By Mike Myslinski
FUDTA President Brannin Dorsey and Fremont Unified superintendent Milt Werner at town hall.
Teachers in Fremont and around the state are learning that union organizing is more powerful when it includes organizing their entire community around understanding the impact of massive budget cuts.
Caught up in the same troubles caused by state education cuts that have hurt school districts in the Bay Area and across the state, Fremont Unified School District teachers organized a town hall meeting in September to warn their community about the impacts from $20 million in cuts this school year.
Their answer? A possible parcel tax rescue option in 2010.
Teachers in Sacramento and Riverside counties were also planning to hold town hall meetings this fall to make the public school cuts real to local media and parents.
"This crisis isn't about something our school board did — it's about the billions of dollars in education cuts made by the Legislature this year," says Brannin Dorsey, president of the 1,800-member Fremont Unified District Teachers Association. "The loss of our smaller class sizes alone is disastrous for our students and teachers. The town hall meeting was about protecting quality schools in Fremont for years to come."
Educators in the 32,000-student district are part of the Fremont Education Coalition of educators, administrators, school board members and parents working together to find ways to make ends meet during this difficult school year. Cuts forced all school employees to take furloughs that equal a pay cut of 2.67 percent this year, and most kindergarten class sizes soared from 20 to 30 students. School library and counselor staffs were slashed, as was prep time for elementary teachers.
In addition to discussing the parcel tax during the meeting, teachers pressed for an end to the requirement that a two-thirds vote of the Legislature is needed to pass a state budget — and called for a repeal of tax breaks given to corporations this year by lawmakers.
Besides Dorsey, the Fremont Education Coalition speakers included Milt Werner, Fremont Unified superintendent; Larry Sweeney, school board member; and Susan Nathan, Fremont Council PTA president. The moderator was former school board member Nina Moore, who works for the Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 100 parents showed up in the gymnasium at Centerville Junior High to ask questions.
"We must stick together if we want to successfully ride this out," Dorsey told the audience in her opening remarks. "We must all take some control and responsibility for the quality of education in Fremont."
By working to help the schools with a parcel tax, the community is investing in its kids, she said. "The children in California do not have a voice. We, the parents and community, need to speak up for our children. We need to tell the leaders in Sacramento that change has been long overdue!"
With a possible decision to launch the parcel tax due by the Fremont school board's Oct. 28 meeting, Dorsey is keeping the community updated on her Twitter account: www.twitter.com/fudtapres. Residents are also going to the chapter website to get involved: www.fudta.org. Everyone is using their organizing connections, including Fremont chapter Vice President Sherea Westra, who is also president of the Fremont Education Foundation.
Meanwhile, dealing with the impacts of budget cuts prompted the CTA Capital Service Center Council in the Sacramento area to schedule a town hall meeting on Nov. 12. The event will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the gym at Riverbank Elementary, 1100 Carrie St., West Sacramento. Parents, administrators, legislators, and community members will be invited to join teachers for a frank discussion about why school cuts will prevent this year from being business as usual.
At press time, several chapters in Riverside County were planning a town hall session on local school cuts. Leading the effort is the local CTA leaders' Coalition of Riverside Presidents. The president of the group is Bev Bricker, who is also president of the Palm Springs Teachers Association.
She said that, separately, her association is doing a town hall stressing soaring class sizes and other classroom cuts in Palm Springs Unified. Bricker will host the event with Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa starting at 6 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Cathedral City Public Library, 33520 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City, 92234.
"The cuts in this region have been a disaster for teachers, students and communities," Bricker says. "Union work means doing community work. A town hall helps spread the word that it is not business as usual in our public schools — and that we must work together to stop the cuts."
Schedule a Stand Up for Schools event
Nov. 12, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Riverbank Elementary, 1100 Carrie St., West Sacramento.
Parents, administrators, legislators, and community members will be invited to join teachers for a frank discussion about why school cuts will prevent this year from being business as usual.
Nov. 4, 6 p.m.
Cathedral City Public Library, 33520 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City
Palm Springs Teachers Association is also holding a town hall stressing soaring class sizes and other classroom cuts in Palm Springs Unified. Bev Bricker, Palm Springs Teachers Association president will host the event with Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa.
At press time, Riverside County members were planning a town hall session on local school cuts. Leading the effort is the local CTA leaders' Coalition of Riverside Presidents. The president of the group is Bev Bricker, who is also president of the Palm Springs Teachers Association.