This 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