Written by Administrator Thursday, 08 November 2012 09:14
By Bill Storm, Ingrid Salim and Greg Brucker
GUEST COMMENTARY - We go public with this blog the day after California voters have approved Prop. 30, and Davis voters have approved Measure E, both measures being an affirmation of the value citizens place on public education.
Measure E is, in particular, an expression of support from the citizens of Davis who have long acknowledged the unique neglect public education has suffered in California. That they continue to support their public schools with such commitment and sacrifice in the midst of the Great Recession is humbling, and we are grateful to them for their faith in us.
The passage of these measures also removes the specter of imminent labor conflict between DJUSD and the Davis Teachers Association. As has been detailed in previous posts on this blog - please read below - this conflict has been ill-conceived and entirely unnecessary, bringing this system so highly treasured by Davis citizens to the edge of labor warfare because the State of California cannot see fit to put its schools on a decent financial foundation. Inflammatory rhetoric, half-truths and divisive communication has characterized the communication style of past DTA leadership, establishing a path of certain conflict which would have led to a strike next spring had Prop. 30 and Measure E not been approved. It also put in place an extremely unhealthy foundation for negotiations over contract renewal in Spring of 2013.
Considering the toxic state of affairs existing between DJUSD and DTA leadership, we strongly request the DTA Executive Board and Negotiators respect the dramatically demonstrated trust placed in Davis teachers by their community and return to communicating with the board of trustees they have elected, and negotiate in good faith and good will.
Specifically, we request DTA Executive Board and Negotiators adopt the following measures:
- Return to genuine "interest-based bargaining" as formally defined, acknowledging that the interests of the City of Davis including parents and students, the Davis Board of Education, DJUSD administrative staff, and members of the DTA bargaining unit are, while at times divergent, are inextricably bound and worthy of civil discussion and intelligent problem-solving.
- Immediately schedule regular and recurring meetings with the district Chief Business Officer in order to establish a common and ongoing understanding of the state of DJUSD finances. The fiscal impact of Prop. 30 will undoubtedly bring much new information and complexity into this realm over coming months, and a shared understanding of district finances will be to the benefit of all.
- To the degree DTA leadership continues to advocate "reasonable program cuts" as a means to a negotiated end, engage with DTA membership, district staff, and members of the board to make specific recommendations to that effect, acknowledging that "program cuts" equate to layoffs of DTA membership.
- Respond to the questions and concerns of the entire DTA membership to render this blog unnecessary. When contract terms are considered or proposed which impact some subgroup of the membership inequitably (such as refusing to negotiate around budget cuts resulting in P.K.S. layoffs and workload increases for a minority), communicate the terms of negotiations and likely outcomes to the entire membership, laying out the options available within the frame of negotiation.
- Create structures within DTA that guarantee its representatives (Rep Council, Executive Board and the negotiating team) are truly representing the majority. Design and implement regular, transparent surveys to take the measure of what your members think and feel, and make sure policies pursued reflect the majority position, not a vocal minority or the personal position of leadership.
- Reflect on all future public communications and actions that impact the image of Davis teachers and their relationship to the Davis community before communicating and taking any action, acknowledging our actual dependence on their good will and ongoing financial support. Members of the community must not feel their trust has been abused solely for the purpose of teacher benefit.
Editor's Note: The authors wanted the following passed on to the public. This piece first appeared on the blog, "The Daylight." It has already been distributed to all teachers. Their stated preference is not to have the blog at all - they are union people, Ms. Salim is a past union President and Bill Storm was the site rep at Valley Oak Elementary School. However, they said recent events have not been healthy for anyone.
If the teachers are unhappy with their union representation, they should deal with it and not involve the community. The community (and the citizens of the State, who passed Prop 30) continues to pass tax measures and raise funds for schools, when asked. However, there is still a deficit and if the union leadership does not want take the time to understand the District's resources and collaborate in coming up with real solutions, the District will just have to do what it can. I, too,am tired of generalities in proposals and demands. If Union leadership calls for cuts in programming, instead of broader cuts in pay or benefits, they obviously need to be specific about what they would like to see cut, so their membership can see who amongst them would no longer have a job, and the community could see what we may need to give up.
I will know that the DTA is no longer just a group of selfish individuals if it would declare two things: 1) that unless student enrollment declines, there should be zero layoffs of teachers or other key staff due to budget cuts; and 2) there should be no consideration for budget-cutting purposes any furloughs or other time off which reduce the total annual instruction time for students.
Such a declaration by the DTA would make it clear that its priority is education, not simply more pay per hour for veteran teachers.
MH: "Our teachers are not paid nearly enough as fiduciaries and educators of our children."
