DTA Prez: We Should Not Ask Teachers to Take Concessions

schoolThis is About Shared Sacrifice and That Includes Teachers

In a pointed letter to the editor from current DTA (Davis Teachers Association) President Gail Mitchell, she asked that we not ask more of teachers.

She writes: “Recent items in The Davis Enterprise made a surprising call for pay cuts and a shortened academic year. Measure C results aren’t in, the state budget hasn’t been passed, and community input has not been sought – and, yet, district officials and individuals are already arguing that we have to look to the classroom for cuts first.”

“We’ve been down this road before. Last year, five fewer school days and higher class sizes led to lower test scores and cuts in essential curriculum. Pay cuts, which occurred at the same time as increased costs of benefits, were demoralizing and, in some cases, led teachers to seek employment elsewhere or even to leave the profession altogether,” she continued.

“It’s time to change the conversation. If we value education, we need to value the work of teachers,” she concludes.  “We can’t solve a long-term structural deficit with short-term pay cuts that ask even more from the teachers who already have given so much.”

Heidy Kellison posted a response on the Davis Enterprise website.  She said, “We value teachers – all of them – and we hope DTA will do the same. The state budget, while not passed, is clear. Cuts are imminent. This is based on past budget assumptions that will not be remedied by a new budget.”

“Don’t let your newest union members down. There are so many good, new teachers – fresh energy from people who a truly making a difference in students’ lives,” she concluded.

It pains me to have to write this article frankly, but once again it seems that some people do not get the notion of shared sacrifice.  I very strongly support teachers, and I think most of the teachers that I have encountered at DJUSD have been outstanding.

I really thought that teachers understood what we were facing in this district, even if Measure C passes.  It was just two weeks ago when former DTA President Ingrid Salim called for concessions as part of the way to deal with the $3.5 million structural deficit in the school district, even if Measure C passes.

Ms. Salim wrote in late January: “The district has faced this deficit for a number of years, and each time, as was delineated, other one-time monies were used to offset the need for layoffs and keep programs intact.”

Ingrid Salim writes, “This year, the options for such one-time monies are limited, and therefore the threat of layoffs, increase in class sizes and reduction in programs is the greatest it’s been in years.”

She argued: “Certainly, in this time of economic uncertainty, this is one way to have compassion for our colleagues: districts across the state are having to make similar decisions, and finding another job will not be easy for those laid off. In addition to helping our colleagues, many of us teaching know that once positions and programs are lost, it is very difficult to get them back again.”

She goes further and calls on her fellow teachers to step up.

“I urge the Davis Teachers Association leadership to poll their members to gauge interest in a shortened school year and other concessions in order to mitigate those layoffs. We did this once before, a few years ago, and were able to save many employees’ jobs, keep class sizes reasonable and keep programs intact,” she argued.

Ingrid Salim concluded: “If DTA were to direct our Negotiations Committee to do something similar this year, pink slips to compensate for the deficit might be avoided altogether, reducing the anxiety so many face each year in these uncertain times.”

I have to be frank here, the current DTA president, Ms. Mitchell, could not have picked a worse possible time to come out with her letter to the editor.

I absolutely believe that, given the role that teachers play in our society, they are underpaid.  Compared to city employees, they get very modest benefits on top of the modest pay.

But these are not times for this.  These are times for shared sacrifice.  We have to have buy-in from everyone to survive.

The district is facing a $10 million shortfall this year.  $6.5 of that would be covered if Measure C, which renews two separate parcel taxes, is renewed.

If you are Gail Mitchell you are asking the community, which has already passed three parcel taxes and come forward with millions in voluntary money since 2007, to pass yet another parcel tax but you are not willing to even discuss your members taking concessions?

I fully support finding better and more permanent ways to deal with ongoing cuts to schools.

I absolutely agree with Dean Vogel, who is president of the statewide CTA and a Davis resident, when he said, “Educators know that California cannot continue to cut its way out of ongoing budget problems. We also know that not everyone in California is paying their fair share, and that’s why we are supporting the governor’s tax proposal, which taxes the wealthiest Californians in order to bring additional revenue to our schools, colleges and other essential public services.”

