FAIRFIELD — A teachers union challenge to music instruction provided by a Vacaville nonprofit – after budget cutbacks ended music instruction in the Fairfield-Suisun School District – has meant rescheduling instruction and the loss of more than 100 students from the program, the nonprofit says.
Wanda Cook, artistic director for the Young Artists Conservatory of Music, said the prohibition on instruction during teacher prep times about 30 minutes before and after school came after a Green Valley Middle School teacher questioned the music lessons.
The Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association sent a cease-and-desist order in September to the school district, contending the instruction violated the teachers union contract.
A contract between the teachers association and the district, Cook said, prohibits on-campus instruction seen as replacing regular classes – or instruction offered during teacher preparation time. The nonprofit instruction is not offered during class time.
Music Matters, one of the programs the nonprofit conservatory provides, has had to cancel some instruction and reorganize other classes. Parents pay just under $7 an hour for the instruction by Music Matters. About 450 children were getting music instruction from the nonprofit, but that number has been reduced by more than 100, Cook said.
Similar instruction on art and robotics offered outside of classes, she said, hasn’t faced the same union challenge.
“We’re kind of confounded,” she said.
Laurel Salerno-White, president of the Fairfield-Suisun teachers association, said the union’s concerns only involve the time of Music Matters instruction.
“They just can’t operate during our working hours,” Salerno-White said. “They’re trying to intrude on our workday.”
“Would you like someone to come in and do your job when you’re not at work – but not pay you?” she asked.
Salerno-White said the union supports music instruction that all children’s families can afford.
She teaches chemistry and said if a private organization arrived to take over her job that, “I would really resent that.”
Salerno-White also said the teachers union provided $268,000 to help fund art, music and physical education instruction by Fairfield-Suisun teachers.
Nonprofit representative Cook said parents of children who receive music instruction by the nonprofit feel like pawns in a political war – and the instruction a victim of a turf battle by the teachers union. She said grants could pay for more Music Matters instruction but that the teachers union challenge complicates such grant funding.
Separate funding from Fairfield-Suisun School District will allow an hour a month of music education by teachers in the school district but that’s not adequate time for a music program, Cook said.
Music instruction by the nonprofit began in 2010 after Nelda Mundy Elementary School parents asked for such instruction. Additional sites were added to reach a total of nine schools in the district where Music Matters instructs children.
“It was wildly successful,” Cook said.
“We’re championing arts education for everyone,” Cook said. “It isn’t about taking jobs away.”
Dave Gaut, a trustee for the Fairfield-Suisun district, said of the Music Matters issue, “This is not a school board matter. It’s a teacher union matter.”
He noted the union contribution to help pay for art, music and P.E. instruction. The funds followed the statewide passage of Proposition 30 and Gaut said teachers could have decided to add the money to their paychecks but instead helped fund classes.
The school district is adding instruction after years of budget cuts by the state but can’t immediately restore all art, music and P.E. programs, Gaut said. Supporters of such instruction want more, he said.
“People don’t want to go slow,” he said. “I understand.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]