You would have had to have been living in a cave this past year to not know that Arizona’s budget is a mess, but hundreds of teachers in the Amphitheater School District are going to hear tonight just how dire the situation is, according to a memo sent out from the district’s teachers’ union.
That memo, sent to me anonymously, says that district officials are recommending firing all employees – except administrators – who were hired by Amphi in 2005 or later, as a preemptive step to deal with anticipated budget cuts that will be required if a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase does not meet with voter approval in May.
I have confirmed through various Amphi union members that this memo came directly from the leadership of the Amphitheater Education Association. Apparently, the union’s negotiation team was unable to sign off on a salaries and benefits package for the teachers for next year during their annual “Meet and Confer” process. This memo is a report to union members about what the next step is.
According to state law, the district has to notify potentially laid off employees by April 15 (more good news on tax day!). Ergo, according to the memo, these firings will be approved – or not – at tonight’s Governing Board meeting.
It is listed as the second item on the Board agenda for the open part of the meeting as: Review of 2010-2011 Budget Development – Approval of Required and Contingency Budget Cuts for SY 2010-2011. However, that item is labeled with a superscript of “2” and listed under a heading of “Information.” According to the agenda notes, the superscript means no action will be taken, yet the listing clearly says “Approval of Required and Contingency Budget Cuts,” so I’m not sure how “approval of” jives exactly with “no action will be taken” or with the information from the union.
Here’s a clip from the union memo:
Although, the association acknowledged the need to make drastic cuts to the budget, we were unwilling to agree to a package that placed so much of the burden of the budget cuts needed on the shoulders of the employees. The administration understands our position but will move ahead on making salary and staffing decisions. What we know so far is that the administration will be presenting a salary package to the Governing Board on Tuesday night as well as recommending pink slip notifications for any employee hired in 2005 or later. This will impact approximately 300 fellow employees whether they are Short term, Probationary or continuing teachers.
The memo explains that the reason the district has to notify these employees is so they will be prepared in case Proposition 100 – the sales tax proposal – fails. If the 1-cent sales tax increase passes, then “many of these employees may be hired back,” according to the memo. Contracts aren’t issued until May 15, so the union is apparently going to ask the board to hold off voting on a salary package until April 27 board meeting. From the memo:
By waiting, the district will have time to take into consider any additional resignations or retirements that may result in the announcement of such a devastating package and measure the impact they will make in further reducing the operating budget.
The memo ended encouraging all Amphi employees to aim their anger at the state Legislature, which might be good advice. According to this post at the Campus Correspondent blog, former state senator Tim Bee – who now works directly for the governor – recently said the number one thing people are calling Legislators to complain about is (drum roll) the closure of highway rest stops. They are not calling about the closure of schools or the firings of hundreds of teachers. C’mon, people! Maybe you don’t have kids in schools, maybe you think having another 300 people unemployed in Tucson is a good thing, maybe you are just thinking, to heck with it all – I can’t take it anymore!
But you have to slap yourself across the face and get a grip. Yes, a sales tax increase sucks. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We have to pay for what we want in this society and believe me, we want – need – good schools. And we especially want/need people to stay employed; there’s enough competition out here in laid-off land as it is.
If you’ve got an opinion about all this, the board meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight in the board room at 701 W. Wetmore. There is a brief opening ceremony and then time for public comment – which, considering this news of potential pink-slipping this week, might be significant. Then the board will adjourn to what my former editor used to call “secret session” but which is actually called Executive Session. The open part of the meeting will reconvene at 7 p.m. with the discussion of budget cuts. And, call your Legislators.