I would modify your statement to "Our best teachers are not paid nearly enough as fiduciaries and educators of our children."
If you work out the hourly rate of compensation to teachers and you had them work as many hours as a typical full-time private sector professional works each year, the average annual rate of compensation is about $115,000 to $125,000 per teacher in California. In my view, our best teachers should make closer to $200,000 per year over that many hours. But not every teacher is 'best.' And a few of the highest paid are not good at all, even in Davis.
But not every teacher is 'best.' And a few of the highest paid are not good at all, even in Davis.Rifkin.
True. But also true for cops, dentists, firemen, etc. The difficulty is finding a fair and objective way of figuring out who is "good" and who isn't. All in all, I suspect there is no more dead wood among Davis teachers than most other professions.
"True. But also true for cops, dentists, firemen, etc."
I was unaware that cops, dentists and firemen who suck cannot be fired after two years on the job. My bad.
There are no other professionals, but teachers, who are paid more entirely due to time on the job, unrelated to performance.
"The difficulty is finding a fair and objective way of figuring out who is "good" and who isn't."
Every teacher I have ever asked about this tells me that the teachers all know who the good ones are and who the bad ones are.
I only had one really horrible teacher in my elementary years. Yet everyone -- the other teachers, the kids in his class, the parents, the principal, the district, etc. -- knew he was a terrible teacher. Yet for all that he was paid the same as the best teachers who had the same number of years on the job.
"All in all, I suspect there is no more dead wood among Davis teachers than most other professions."
There are some distinctions which set teachers apart. For one, just one really good K-6 teacher can set a marginal learner on a good course for the rest of his education and that will be a benefit to him his whole life. A really bad teacher can do just the opposite, especially for a child who has a troubled home life.
Because of the active nature of parents in Davis, I would say that our district likely has far fewer teachers who qualify as 'dead wood' than other districts. But it's not as if the district can actually fire bad tenured teachers once they are high up in the queue.
With regard to other professions: as long as they work in the private sector, they ultimately are paid what the market will bear. Those with great credentials and great reputations and an extraordinary work ethic will usually make the most. Those who have the opposite qualities and characteristics will usually make the least.
You equated dentists with teachers when it comes to 'dead wood'. If a dentist did a poor job or somehow mistreated his patients, and his patients have a choice, he would lose business and by that make much less money. I have a great dentist in Davis. I have gone back twice a year for a long time in large part because he is great. I suspect all of his patients agree with me.
The story with psychoanalysts or lawyers or independent medical doctors or chiropractors are all pretty much the same as with dentists.
And when you look at most engineers and computer experts and that sort of thing, those who work in competitive industries will, over the long run, be paid what they are worth. Those who cannot produce will get weeded out. Some may suffer from bad luck. But for the most part, this kind of a market for labor rewards quality, not time on the job.
Why was the timing of this after the election?
Does this imply that the authors wish the DTA give consessions?
I can answer that. The authors of this did not want to either cause harm to Measure E or be accused of causing harm to Measure E. They believe that the DTA should have negotiated the concessions and they also believe that they should have given concessions last spring that would have saved 50+ jobs. With prop 30 being passed, obviously there is no need at this time for concessions.
It can be added that I am a current Rep Council Member for Harper Jr. High.
Thanks for your concern. And I absolutely understand where you are coming from. I would want to have known the same thing if I were in your place. And no one's trying to disregard the hardships we all still face. I am a homeowner in Davis, and am currently working 4 paid jobs to keep things going. Davis is an amazing community, and has continuously gone out of its way to stand up for education and its children, living and acting upon the philosophy that many of us believe in: that if we all take a small cut to help protect everyone together, it may hurt a bit, but it will work to create a stronger situation for everyone, and in the long run it will pay off in a positive way for our community, our children, and our future. This is why I live in Davis, why I fight for Davis, and why I will be raising my family in Davis.
Please know that we are now going public for the exact reason that is your concern. The only voice heard is that of leadership, and it is absolutely the case that they do not speak for all union members. In fact, it has made us look bad, as proven by Rifkin's and other's comments, in that we have been made to look like what we are not, by our leadership's tone, statements, and actions over the last years.
As it stands, there are those of us that spoke up and out to stand up for the less senior teachers who were going to be let go last year, by doing something to help protect those teaching positions in the form of a concession. We ended up losing 45 full time teaching positions last year due to the fact that the district had to close its structural budget gap and the dta didn't vote to save any of those positions (which is a story for another time, but know it wasn't the case that the teachers didn't want concessions--we didn't have the ability to vote for them outside of an all or nothing approach as determined by the leadership). This has led to larger class sizes, and tougher working conditions.