I will support the Governor’s initiative and agree with Mr. Vogel that it is “the only initiative that provides additional revenues for our classrooms and closes the state budget deficit, and guarantees local communities will receive funds to pay for the realignment of local health and public safety services that the Legislature approved last year.”

But if the teachers adopt the line of Ms. Mitchell, they risk losing the public at a time when they are expecting the public to pony up for another $6.5 million, $320 per parcel, of continued funding.  That I cannot support.  I hope very much that Ms. Mitchell re-thinks her stance and follows the lead of people like Ingrid Salim and Heidy Kellison.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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39 Comments

  1. rusty49

    “It pains me to have to write this article frankly, but once it seems that some people do not get the notion of shared sacrifice.”

    Exactly, I know what you meant, though you might want to edit this sentence.

  2. 91 Octane

    I also think that articles like this one suggest the economy, despite what the enterprise has said, is not turning around simply because of a temporary drop in the unemployment rates.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    The Enterprise rather than every economist in this country is your source?

    The economy is turning, but it will take time to impact policy. The key will be where are state tax revenues – local economy really doesn’t matter here except for perhaps the voters mindset when voting for C. C is going to pass easily however.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The economy is turning, but it will take time to impact policy. The key will be where are state tax revenues – local economy really doesn’t matter here except for perhaps the voters mindset when voting for C. C is going to pass easily however.[/quote]

    Don’t you find it suspiciously convenient that the economy has suddenly/miraculously “turned around” in a few short weeks? Anyone who knows about gov’t statistics, knows to what huge extent those statistics can be manipulated. Take for instance unemployment statistics. Gov’t unemployment rates do not count those who are underemployed working at part time minimum wage jobs bc they could not find anything else (the plight of our new college graduates), those who have stopped looking for work; those who are out of work who no longer can collect unemployment, etc. Nor does it take into account what I call the “Xmas bump”, which temporarily bumps the unemployment rate to look more favorable, but is only temporary work for the Xmas season that does not last. If you look at CA’s budget, you know that things have no improved, and are only slated to get worse, not better…

  5. 91 Octane

    The Enterprise rather than every economist in this country is your source?

    The economy is turning, but it will take time to impact policy. The key will be where are state tax revenues – local economy really doesn’t matter here except for perhaps the voters mindset when voting for C. C is going to pass easily however.

    I said that I dont believe what the enterprise has said, so no the enterprise is not my source, and to be quite frank, neither is the vanguard. I don’t trust it either.

    as far as “every economist in the country” you don’t know what every economist in the country ultimately thinks.

    and when you say “the economy is turning” what does that mean? because it improves for a a month or two? and improves from what? rock bottom? we just had xmas.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    Please explain:
    [quote]DTA President Ingrid Salim[/quote]
    [quote]DTA (Davis Teachers Association) President Gail Mitchell[/quote]

    Does DTA have two presidents, that both speak for it? I’m confused…

  7. Frankly

    [i]Don’t you find it suspiciously convenient that the economy has suddenly/miraculously “turned around” in a few short weeks?[/i]

    Not when you are the President and your re-election depends on the state of the economy.

    Just told by my servcing manager that one of our long-term borrowers with a perfect track record for making payments has closed his business and is asking for approval for a short sale. Someone needs to tell him that the economy has turned around because he is not feeling it.

    The OMB just released a report that based on the unemployement rate since Obama took office is officially the worst recovery since the great depression.

  8. Frankly

    [quote]Sacramento City Schools Approve $28M In Cuts
    Teachers’ Jobs, Sports , Music, Bus Service On Chopping Block

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — On Thursday, Superintendent Jonathan Raymond said the Sacramento City Unified School Board voted to approve a “gut-wrenching” budget to balance a $28 million deficit.

    More than 200 teachers, custodians, counselors and librarians will receive pink slips.

    The cuts also will increase class sizes to about 35 students per teacher.

    Sports, music programs and bus service will be eliminated.

    Raymond said some crucial programs may be saved if the governor’s tax initiative is placed on the June ballot and approved by voters.

