State

Modesto teachers reach deal: Less pay, more kids

The union that represents teachers in the Modesto City Schools district has reached a tentative contract agreement that would prevent most layoffs among its members while accepting a pay cut and fewer workdays.

The deal for the Modesto Teachers Association would mean fewer school days for children and more students per classroom. The 2010-11 school year would shrink to 175 instructional days, five less than this year.

For teachers, the deal means nearly a 4.5 percent pay cut, primarily because they will be working fewer days.

The school district expects the deal will save it $13 million next year, assuming teachers ratify the agreement when they vote May 26-28.

By agreeing to a pay cut, union members will save hundreds of jobs. The district notified 517 teachers, librarians and counselors in March that they might lose there jobs come July.

Now "we will layoff under 100, about 65 of which will be K-6 teachers," said Chris Flesuras, deputy superintendent who oversees personnel. Those teachers are expected to be all temporary or probationary employees, rather than tenured permanent teachers.

Top MTA officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Here are the changes union and district bargaining teams hammered out for the 2010-11 school year:

Six unpaid furlough days, including five fewer instructional days and one less preparation day. That means Modesto teachers would work 176 days a year.

Wage reduction of 1.145 percent from the salary schedule. But teachers still would be given "step and column" raises, which provide pay increases to educators based on their years of experience and the number of college credits and degrees they earn.

Reduction of 20 percent in hourly and stipend compensation, such as extra pay teachers receive for teaching summer school or coaching athletic teams.

Increased class sizes. Kindergarten through third-grade classes would rise from 20 students to about 25. Seventh- and eighth-grade classes would increase from 36 to 37 students. High school classes would increase from 38 to 39 students.

Additional concessions for teachers were agreed to, including providing elementary teachers preparation time and relieving them from having to do yard duty during recess. At the secondary schools, teachers won't have to attend after-school staff meetings.

The required teacher workday would remain at six hours.

"We were able to reduce programs, but not eliminate them," Flesuras said. "We will maintain the K-6 music program for at least another year. All schools K-12 will be on traditional schedule, no more year-round schools. We will be able to maintain our arts and performing arts program."

Athletics also would be spared.

"We cut some stipends and reduced others in our sports program, but (we will be) able to maintain the present freshman, JV and varsity programs at all levels," Flesuras said.

It took 11 bargaining sessions to arrive at the tentative agreement.

The district previously cut a deal with its nonteaching personnel, which is expected to save $3.75 million next year.

Flesuras said the district also did some management reorganization, including layoffs and pay cuts, to save "a little over $2 million with an additional $500,000 in one-time saving."

Modesto City Schools has been trying to cut next year's budget $25 million, which is about 10 percent, because of declining enrollment and shrinking revenues from the state.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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