And to say, there was no 'duping' going on here and no attempt or intent to dupe anyone. With 30 passing, the need to create contingency concessions to make up for what 30's failure would have created, is gone. Are there places to tighten the belt? Sure, but that has nothing to do with the potential for a contingency concession in the case of 30s failure and the loss of $3.7 million to the district.
If this doesn't make sense, please ask for clarification, and I'm glad to further communicate. I (and Bill and Ingrid) are big believers in open and respectful communication, and hope to create a situation where there can be the comfortable ability for all to have a say, give their thoughts, and share their opinions, whether they are in agreement, or are not. Everyone has the right to their beliefs, and if democracy is going to truly work, we need to have the ability for everyone to voice them AND be heard. And it is time to make sure that we are heard.
"Harris brilliantly pulled off this rescue of our schools. We all owe him a big thanks. "
Yes, we do. We all owe him a great thanks for his vision and efforts! And we should be grateful to the Board of Ed for having the guts to put this out there despite the fact that we had just passed a parcel tax renewal and at the time, no one had the stomach to think about another parcel tax and campaign to go with it. And we should also give great thanks to the volunteers who helped make this happen! They care about Davis very deeply, and as a teacher, I am truly appreciative and incredibly grateful! And, as a campaign member and volunteer myself, I cannot speak highly enough of the other campaign members and volunteers I worked with! They did a phenomenal job of running a positive and progressive campaign, with the right focus and right mindset. This was a huge accomplishment, and Davis should be very proud of itself for continuing to renew the idealism that we all hold dear, that education, our children, our future, is our priority.
Sure... I saw nothing in your post that indicated that teachers should consider any concessions in salary, benefits. It appeared that DTA would have (maybe) considered 5 days w/o pay, and decrease instructional time. Compared to what State and local government employees have dealt with, (and continue to be dealing with) it appears to be "nada". Perhaps you believe that teaching is sacrosanct. Fine. I teach, mentor, etc. Love it.
Yet, major concessions are being demanded of those who make sure that when you open a faucet, drinkable water is available. When you push that handle that makes your personal wastes go away, you expect it to leave your abode, and maybe you believe that it should be "pristine" when it gets to the Sacramento River.
I reject the notion of "race to the bottom". Yet DTA appears to believe that they should be immune, because they are all "special". Many are, some are not. Those that aren't are 'well=protected' by the union.
Does that help to clarify what I previously wrote?
Our budget is now stable this year due to the passage of 30. Are you advocating for us to take a pay cut/etc for no reason? Or do you know something I don't about the need for teachers to take a pay cut to help offset a deficit in the district? If I'm not mistaken, the board of ed last night made it clear that as of now, there are no need for concessions. So again, why are you advocating for teachers concessions now?
I personally would vote for concessions, and Ingrid was President of the DTA the year that we, as a union, chose to give concessions (in the form of 5 furlough days) to offset a budget deficit and prevent layoffs 3 years ago.
Further, in case you missed it, here is what I said earlier:
"As it stands, there are those of us that spoke up and out to stand up for the less senior teachers who were going to be let go last year, by doing something to help protect those teaching positions in the form of a concession. "
What I stated is that I and others advocated for concessions last year, and were denied the ability to vote on them by the leadership. You seem to be claiming I said the exact opposite.
So, with that all being said, I'm still completely unclear and confused about your point. Can you please further clarify?
One more point:
Regarding this year, I agree with you that 5 days was too little. The District put out a fact based argument with a fair-share portioning of what each of the groups (DTA, CSEA, ADMIN) could give as concessions to help fill the gap created by the failure of 30. The DTA leadersihp (president, head negotiator, etc) only offered 5 days and gave no factual basis for their argument, and in doing so, put us at "impasse" which created the need for a state mediator. Calls to the the dta leadership for facts to prove their case by me and others fell on deaf ears. I would have been happy to vote yes to 10 days of furloughs to help save our schools and teachers, but we never got to that point, thankfully, due to this state doing the right thing by standing up for education in the passage of Prop 30.
I hope this further helps to clarify your concern.
