L.A. County school district at risk of outside takeover without union concessions

December 7, 2012

Kyle Olson Kyle Olson

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By Ashleigh Costello
EAGnews.org

WALNUT, Calif. – The Walnut Valley Unified School District is on the financial brink, and administrators are saying it’s up to the teachers union to help save the day.

The school board voted 4-0 Wednesday night to file a “negative certification,” claiming it will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the current and upcoming fiscal years, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. The certification puts the district under the control of the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The district must present its first interim budget report to the county office by Dec. 15. If the county isn’t satisfied with the district’s plans to resolve the crisis, the county can take over Walnut Valley’s finances.

“It sounds bad but we can fix it,” said board member Helen Hall.  The district can remove the certification if and when it gains crucial financial concessions from the teachers union, Hall told the news site on Thursday.

The district is facing a $4.7 million deficit for the current fiscal year and is expected to run a deficit for the next two years.

As part of a deficit reduction plan, the administration has asked teachers to accept a series of furlough days. Superintendent Dean Conklin said 90 percent of the district’s budget goes toward personnel costs, so that’s the only logical place to turn for necessary savings.

Teachers were asked to take six furlough days for the current school year, and nine for the next two years.  Conklin said that would save the district nearly $10 million.

The Walnut Valley Educators Association was less receptive to the idea.

“We have not said we are not going to take any furlough days,” said Larry Taylor, president of the WVEA. “We said ‘let’s sit down and see a plan.’ You have to involve the stakeholders in the plan. We are all here to make this district fiscally responsible, to make sure that check doesn’t bounce.”

Administrators have made it clear that it would likely be impossible to reduce expenditures without concessions from the teachers union.

“This is not a case of hidden money,” said Conklin. “We all have a financial challenge.”

Hall said the ball was in the union’s court.

“It’s either furlough days, pay cuts or layoffs. That is the only way you can balance (the budget),” she said. “We are hopeful we can come to a resolution (with the teachers) where no one is laid off.”

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