AFT Federation Union Local 762 of Claymont Delaware, which represents 120 classroom and transportation aides in the Brandywine School District, went all in with the district and community leaders to pass a tax referendum to support public education in the district and prevent across-the-board layoffs.
Union President Karen Kennedy joined leaders to make a video urging voters to approve a property tax increase to support public education. The local also placed a nearly half-page ad in the Delaware Journal urging senior voters, who were most likely to reject the measure, to support the tax increase.
Had the tax increase failed, the district would have made across-the-board personnel cuts that could have decimated the small, paraprofessional union, Kennedy said.
The district asked voters for an additional 28 cents per $100 of assessed value to support the operating budget, a capital project and to demolish a school that has been empty since 2010. The measure was rejected on the primary election ballot in March, as voters objected to a more extensive proposal that included upgrades to playing fields. That part of the proposal was removed on the May 17 referendum.
The referendum passed in what was called a landslide, with unofficial results at 9,500-5,780.
A small union, Local 762 has made a big impression on the community and schools. Over the past three years, under Kennedy's leadership, the union has given away 8,000 free books to students and their families under the First Book program. The union plans to give another 2,000 books away by the end of the school year, Kennedy said.
"I was concerned that if our members were laid off due to lack of funds, our partnership with First Books would come to an end," Kennedy said.