Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Open Letter to the San Leandro School Board

Don't be THAT School Board

As you may know, the San Leandro Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources are maneuvering to reduce the traditional staff calendar by one day.  The impact of such an action would effectively lower teachers' pay by more than one-half percent, finally making San Leandro teachers the LOWEST PAID IN ALAMEDA COUNTY.

They pulled the old "bait and switch" on the SLTA's bargaining team, coming to a deal with us at the table; then pulling the deal out from under our noses.  The Assistant Superintendent explained that you, the Board, had instructed him to pull the 186-day calendar, and negotiate a calendar that had one less staff development day.  When we asked him about the Board's decision, he admitted that you, the Board, had actually not taken such an action.  These tactics are arbitrary and capricious.  The administration is trying to shove a pay cut right down the throats of teachers.

No other neighboring school districts have enforced a furlough day for teachers.  And with School Services telling districts to restore services, they're not likely to.  The Assistant Superintendent has already told us at the table that he expects to withdraw most, if not all of the R.I.F. letters.  In addition, there is enough money coming in to restore cuts to the counseling programs and restore Class Size Reduction to 20-1 in K-3.  With the $1.6 million that the Superintendent found, the $2.25 million available in Tier 3 sweeps, and the $800,000 coming in from the federal bailout package that can be used to protect programs and jobs, you will still have a budgeting cushion in this difficult year.

Ultimately, however, the Administration cannot take this action without your approval as a Board.  Do you really want to be the board that cuts staff development and knocks  San Leandro teacher salaries to the lowest in Alameda County?

As the Board, the decision is yours.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Prop. 1A -- Frog Soup, Anyone?

You know the story of the frog who is thrown into a pot of water.  If the water is too hot at the beginning, the frog jumps right out.  But if the water is comfortable enough at the beginning, but then the temperature is slowly increased, the frog will stay in the water until it is boiled alive.  That's exactly what Californians will be doing if we vote for Proposition 1A -- slowly, but permanently destroying public education and public services in California.

Proposition 1A, and all of the little attachments, is bad for our schools and bad for the people of California.  Whatever short-term benefit we get from the state's budget-rescue package pales in comparison to the long-term disasters that await education and other important programs which are supported by the state.

I'm having a hard time getting the "spending cap" to make sense in my mind when I also realize that there's no "human-dignity floor," or a level of human-needs services that we also agree never to go below.  We've already cut many of our state programs so severely that the next step is to eliminate many vital programs altogether.  The state budget is already rigged so that it's impossible to get new revenues and new programs in place, so every cut is permanent.

The other dynamic is that the fastest growing part of the budget is prison funding, carrying with it a host of mandated funding increases.  With mandatory sentencing laws and 3-strikes laws on the books, along with federal court mandates to dramatically improve its abysmal prison health care program, the prison-funding part of the budget can only increase.  Which means that with a spending cap, the rest of the budget can only go down.

And, we're locking in the spending cap at a shockingly inadequate funding level.  Our schools are already the most poorly funded schools in the country.  Sure, the temporary pay-off in Prop. 1B will keep us at 48th or 49th out of 50 states for a few years, but that's as good as it will ever get!   Mental health programs have already been decimated, and Prop 1E will take more.  Prop. 1D is going to tap into children's services.  We're robbing our own kids, and this is the best we can do?

I'm also deeply dismayed that my own union, CTA, is endorsing this package.  Remember the good ole' days when CTA used to fight against Schwarzenegger's hare-brained ideas.  Thankfully, the California Federation of Teachers is opposing Prop. 1A, and so is the California Nurses Association, SEIU and an expanding group of other wiser labor unions.  

California needs a better deal.  Let's scrap California's budget process altogether, with its un-democratic two-thirds majority requirement for new funding, get rid of Prop. 13, and  write a new state constitution.

Please vote no on 1A.