I agree with Greg, in response hpierce. Our blog pieces didn't specifically advocate for the contigency language to grant 10 days of concessions, because that needs has past. We were all vocal to our leadership to consider that before the election. While all three of us agree that DTA needs to take a more unselfish look at all of these situations and while the three of us have been willing to negotiate concessions every time it comes up, we're more interested in pushing our leadership to an honest democractic model. We want their disagreement with a district budget to be based in real facts, and a majority viewpoint from members that there is a problem, rather than in the subjective perception of a few minority leaders. Right now, we are argue, the decision-making model is not represenative, and so the moderate voice, which we believe characterizes the majority of our memberships is being ignored. Already we've had hundreds of hits on our blog, and have a number of followers. Clearly, there is interest in this more moderate view for which we advocate. In the end, though, our main interest is in representation, and if after real data-gathering the majority of our members were clearly against concessions the next time we are asked, believed that the district financial numbers were off or placed flat salaries ahead of layoffs, we would defer to that view. In such a case, as happened earlier, the district can declare impasse, ulimately impose consessions, and then the membership's recourse is to strike. We truly do not believe that the majority of our membership feel this extremely about the budget, and we believe that the majority want to be a positive part of our community and contribute to problem-solving around budget issues. Our primary purpose with our blog is to empower our colleagues to force our DTA leadership to change its structure for decision-making, and to let the public know that many member do not share the views of our DTA leadership.
Greg and isalim... guess I read "too little" in your posting.
The City's budget is "stable", yet City employees are being strongly pushed to give up much more than school district employees have been asked for. Fact.
That being said,I reiterate that I do NOT want to see a "race to the bottom"... I have no desire to have teachers, Admin. Staff, or any other public employee group take a "hit" for the fun of it. My issue was/is teachers should be valued, but so should those who make sure we have drinking water, work to maintain our streets, collect and treat our wastes, and otherwise serve the community. The teachers have (through DTA) come across as 'more special than others' who serve the community.
I thank you both for your service to the community, and have hopes that for both public and private sector employees that better times are ahead.
Thanks for your response hpierce. I appreciate your sentiments and concerns about the reality we all face as residents and homeowners here in Davis, that we are taking on extra financial burden due to tough times and increased costs/etc. And again, we aim to help the situation by responding in positive to concerns and the perceptions we all see and agree exist.
I would say in response that unions are not the problem, but instead, those who lead the unions could take the union directions that aren't positive for the union or its members, which is the same as anyone in position of power can do, such as President, Governor, etc.
That is part of the danger of democracy, that it falls into hands that use it for negative and/or misdirected means, and in turn work against the ideals it was originally founded with and upon. And at the same time, that is the great thing about democracy: we can change our leaders when we collectively think things aren't going well. And that must be done through open, honest, and constructive conversation, working to find a consensus between as many people as possible. And that there is the nature of what is our representative government. We see it at the federal, state, and local level, and as well, we see it in the greatly democratic institution known as unions.
Jeff: By that logic you can argue that if the President does something you don't like, the answer is that democracy is the problem.
No, this is an inappropriate analogy. Its more like saying if the President does something you don't like, the answer is that Democrats are the problem. Democracy is the underlying fabric of our entire system. Unions are far from that.
GREG: "I personally would vote for concessions, and Ingrid was President of the DTA the year that we, as a union, chose to give concessions (in the form of 5 furlough days) to offset a budget deficit and prevent layoffs 3 years ago."
When compared with laying off more junior teachers -- who may or may not be among the best teachers, but are only fired because other asses have warmed seats longer -- I guess that is a "concession" of the union.
But when teachers cut down the number of teaching days, from 180 to 175, the primary sacrifice is being made by the children. That is, the students are getting less instruction and less of an education. The teachers are still getting in effect the same hourly rate.
If the DTA were instead mostly concerned with education, and clearly it is not, the DTA, whether run by Ms. Salim or by anyone else, would NEVER EVER call for furloughs or layoffs when the amount of money available to the district fell. An educator would instead call for a proportionate reduction in compensation to all district employees. And if layoffs were ever necessary, an educator would want the least capable terminated, not those with less seniority.
A side note about furloughs ... There are two distinct ways a furlough can affect the amount of work the furloughed employee must do: for some, the time off simply backs up the queue, forcing more work to be done in a shorter time frame; for others, the time lost is entirely a loss of service and will never be recovered.
A repairman, for example, falls into the former category. If he is furloughed every other Friday for 6 months, he still has the same number of broken items he needs to repair. He just has less time to get the job done. A security guard, for example, falls into the latter category. If he is furloughed, whatever he would have been guarding is concomitantly less safe. But it is not the case that when he gets back to work he needs to make up for that lost time.
Teachers likely fall somewhere in the middle. They have X-amount of material they need or want to cover in a school year, and by making the days of instruction shorter, they are forced, like the repairman, to get the same job done in less time, probably in a rushed manner. But since teachers with tenure cannot be fired or even punished for doing a sh!tty job, and thus have no real requirement to cover the full extent of the material, they can simply just skip over what would have been covered on those furloughed days. To that extent, those teachers are just like security guards. The real victims of teacher furloughs, thus, are the students, who get less quantitative and qualitative instruction, all because the unions don't give a sh!t about education, whenever it bumps into whatever they find convenient.