Bigger class sizes, no teacher raises at MV Whisman
Last week, Mountain View elementary and middle school officials approved next year's budget, which aims to make do with dwindling state funding and falling tax revenues by increasing class sizes, cutting funding to programs and scaling back staff.
The Mountain View Whisman School District board, at the June 17 meeting, approved the 2010-11 budget as proposed by Craig Goldman, the chief financial officer.
While the district's teachers haven't had a raise in five years, the president of the teachers' union raised no qualms about the budget at the meeting.
The district has budgeted to spend about $39.2 million in the 2010-11 school year, Goldman said, down from $41.7 million last year. However, that number should rise as the school district receives additional revenue, including donations from the PTA and assorted fees and grants, he said.
Somewhere between five and 10 temporary teachers, who would likely have been rehired will not be returning due to the increasing class sizes, according to Donna Campbell, president of the Mountain View Educators Association, the teachers' union.
Class sizes for kindergarten through third grade will be bumped up from the current target of 20 students for every teacher to a 25-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, Goldman said.
Campbell, who has been teaching in the district since 1997, gave credit to school officials for not laying off any probationary or tenured teachers, as many other local districts have done, but added that she felt the district could still be doing more for teachers.
"We have not had a raise in five years," Campbell said, a fact she and other teachers find particularly vexing when considering that the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District pays its teachers the highest salaries in the county. Mountain View Whisman ranks near the bottom of all 32 districts in Santa Clara County when it comes to teacher compensation.
She pointed to one of the district's official strategic goals: "Attract and retain a diverse, talented and caring workforce."
"You can't attract and retain teachers if you are one of the lowest-paying districts in the county," she said.
Goldman acknowledged that the base salary for teachers has not risen for five years, but pointed out that the district's cost to maintain teachers' total-pay packages, which include insurance and retirement benefits, have increased "significantly" over that same time period.
"The district's costs for full-family health coverage has gone up by almost $4,000 per employee over the past two years," he said.
Goldman said he felt the budget made the best of the bad financial hand the district has been dealt. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is attempting to close a $19.1 billion state deficit by making $12.4 billion in cuts. Reductions of billions of dollars will fall on K-12 schools statewide, directly and indirectly.
"The district has done a thorough analysis of state revenue, as well as federal and local funding," Goldman said. "We spent a great deal of time in planning, to ensure that we protect core programs."
Campbell said that she feels that the district's administration could afford to make cuts to its staff, although she was reluctant to name any specific positions.
"Most teachers would rather see administrative positions cut than lose teachers."
Administrators aren't the ones teaching the students, she reasoned. "To cut back on teachers — it's all basically kind of a slap in the face.'
"We run a fairly lean administrative staff," Goldman said in response.
Next month, he said, as he moves to fill the position of superintendent left by Maurice Ghysels, one administrative position will be eliminated. Shaw-Lee Ouyang, currently the director of finance for the district, will take Goldman's old position. Ouyang's old position will be left unfilled. A new title will be created for Goldman's old job: chief business officer.
"School sizes are going up, but there haven't been any increases in school administrative staff," he said.
Regardless, for Campbell, the problem remains.
"To me, as an educator, cuts in education are never appropriate," Campbell said. "But you have to convince the governor of that. And until you do, cuts in education will continue."