    If not, $28 million in cuts will go into effect next year[/quote]

  9. rusty49

    Only Democrats can spin an unemployment rate of over 8% where many are no longer counted because they fall off of the rolls and others are now working temporary and part-time jobs as a good thing. Don’t look now but inflation is starting to rear its ugly head and gas prices are headed to $5/gal. according to some analysts. 15 trillion in debt and climbing with no cuts in sight to the deficit. Obama is selling us out and spending money like a drunken sailor as he throws us deeper into debt because he only cares about getting re-elected. Greece is coming our way, it’s just a matter of time.

  10. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Just told by my servcing manager that one of our long-term borrowers with a perfect track record for making payments has closed his business and is asking for approval for a short sale. Someone needs to tell him that the economy has turned around because he is not feeling it. [/quote]

    Exactly.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “Don’t you find it suspiciously convenient that the economy has suddenly/miraculously “turned around” in a few short weeks?”

    I don’t think it’s been a few short weeks, what has happened is there have been a few months of improved indicators which has in the last few weeks convinced economists and other analysts that the economy finally is turning around.

    However, as I said, it’s uneven and so it may take longer for say the real estate market to recover if it ever does. What will be an interesting indicator of improvement is when the controller starts reporting surpluses.

  12. hpierce

    Former DTA president called for [quote]… the Davis Teachers Association leadership to [b]poll their members[/b]…[/quote]. Do we know if this was done? Do we know what the teachers are asking for in upcoming negotiations? What about administrative other staff… are they willing to consider concessions? We probably will not get any of these answers before the voting is completed. Pretty convenient… I’ll consider basing my vote (still ‘on the fence’) on what we hear in the next few days. Right now it sounds like the long-term teachers are willing to throw their ‘less-tenured’ co-workers “under the bus”.

  13. Don Shor

    So when the figures the independent government analysts, and private economists, put forth are negative — they are trumpeted by conservatives as reasons Obama shouldn’t be re-elected. But when they turn negative — the numbers must be cooked. You folks have an answer for everything.

    The DTA president’s letter was appalling.

  14. Mr.Toad

    Obviously tone deaf and poorly timed but how much did the teachers give up the last time when the school year was cut? If you cut school a week it might cost a teacher up to $2000 dollars. Please somebody who knows chime in.

    Now I understand that many of you will argue that the teachers should have accepted the pay cut without cutting the school days but you are not looking at the long view. The last time the Davis teachers accepted a pay cut during hard times, I think it was during the 90’s, when things turned around they had to fight to get the money back, although they were promised their pay would be restored, so this time by working fewer days they have an automatic restoration when the school year is normalized.

    Just recently Rusty was complaining about how hard people have been hit and they can’t afford a renewal of the parcel tax for schools. Please don’t forget that the teachers have been hit as well. Please vote yes on measure C.

  15. Mr.Toad

    Look no further than the monthly non-farm payroll report to see what a recovery looks like. Sure its been slower than in other recessions but Obama inherited a weaker economy than any president since Roseveldt. Those of you that want to deny that jobs have been on an upswing aren’t looking at the big picture.

  16. hpierce

    OK, Mr Toad… when other public employees are asked for concessions on pay, benefits, retirement, etc., do you support a ‘service level cut’? Did not State and local employees take a $2k to $4k+ cut over the last 3-4 years? Have they been “restored” to where they were?
    Or are teachers more special than those who provide safe drinking water, maintain roads, make sure the sewage departs your abode, etc?
    Perhaps Orwell had it right… “all animals are equal (public employees)… but some are more equal than others (teachers?)…”

  17. Mr.Toad

    I am a teacher although I am not working right now. So yes you could argue I am biased for teachers but i am for measure C because my kids are in school here. I did start by saying the DTA Prez had poor timing so I am not deaf or dumb although I am sure the latter is arguable. Anyway I was just trying to add some perspective.
    As for your point about state workers yes many have taken financial hits. Remember Arnold went the furlough route to try to save jobs and Davis Schools followed that trend. Now that Jerry Brown has taken over he has restored the work year and I think in doing so state workers pay was restored. I don’t know what state workers gave up, if anything, when the Brown administration negotiated new contracts.

  18. Rifkin

    [i]”The DTA president’s letter was appalling.”[/i]

    Speaking only for myself, I did not find the DTA’s view ‘appalling.’ That implies it was not expected. It strikes me as naive to think unions will ever act in the public interest. They are set up for self-interest. Teacher unions do not advocate ‘for education.’ They advocate for the private interest of their members (save those members who are relatively new on the job).

