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Berkeley teachers

By Jean Whittlesey, member, BFT | April 5, 2002 | Page 11

BERKELEY, Calif.--In response to deep cuts by the Berkeley Unified School District because of years of gross budget mismanagement, members of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) are preparing to fight for their jobs, their programs and better teaching conditions.

Layoff notices were received by 173 teachers on March 6 and 7. Programs in music, art and other electives are being cut and class size is to be increased. Court hearings for all laid-off probationary teachers are scheduled for April 18 and 19.

A rally planned for either April 16 at the district offices or April 24 at the school board meeting will include parents, teachers and students. Students have walked out twice, 400 on March 6 at Berkeley High School (BHS) and on March 22 at Longfellow Middle School.

Also in March, teachers at BHS showed their willingness to act by boycotting a staff meeting to get together in a 200-strong meeting to discuss confronting the school board. BFT leaders missed the chance to build on this activism by focussing on the court hearings, calculating attrition and negotiating with the district to adhere to the letter of the contract.

But in 2000, the BFT won raises of 9 percent by organizing successful rallies at the school board and teacher work-to-rule actions that involved working only the hours required by the contract. This militancy is needed now to ensure all programs and teachers are retained and to maintain teachers' morale.

Teachers reject being treated as replaceable tokens by the use of layoff notices followed by some notices being rescinded. Teachers deserve to know their jobs are secure--even "temporary" teachers who are often kept for years without tenure.

All out to rally at the school board!

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