After public outcry, West Contra Costa Unified’s school board rejected proposals to layoff or reduce hours for dozens of playground supervisors, instructional assistants, food service workers and other school staff Wednesday.
The board did, however, approve a different proposal which reduces hours for school counselors and cuts a handful of mostly part-time positions for instructional coaches and other specialists. By moving staff around to positions that are currently vacant, none of those employees will be laid off.
The proposals at Wednesday’s school board meeting were only the latest challenge in West Contra Costa Unified’s ongoing struggle to maintain a balanced budget while offering staff pay that keeps up with the Bay Area’s high cost of living. The district submitted a longer-term financial plan earlier this month to the Contra Costa County Office of Education that anticipates having to cut nearly $20 million from its budget for the 2024-25 school year in order to afford the raises negotiated with the United Teachers of Richmond teachers union for this year and next.
“We have made a commitment to the county, and my biggest priority is that we retain our local decision-making in our finances, which means we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions in the next couple of years on our budget,” board President Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy said at the meeting.
Members of Teamsters 856, the union representing those workers whose positions were at risk of being cut, hailed the board for voting down a proposal to cut funding for 34 part-time elementary playground supervisor positions, and another that called for reducing hours or cutting 72 positions. Teamsters said that if the district must make cuts, it should strive to do so in a way that has the least impact on schools.
“(The board) did the right thing, our schools need more adults on campuses, not less,” said Veronica Diaz, the West Contra Costa Unified representative for Teamsters 856. “That being said, we as labor leaders need to commit to roll up our sleeves and do the work with them to make sure they are financially stable.”
The district’s freedom to make financial decisions could be in jeopardy after Wednesday’s vote, however. That’s because West Contra Costa received a letter from the Contra Costa County Office of Education – which is tasked with overseeing the district’s finances — warning that if the proposals didn’t pass, the county expects to downgrade the district’s budget certification, Gonzalez-Hoy said. Depending on how the county moves forward, it could use its power to override some of the district’s financial decisions.
Board member Mister Phillips reiterated at the meeting that while he supported the district giving its labor unions a raise, he felt the amount that was offered — 7% this year and 7.5% this year – was too high since it was more than the district’s cost-of-living-adjustment increase in state funding.
“I know people need it and want it, but it’s not sustainable, and the end result is these layoff notices,” Phillips said in his comments on the proposal to eliminate elementary playground supervisors.
Board member Jamela Smith-Folds said the district is “in a rock and a hard place position,” but urged against “cutting from the bottom” — meaning reducing hours or cutting some of the lowest paid positions in the district.
“We need to look at what got us into this place, what happened to put us in a position now to where we’re looking at cutting people from the bottom to the top, instead of from the top to the bottom,” Smith-Folds said. “… We want to make sure that in this district we value people, and we keep ourselves fiscally responsible.”
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.
We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.
Quenton 4 days ago4 days ago
This is a great accomplishment which demonstrates a socio-economic growth and stability…
Todd Maddison 1 week ago1 week ago
Refreshing to see such a direct connection being made between increasing the pay of adults and cuts to education for kids. Usually "the quiet part" is not even said. The unions maintain the fiction that "everything we do is for the kids" and separates their own pay increases from cuts to the kids by at least a few months - to allow time for parents to stop going to board meetings and generally … Read More
Refreshing to see such a direct connection being made between increasing the pay of adults and cuts to education for kids.
Usually “the quiet part” is not even said. The unions maintain the fiction that “everything we do is for the kids” and separates their own pay increases from cuts to the kids by at least a few months – to allow time for parents to stop going to board meetings and generally not notice.
And it works. Over and over and over again. Which is why we’ve seen revenue/ADA skyrocket (up at 3x the rate of inflation over time) but academic performance either flat or falling.
Because memories are outrageously short when it comes to parents seeing what the real reason why, as boards often say, “We don’t get enough revenue from the state” to do _____________.
Here we have a great example of how it really works, both for the kids as well as for other employees.
I remember once speaking at a meeting on bonus raises and asking the teachers union if they were going to proactively apologize to the members of the support union who were going to end up being laid off to pay for their raises. Got some laughs. Until a month later.
Hope the district can avoid takeover. Or maybe it would be good in the long term to have a little shock thrown into it?
Quenton 1 week ago1 week ago
The top that is heavy must be effective and the lowest who is in the trenches must be supported with the cost of living stipends that provide for the extensive output of services that each student needs to trajectories for the goals set out academically and for life skills!!! There is money in California for each district to strive exceptionally and financially!!! We must demand that more funding is given to West Contra Costa Unified … Read More
The top that is heavy must be effective and the lowest who is in the trenches must be supported with the cost of living stipends that provide for the extensive output of services that each student needs to trajectories for the goals set out academically and for life skills!!!
There is money in California for each district to strive exceptionally and financially!!! We must demand that more funding is given to West Contra Costa Unified School District and no longer missed directed to the private and charter schools. What happened to the commitment “no child left behind”? Cutting where it is effective will negate that most children will be left far behind.