By Dianna Huculak
At the end of the school year, educators in our district received an email from Director of secondary education Troy Allen, which among other things, told us that our students would not be able to have new textbooks next year as a result of increased compensation for teachers.
Based on this email, many teachers expressed to me that they felt guilty that their salary increase hurt their students.
To me, and others who have worked in Davis for a period of time, this rhetoric from district office is all too familiar – a district message frame-repeated to the community that unfortunately attempts to pit nurses, counselors, teachers, psychologist, and all support staff against the children that we protect, nurture and serve.
It creates a false dichotomy, which says anything that goes to the support the livelihood of the people in our school community must take something away from children. It disrespects and minimizes the role of our school communities to create healthy spaces for children to grow and to learn. Moreover, it’s not enough that teachers had to picket, write letters, show up at multiple school board meetings, for what basically amounted to a cost of living adjustment – we are also supposed to feel guilty about it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that, apparently, this logic only applies to teachers.
Given the significant cuts made to school budgets for the coming year, the fact that our students can’t get new textbooks – it is astounding to me that the school board would even consider giving additional raises to our highest paid district administrators.
Admin, who already negotiated a multi-year 12% increase for themselves at the beginning of the school year, while the district told teachers that it could only afford 1% one time.
I shouldn’t have to remind you that you have teachers who are on food stamps, who cannot afford health insurance to meet basic family needs.
Today there are 20 open vacancies and more to come. Highly qualified and beloved teachers, some with decades in the district, even a chair of a department, are choosing to leave rather than stay and wait for the district to provide basic, affordable health care and a salary schedule that is at least on par with surrounding areas – this should not be an unattainable pie in the sky fantasy, this is a basic expectation of an organization in “the people business.”
One that most other districts in the area have managed to solve – yet for Davis, the solution, inexplicably, remains elusive.
Some claim the district should give equal raises to everyone, fine, then members of DTA and CSEA should enjoy the same 12% raise the school board has already agreed to give the highest paid Admin, some of whom who make over 200,000 dollars a year.
I, for one and I am sure many DTA members, would welcome a 15% raise and a 2% one time bonus over the next four years. I am sure our hardworking CSEA brothers and sisters would as well. And you know, while I am aware that there is a teachers shortage, I am not aware that there is a highly paid administrator shortage.
DTA has spent the better part of a school year questioning the priorities of the school district. 3% here, a 2% on time bonus there – some would argue that it doesn’t amount to much, I believe the term used in previous years was “budget dust” but I ask you, how many books could that buy for our students?
What impact could that same money have on our school budgets? And while I repeatedly heard the district claim that we are a victim of local control funding formula, or LCFF, LCFF cannot explain the same compensation gap existing over the last decade. It is decisions like this that add up over time, and, while you certainly have not been party to many of these decisions, you do have a voice tonight.
While I know that you have heard what DTA has had to say, I cannot say that I think that you have actually listened. How can you continually tell us and the community that you are broke, that the district has done everything possible, that your hands are tied – then consider giving additional raises to your highest paid employees? It is absurd.
I would also ask you to consider whether or not the board wishes to squander what little good will and trust is left with membership, after such a exhausting and contentious bargaining year. To membership, the district admin getting 15% is a slap in the face. Spending the vast majority of your time and political capital prioritizing a swimming pool over the wellbeing of the individuals and families who have dedicated their lives in service to this community is insulting.
Trying to push all of this through, at the end of June after the school year has already ended, doesn’t speak highly of your efforts to be transparent. I speak on behalf of the association when I say that I honestly do not understand your priorities.
Let me close by saying that it is difficult for me to express how saddened I am by all of this – a close friend and colleague just signed with another district this morning, and I realized that I could not think of a single argument to convince them to stay. I know that at the beginning of next year, I am going to have to explain to dozens of new teachers that, in addition to being one of the lowest paid districts in the regions, they will be paying close to four hundred dollars in health insurance. This is sad to me.
I have heard so many stories from members this year about all the sacrifices they have made, and are making to stay working in this district, and their personal struggles – providing for the families, or even having to defer necessary healthcare because they couldn’t afford it. Their stories weigh heavily on my conscience, while also underscoring the awesome responsibility of representing their interests. Nobody goes into teaching because they give up easily, or they stop when things get difficult. All of us believe that change is possible. Yet, I will end my tenure as DTA president knowing that, while teachers can work toward positive change, I cannot say the same of the district.
The community of Davis cares and values its schools, and I ask you, what can you do as a school board tonight to show teachers that you have listened, that you value them and their contributions? More importantly, what decision will best support our students by creating stable and sustainable school communities in which all students can be successful?
It is clear to me that giving your highest paid employee a raise will not accomplish this goal.