FREMONT — The Fremont teachers union has called upon its 1,800 members to rally at tonight's school board meeting in opposition to more budget cuts that it says would hurt students.
District officials estimate that trustees will have to slash at least $16 million next year and have prepared a report outlining $22 million in possible cuts. The board won't take any vote tonight and is not expected to approve cuts until next month.
Such cuts could lead to increased class sizes — and an increase in the student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten through grade three — cuts to transportation, the elimination of all specialized prep teachers, elimination of stipends for coaches and club advisers, and pay cuts and work-year reductions that would amount to more than a 9 percent salary reduction for teachers, union members said.
"Bottom line: We want the district to be able to make payroll. We have no interest in bankrupting the district. But we want what's fair and what's good for kids. Going to 30-to-1 (in student-to-teacher ratio) and not having prep specialists, that's not good for kids," said Brannin Dorsey, president of the teachers union.
Teachers are riled because many of the cuts up for discussion would impact educators who work directly with students, Dorsey said. They do not believe enough cuts are being proposed at the district office level.
"It's a sign of disrespect to all the other employee groups. We are supposed to be in this together. That list clearly shows we are not in this together, and I thought we were," Dorsey said.
Bill Stephens, assistant superintendent of business, said the board has made cuts at the district office in years past, but that the fiscal crisis has reached a point where further cuts are unavoidable.
"If we shut down the district office, we still wouldn't have enough (money)," Stephens said. "We've always tried to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, but the past three years, we've taken draconian cuts. It's taken its toll."
Fremont Unified already cut about $16 million this year. Its projected budget for 2010-11 is $203.5 million.
Tonight's meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m., although members of the teachers union are expected to address the board around 5:30, before trustees head into a closed session to discuss negotiations with employee groups.
The board is expected to discuss the budget again Feb. 10 and tentatively is scheduled to vote on cuts Feb. 24, Stephens said.