    What I find appalling is that elected officials–almost everyone who has ever served on the DJUSD Board of Trustees since the DTA formed–take campaign funds from the DTA–it is usually around $1,500, last I looked–and then go on to agree to contracts and contract provisions which lock the district into deals which are bad for students when the state economy goes bad. It strikes me as highly unethical behavior on the part of the Trustees. It is every bit the parallel with members of our City Council getting funded by developers and firefighters.

  19. Rifkin

    Re: the turn-around in the economy:

    I expect left-wingers to be stupid and partisan when it comes to not understanding or accepting macroeconomics. As a centrist with degrees in economics, I am more surprised–perhaps I should start watching Fox News–that right-wingers would be so dumb and partisan.

    It doesn’t matter what the White House says is happening in our economy. Take a look at the DJIA. It has moved up to almost 13,000 points in recent days. On July 1, 2010 it closed at around 9,732. That 3,300 point move up in the Dow did not occur because of Obama’s words. It has moved up as our economy has improved–notably because over the last 2 years inventories have reduced dramatically. (The one area where inventories are still a problem is with housing.)

    To those who pooh-pooh our 8% unemployment rate (which of course is higher if you count the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work), the important note is that the jobs picture has stopeed getting worse, even in California. It’s not that 8% is good–it’s not–it’s that it is a lot better than the 9% we had nationally not too long ago.

    What I expect in the next 12-18 months is this: a big increase in the tax revenues paid to the state governments and to the federal government. Why? Because the big drop-off in revenues has been due to a reduced income among the rich. They pay most of the income taxes and almost all of the capital gains taxes. Since the economic recovery has not been all that kind to lower-income workers, but seems to have been kind to corporate profits, it seems likely that more rich people–of the Mitt Romney sort–are making more money in capital gains, dividends and interest income than they were a couple of years ago. That extra income will be taxed (in California) at the state and federal level, and it will result in some relief for the programs funded by government.

  20. Rifkin

    TYPO: “the jobs picture has stopeed getting worse.”

    MAKE THAT: “the jobs picture has stopped getting worse.”

    One thought on local tax revenues: I think they will be slower to increase than the state’s revenues. Why? Because locally we depend on property taxes and sales taxes. For property tax rev’s to go up requires home prices to go up (or a lot of new homes to be built). In that the single family home real estate market continues to have excess inventory, increased property taxes seems unlikely. Sales tax increases for Davis will depend on local car buyers* having more money to buy cars. In the main that requires a rise in new jobs, especially good jobs at the university and within the city of Davis. That seems unlikely to happen for a few more years.

    *Insofar as the wealthy and big corporations are thus far the biggest beneficiaries of the recovery, I would expect luxury car sales to go up the most in the next year, followed by fleet car sales. As far as I know, Davis does not have much in the way of Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, etc.

  21. rusty49

    Rifkin, wouldn’t you also agree that the stock market is up because there’s no place else to put your money. You get almost no return in CD’s, T-bills, bonds are getting less attractive everyday and the Fed has pumped a great deal of money into the system to help prop things up. So where else can one put their money to have a chance at a decent return except in the stock market which has caused it to go up.

  22. Rifkin

    [i]”Rifkin, wouldn’t you also agree that the stock market is up because there’s no place else to put your money.”[/i]

    No. That makes no sense. People (and institutions) have been investing their money in stocks because corporate profits have been rising, and corporate profits translate into value for the investors. They don’t invest in all companies just because they have stock for sale. They invest in those companies which are making the most money. They will sell the stocks of companies which are not making profits.

    I’m not saying that the stock market is perfectly rational. It is not. There are bubbles and manias which drive the market up too high and then eventually it will take a dive. Perhaps today’s market price is too high. However, I think it is fair to say that the direction of the NYSE is based on fundamentals which show corporate earnings going in the right direction.

    [i]” the Fed has pumped a great deal of money into the system to help prop things up”[/i]

    That is one of the main things the Fed is supposed to do. It is why Obama’s stimulus package was so unnecessary. When the Fed buys bonds, it can stimulate the econonmy much more efficiently than a program passed by Congress can.

