Buses are roadblock in state budget path

By Nancy Gutierrez

As of press time, one of the obstacles bringing negotiations for the state budget to a stand still involves Senate Bill 1419, passed in 2003, this bill requires school districts to meet strict criteria before hiring private companies to do non-educational district jobs.

This includes busing, maintenance and janitorial work.

Republicans are pushing a budget that includes a clause repealing SB 1419. While those in favor of repealing the law say it could save school districts statewide millions of dollars. Proponents who initially supported the law say it protects jobs and ensures quality work.

In a July 2003 a letter from Fresno County administrators was sent to Assembly member Sarah Reyes, urging her to support repealing the law. The letter, signed by 15 superintendents, stated, "Repealing SB 1419 would allow locally elected and accountable education leaders throughout California to minimize faculty reductions and academic cutbacks. In fact it is estimated that statewide savings could be approximately $300 million annually without layoffs, service reductions or new taxes."

On July 20, California School Employee Association (CSEA) members rallied at the state capitol in protest of the push to repeal SB1419. According to a CSEA press release, "Within an hour of [the] rally, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez brokered a deal with the governor and his budget negotiators that would have preserved the safeguards in SB 1419.

Now some of these Republican legislative leaders are back peddling. Members are calling all state lawmakers to urge them to drop repeal of SB 1419, which established the outsourcing safeguards for schools, from the budget deliberations. "CSEA members also believe that repealing the law will benefit the Laidlaw company, a Canadian transportation group that is non-union.

"Why should they be allowed to take our jobs paying their employees $7 an hour with no vacation," said Derek Pullinger a labor relations representative with CSEA. "If they repeal this law it will open the floodgates for work to be lost for employees that have had a good record across the valley."

Exeter Public Schools Business Manager Jihad Hemaidan said a cost analysis regarding contracting out services has not been done. Though he did say that in the past the school boards have looked into outsourcing for transportation services.

"When that was analyzed there was not a whole lot of savings," Hemaidan said. "But if this was [repealed] it would definitely give the district more flexibility especially know when districts are being asked to do more with less money."

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