Two unpaid days off, or risk the potential for layoffs. That was the proposal for educators in Hamden, who have now agreed to accept a two-day furlough.
The proposal is supposed to deal with a more than $1 million budget deficit, and the district said it would save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Four unions already voted on the issue, and on Wednesday, the majority of teachers agreed to accept the furlough days, said the president of the Hamden Education Association.
The central office warned that if the request was shot down, layoffs would be likely.
"Furlough days hurt but you're public servants and at some point, maybe taking a few is okay as long as that's not the long-term solution,” said Jim Clark, who is a retired state worker and had to take a number of furlough days over the years. "Sometimes public employees need to make those sacrifices as long as they aren't the only people making the sacrifices."
On Wednesday, Diane Marinaro, Hamden Education Association president, said "The loss of that great a number of teachers would cause disruption and chaos to teaching and learning across our school district putting our students in jeopardy.” In a press release, Marinaro went on to state that this is only a temporary solution. ”We need long-term planning so that we are never faced with these choices again. The Legislative Council and Board of Education must work collaboratively with the Superintendent of Schools and union members to provide viable solutions to move the district forward. We need a vision and creative alternatives in order to ensure the high-quality public education that students and parents deserve and expect.”
David Abate, Hamden Education Association Vice-President said, “Hamden teachers want to be part of the solution but furlough days cannot continue to be a feasible option in solving the budget problems. We will stand together, ready to move education forward and not allow further disruptions to our teaching and student learning.”
Under the proposal, union, along with full-time non-union staff, would all take two unpaid days off.
The administrators, custodial and nursing unions have already voted in favor of the furloughs.
The paraprofessional and clerk union rejected the request.
As for the reason behind the budget deficit and the proposal, "special education services and associated costs are extremely difficult to fully anticipate...“excess cost” funds provided to Hamden by the state of Connecticut are not sufficient to offset our unanticipated special education expenses,” officials said.
Hamden's superintendent says the furlough days, which he says would save $600,000, are just part the plan.
"When combined with non-personnel related budget cuts and not filling currently vacant positions, the two furlough days create cost avoidances that fully address the current deficit,” the superintendent said.
He went on to say that without the furlough days, the district would be forced to lay off employees during the middle of the school year.
Union leaders were told bargaining units voting in favor of the furloughs would be guaranteed that none of their members would be laid off this year.
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