MODESTO — Modesto City Schools students will be in class three additional days under a tentative deal struck with teachers. Originally planned as furlough days, Jan. 30, March 8 and April 29 will instead be regular school days, assuming all parties sign off as expected.
The pact came with word Thursday that the district's overall financial health has improved with the passage of Proposition 30, the governor's tax initiative.
"I am thrilled children will be receiving three more days of instruction; it's nice when the system works," said Diane Scott, principal at Rose Avenue Elementary School. "We asked our voters to help us restore what has been lost; a great first step in that recovery is getting our kids back in school. Three days is a wonderful place to start."
The contract is expected to be approved by district board members at their meeting Monday night. Teachers will vote on the proposed contract Tuesday, said Megan Gowans, executive director of the Modesto Teachers Association. The reinstated days also must be approved by support staff and managers.
The change means 1.62 percent more pay for teachers, bringing them back to roughly 3 percent below pre-recession paychecks, Gowans said. The deal will cost the district $1.9 million, according to a report prepared for the board.
The total cost of having nearly 29,000 kindergarten through high school students back in classrooms for three additional days will be $2.6 million, Chief Business Official Julie Chapin said. The higher number includes drivers to run the buses, and secretaries and principals at their posts.
The district can afford to bring back those days thanks to Proposition 30, Chapin said. Although the governor's tax initiative does not give schools new money, its passage ended the threat of midyear cuts and freed $13.2 million the district set aside as a contingency.
Running the numbers without the midyear cut, which districts were advised to include in future years, as well, put the district back in the black for the foreseeable future, Chapin said. Modesto City Schools will report a clean bill of fiscal health in the midyear budget that is due to the state next week. Previous budgets predicted the district would run out of money within three years.
The district, from school board members to groundskeepers, pulled together to campaign for Proposition 30 this fall. Gowans said parents and students she spoke with while campaigning hoped the furloughs would end.
"I only had one student say, 'I don't want more school days,' and the parent turned and said, 'Oh, yes you do,' " Gowans said.
"Contrary to popular myth, most kids would like to be in school," said MTA President Doug Burton.
He said that with standardized testing coming up, teachers will start making lesson plans as soon as the ink on the contract dries.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.