    [i]”So where else can one put their money to have a chance at a decent return …”[/i]

    If profits were not increasing, then the ‘chance at a decent return’ would not (for the short term) be in publicly traded stocks.

    [img]http://www.goldresearch.net/images/goldbullion2.jpg[/img]

    That said, many people have been making a fortune the last few years investing in precious metals, particularly in gold and silver. I don’t recommend anyone buy gold or silver or even in mining companies which extract those resources. But I cannot deny how well they have done the last four years. I don’t expect either commodity to collapse. But I would not be surprised if the prices for gold and silver a decade from now are lower than they are today (unless the dollar collapses in the meantime).

  23. wdf1

    hpierce: [i]Do we know if this was done? Do we know what the teachers are asking for in upcoming negotiations? What about administrative other staff… are they willing to consider concessions? We probably will not get any of these answers before the voting is completed. Pretty convenient… I’ll consider basing my vote (still ‘on the fence’) on what we hear in the next few days.[/i]

    Following previous years’ patterns, I don’t think any poll of members will take place before March 6. I think it will probably happen after March 15 (if it does happen), when it is determined who exactly has pink slips, and what exactly is cut. Even after that, they will probably wait until the state May revise before any final agreement. By then, too, I think it will be clearer which measures will be on the November statewide ballot. ~May 15 is the final termination date for any teachers receiving a pink slip, and that’s probably the deadline for a final agreement if concessions are given.

    Polling trends sometimes follow which campuses are newer/older. For instance, Harper, Korematsu, and Montgomery are newer campuses and have a lot newer teachers. They will probably have more incentive to ask for concessions. I think if DTA polled their members, they would find some division. Couldn’t predict what it would be, though. I hope DTA will be open-minded about considering concession. Now is way too early to reject that option.

  24. Mr.Toad

    People could be buying stocks because the dividends paid on many stocks are higher than those paid on US Treasury notes and bonds. But so what? You want to claim that this is due to manipulation by the Obama administration or the Federal Reserve but you have no idea how much worse things would be if the Fed hadn’t provided liquidity. With less liquidity you would have higher interest rates but slower economic activity and then you would be complaining about the failure of the administration to get the economy going. Where the administration failed is by not extracting more concessions from Wall Street and capping executive compensation for firms that were bailed out. Also too few prosecutions of white collar criminals.

  25. rusty49

    Toad, I never said it was manipulation. You know for being a teacher you sometimes have poor reading skills.

    What I said is lower interest rates have forced investors into the stock market because they don’t have anywhere else to put their money and make a decent return, except for precious metals as Rifkin pointed out. In fact I do own a stock market ETF symbol GLD and GOLDX which is a gold fund. So lower interest rates, which are controlled by the Fed, have helped fuel the stock market rise as was stated by Bernanke himself.

    Hey Frog, Bernanke is the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, I’ll save you from having to look it up.

  26. Adam Smith

    The DTA letter is tone deaf in the same way and the UC system has been regarding administrative budgets.

    The economy is getting better for whatever reason. If it continues to improve, the the election will be Obama’s to lose.

  27. J.R.

    It’s starting to look like the school situation is hopeless. The DTA, as with other teacher unions, will not allow rational choices to be made.

    Most metropolitan areas have abandoned public schools to be third rate institutions where those who can’t afford a good private education are forced to go. That may be the future for Davis too. There are some very good private schools in Sacramento already. Perhaps they are a better investment for our young families than Measure C.

  28. E Roberts Musser

    The schools are in a whole heap of trouble financially; the state of CA is in a whole heap of trouble financially – but the economy is suddenly on the upswing? LOL

    [quote]So when the figures the independent government analysts, and private economists, put forth are negative — they are trumpeted by conservatives as reasons Obama shouldn’t be re-elected. But when they turn negative — the numbers must be cooked. You folks have an answer for everything. [/quote]

    The unemployment numbers are always “cooked” (read that to mean misleading), no matter who is in office…

  29. Don Shor

    The economy is not “suddenly” on the upswing. I follow retail sales numbers; they have been steadily, slowly improving for about two years now. Unemployment numbers have been steadily, slowly improving for 3 – 4 consecutive quarters. What baffles me is why you think this is sudden.

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