Teachers protest over lack of contract

POSTED: 05:29 PM PDT May 06, 2013    UPDATED: 05:29 PM PDT May 06, 2013 

No graduation help,  no after-school clubs or tutoring: Teachers in Desert Sands Unified School District are saying "no" to extra work until the district gives them a contract.

Right now, teachers are working without a contract.   They say they are being asked to do more while they are getting paid less.

But, the district says even with the passage of Prop 30, there  just simply isn't enough money to go around.

Alissa Marshall, an English teacher at Palm Desert High School says, "There is not enough of the basic things that we need to run our classrooms but the demands keep increasing."

Desert Sands teachers say they helped get the district more money with the passage of Prop 30, and now, like other Valley school districts, they want to see some of their cuts reversed.

"A lot of people are struggling and are concerned about whether or not they are going to make ends meet," said Rae-Lynne Godfrey, a Thomas Jefferson Middle School art teacher.

"We've lost $2,500 apiece this year alone that doesn't count previous year losses," said Marshall.

Teachers also want to see class sizes brought under control.

"When you have 42 kids and 44 minutes in a period that's a minute per student," said Godfrey.

Marshall says she has 200 seniors she's responsible for in her English classes.

"It took me more than 6 or 7 weeks to do one set of essays and that is working at home and that is working weekends just to grade the essays.  That's not time that I get paid for," said Marshall.

Teachers have decided to take a stand.  They are not going on strike, but they are only going to be working their contracted hours, that means no after-school tutoring, extra curricular activities.  At Palm Desert High School, that means no teachers at graduation.

"It's always the last thing that we are willing to do, but we can only be doormats for so long," said Marshall.

"It's a labor of love, but you have to make a living, too," said Godfrey.

The teachers are also wearing black Monday, putting black tape across their ID badges, passing out flyers to parents and writing letters to board members.

"Just giving us the respect of a decent salary where we are not losing ground to stay in this job and we have a contract to protect us.  That we all we are asking," said Marshall.

The school district says it's giving all it can.

Spokesperson Sherry Johnstone, says, "Our health and salary is higher than any of our neighboring districts so we feel like our offer is very fair while still remaining fiscally solvent."
Even with money from Prop 30, the voter-approved measure expected to bring in $8 billion in education from tax increases,   the district says they're still facing an $8 million deficit.

"It didn't bring new money, it let us continue the year without additional cuts," said Johnstone.

The district hopes the state will give them more money, but won't know how much until this summer.

"When we have those hard figures, those hard dollars, we want to bring our teachers back from layoffs, and we want to keep class sizes the way they were last year, not increase them," said Johnstone.

Teachers say that's not good enough.

"It's not the way that you and I went to school, it's not what we expect for our own children.  It's not the kind of services that we want to provide for the community," said Marshall.