11 school year after 30 teachers, 12 classified employees such as secretaries and maintenance workers, and seven administrators took early retirements.

That number has allowed the district to reduce the proposed pay cut for teachers from 7 percent to 6.5 percent. The Hemet Teachers Association and district are at a negotiating impasse, partly because the teachers union wants the district to cut more extracurricular programs than it has.

Jurupa offered early retirements for three years in a row, said John Vegrass, president of the teachers union. Alvord gave teachers an early retirement incentive last year to save jobs and another this year. Corona-Norco offered early retirement to reduce staff at the end of 2007-08 and again this year.

Riverside teachers want an early retirement package that does not require involuntary transfers, Lawrence said. Fine said the teachers union rejected an early retirement offer last fall. Lawrence said it was rejected because of a requirement for involuntary transfers. In several districts, teachers with as many as seven years seniority have preliminary layoff notices. Almost two-thirds of Alvord teachers have been in the district for seven years or more at higher salaries, Superintendent Wendel Tucker said.

Starting teachers usually earn $48,082, depending on their education, in Alvord. The top one third of teachers, including extra-duty stipends, ranged from $82,298 to $120,077.

pay cutS

President Bill Fisher said Corona-Norco Teachers Association members asked union leaders to consider some alternatives to layoffs if they can assure teachers the district is spending its money wisely.

That union asked its teachers last week to vote on pay cuts in the form of a shorter work year that will save most jobs.

Jurupa teachers are also prepared to bargain, Vegrass said. However, the budget deficits are so large that furloughs alone won’t save all teachers’ jobs, he said.

Alvord teachers are willing to make sacrifices, Hardgrave said. They are at impasse with the district. They offered to take two unpaid furlough days but the district wants six and a pay cut to total 3.9 percent for this year. However, in negotiations, the union’s bargaining team said the district team hadn’t considered teachers proposals, he told the school board Thursday.

BUDGET IDEAS

Some of the Alvord teachers’ proposals went to the board Thursday as part of the budget review commission’s recommendations.

Teachers, who already have larger classes after retirements last year, advocate cutting waste, reducing utility consumption and anything unnecessary, such as busing. Then teachers will be more receptive to salary rollbacks, he said.

Hardgrave suggested district contributions to sports can be curtailed, Hardgrave said. Parents should take their kids, and some teammates, to games.

Hemet has cut the athletics allocation for 2010-11 by $171,000, or 20 percent. Corona-Norco and Riverside boards agreed to trim sports.

Parents can and should help in other ways too, Hardgrave said.

The parents who are able to donate school supplies should, he said. Those who can’t don’t have to.

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