WCCUSD and unions release joint statement on budget cuts

Coronavirus causes WCCUSD to close all schools for three weeks
WCCUSD offices at 1108 Bissell Ave. in Richmond. (Photo credit: WCCUSD)

In a joint statement, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) and its employee unions said they aim to work together to limit cuts to classrooms, particularly at the highest need schools, as the district looks to resolve a $47.8 million deficit next fiscal year.

The statement, printed in full below, was issued in the wake of a report by EdSource.org that the district could lay off 250 teachers to save on costs.

The budget deficit is expected to be discussed at the WCCUSD Board of Education meeting tonight. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at DeJean Middle School in Richmond.

The full joint statement by the district and its unions follows:

Dear WCCUSD community,
We are speaking directly to our community after several media stories regarding the current budget crisis faced by our District. We want to assure students, families, and community members that, while the budget deficit poses a significant challenge and reductions, we absolutely believe that through collaboration we can find a solution that causes the least disruption to neighborhood schools and the services they provide.  It’s very important that while we may disagree at times, we are working together in order to continue to ensure our students are served appropriately. We want to make sure this collaboration continues in the future and past these budget cuts so that we can open schools next year in a manner where students and employees can be successful. 
As you may know, reductions can only occur in certain areas of the budget. WCCUSD has been working in reducing contracts and services as well as possible cuts in management. Even after making these deep reductions in order to reduce the total of $47.8 million dollars for next year we also had to go into negotiations since those cuts will affect our bargaining units and employees.
The discussions that have taken place so far with our labor partners have been productive and focused on reducing the impact of reductions on our highest need schools. Some of the requests from our bargaining units have been to build better systems and business processes so that this does not occur ever again. Prior to talking about direct cuts to classrooms we also had discussions about making all possible central office reductions. For instance, after the first round of negotiations, the District has increased the number of proposed central office management reductions in order to reduce the effect on classrooms. Through negotiations, additional savings have been found that will enable the District to reduce cuts to the classroom.
An important step in the process is for the District to build accountable and transparent systems that include its bargaining unit partners to ensure that every dollar received is used in the best interest of students. These actions are necessary in order to build trust with stakeholders as we work to improve together to build the relationships that will be needed to assure future success.  The District is implementing transparent systems of fiscal accountability that allow us to trust the numbers that guide decisions. Some of the new systems include a more transparent and up to date way of tracking district expenditures. Another is creating a better system for staffing our schools and system overall. We are collaboratively working to make sure all of this is in place by the end of February. 
We may not always agree on the best path forward, but we commit to working positively, collaboratively, and honestly to solve this budget deficit while minimizing the impact of layoffs. Another area of cooperation, and one in which we need your help, is to continue advocating for appropriate funding to schools. Ultimately, the State of California does not fund schools at a level commensurate to its role in the global economy. Districts that look like us all throughout CA are going through similar situations. It’s critical that we pass Schools and Communities First this November and that we demand from legislators, the state of California, and the federal government to fund public schools to the levels our students deserve and need. 
The District is actively negotiating with all four bargaining unit employee groups to identify solutions that generate real reductions in expenditures and limit the impact to our classrooms and employees.  This is hard and time consuming work, but we are committed to the process and are confident that together we will be able to work with the Board of Education to make the necessary reductions. Our goal is to avoid layoffs and to avoid direct cuts to the classroom, we hope that through this collaboration we’ll be able to get there. We encourage you to stay informed about the process and welcome your feedback. 
In Partnership,
West Contra Costa Unified School District
Teamsters 856
United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA