Theresa Harrington / EdSource / EdSource
West Contra Costa teachers' union president Demetrio Gonzalez and other union representatives address the school board about budget cuts on Dec. 11, 2019.

The teachers’ union in West Contra Costa Unified voted this week to approve an agreement with the school district that will save 185 jobs, as the district seeks to make millions of dollars in cuts to its annual budget. 

The vote overlapped with the district’s decision to close schools for three weeks in response to the coronavirus crisis.  The United Teachers of Richmond announced Friday that its members voted 70 percent in favor of the agreement, which offers to increase class sizes for a year and eliminate some teacher stipends for extra work or special qualifications in order to reduce the number of layoffs the district will have to make. The agreement will rescind many of the layoff notices already sent out.

Of the 240 teacher positions targeted to be cut, 185 will be spared, Demetrio Gonzalez, president of the United Teachers of Richmond, told EdSource in an email Friday. Fifty-five layoff notices won’t be rescinded right away, he said, and may not be rescinded at all.

“We’re doing this to provide consistency to our students, especially at our highest-need schools where the layoffs will create the largest gap, and to save 185 teaching jobs,” Gonzalez said. “Unfortunately, it also means that we have had to make concessions, which will also hurt our schools, like increasing class sizes for a year.”

The West Contra Costa Unified school board voted in February to cut about $22 million from the district’s budget as it grapples with a $47.8 million deficit over the next two years.

Ultimately, the district  messed up the budget the last few years, and we’re having to clean up the mess but this is the most positive outcome in a bad situation,” Gonzales wrote.

Classified non-teaching positions are also targeted in the budget cuts. Though it’s still unclear how many of those positions will be cut, layoff notices will go out in April.

“We are excited to see another step of our process to solve the budget challenge completed,” district spokesman Marcus Walton said via email. “While there is still work left to do, our community should be optimistic that we have the ability to find solutions by working collaboratively with our employees and their unions.”

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