Alright, Fine

In a stack of papers called Union.

  • Feb
  • 16
  • 2006

Attention: Read sarcastically. Fresh from a terribly motivational and informational meeting, I feel great about the proposed contract facing ratification. Attention: End sarcasm now.

Numbers give me headaches. That’s probably why I’ll retire and be shocked to only receive 10 bucks a month to live on. I avoid financial planning because it’s so overwhelming. Imagine my feeling when entering into a discussion of how teachers accepting COLA minus 2% will save the district office from bankruptcy. Yikes.

Hearing from the voices represented at this meeting, I throw my hands up. It sounds like the district situation remains rather dire and it does the union no good to help the district go under by requesting more money than it can afford. It sounds like, as usual, the district has no tact, fraught with irresponsible decisions, but the budget is what the budget is. It sounds like all that can be offered is on the table. We should ratify this proposal, though we don’t have to jump for joy about it.


At the end of last year, the district deficit rang in at a fat $386,000, with only a slim $7 million in reserves. Law states that districts must keep a 3% reserve on hand, which amounts to just over $5 million for my district. To be down to $2 million dollars brings the district close to running out of its reserve and close to being taken over by the state.

Those figures sound pretty high to me, but I suppose if I had $7 to live on and I was required to keep $5 until next year, any percent paid out of that remaining $2 would hurt. It’s all about perspective and it sounds like the district runs thin on money every year.

No Tact

While deciding to up the salary of the superintendent at the same time as talking about offering teachers less than what’s expected is terribly timed, we cannot squeeze blood from a stone. Add to it the fact that this superintendent is the one who signed the 934 pink slips last year, that raise couldn’t have been timed any worse, actually.

Lack of social grace is my district’s trademark. The district affords teachers almost no public relations, but that doesn’t mean that we should hold that against them when it comes to our contract, like some passive-aggressive, vindictive bully. We should be happy for the decision made. Think of it this way: the last time we had to find a superintendent, we paid around $60,000 for the search. Once found, we offered her a $400,000 home loan at something like an unheard of 2% interest. To pay this guy an additional 14% is still a savings over what it cost us last time. And he’s only on for 18 months, as opposed to the 3-year contract we had to buy out to get rid of the old superintendent.

All That Can Be Offered

My district spends about 53% of its total budget on salaries and benefits. Whether or not that percentage ranks high by comparison would be a nice figure to have, as a possible explanation of how the district coffers wound up so full of cobwebs and so free of coins. Despite the fact that around $4.5 million flows out of the general fund to pay for special education mandates imposed by the federal government, mandates that are extra requirements expected to be carried out with the same amount of money, teachers in my district find a good-sized paycheck at the end of each month.

Of all the revenue-limit funded districts in this county, we are the best paid (as opposed to basic aid funding; the Evergreen Times has a pretty good article on the differences between the two).

The local California Teachers Association (CTA) representative has his fingers on the numbers. Tonight he said that he holds some hope of the district steering clear of bankruptcy waters. Without ratifying this contract, however, he sees no hope for that at all.

Ratify, I Guess…

The bottom line on the contract vote uttered near the end of today’s meeting puts things in perspective: If we ratify this contract, at least we know what we’re going to get. If we do not ratify, we roll the die. The possibility of a better offer exists, but it’s a whole lot more likely that we’ll get something worse. And it’s horribly likely that it will quickly result in a strike.

Alright, fine, I’ll ratify it. But we better get working on the next round of negotiations. If this passes, we’ll almost be a year into the 3-year contract cycle and I think negotiations begin a year before the contract expires.

We better get working on convincing the public to remove from the board of directors key people who continue to make poor decisions with the district’s money.

We better get working on an informational campaign to let the community know what the teachers have given up, how the district got itself so close to running out of money, and the impact of sending students to such a poor district, one who cannot afford to pay teachers their worth and one that leads quickly to poor morale.

I don’t think I’ve heard a single person throughout this whole conversation say that they trust the district’s accounting practices and fiscal decisions. It’s a big problem to work for a district office in which you have such little faith and it’s only a matter of time before that cynicism impacts the students.

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