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By Ed Sibby

Southwest Teachers Association members hold rally in support of a settlement

South Bay Union School District (SBUSD) educators led by Southwest Teachers Association (SWTA) and their supporters held a solidarity rally on November 10th to pressure SBUSD governing board to act on stalled contract talks. SWTA negotiators are frustrated that despite eight bargaining sessions (and another fruitless effort on November 1st) the sides have failed to reach a settlement.

SWTA leadership is concerned SBUSD has deprioritized negotiations, making it more difficult to recruit and retain the best educators for South Bay students. “We are in the middle of the greatest teaching shortage in California in fifty years, yet SBUSD refuses to offer a compensation package that will ensure SBUSD kids have the best teachers in their classrooms” explained Oralia Puga-Nabizadeh, 3rd grade Nestor Language Academy Dual Immersion teacher.

SWTA is also demanding SBUSD lower class sizes for special education students and commit to providing counselors, social workers, school nurses, and psychologists to enhance student mental health and well-being services.

Fueling the controversy in SBUSD is the ballooning excessive district reserve rate- now an astounding 12 times the state requirement for economic uncertainties. SWTA President and SBUSD teacher, Vanessa Barrera explains, “Currently the SBUSD has amassed a $32 million dollar reserve. The state requires the District to maintain a reserve of $2.6 million. It is unethical and irresponsible for any District to hoard money earmarked for our students!”

“While the superintendent and school board are responsible for allocating appropriate financial resources to ensure SBUSD children, they must stop hoarding reserves and starving our school system of revenue. School officials must have the will to ensure South Bay students receive the same quality education as their peers in neighboring districts.”

– Brenda Robles, SWTA Chief Negotiator

With the recent declaration of impasse, the sides will move to state-sponsored mediation in hopes of coming to agreement.

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