COMMENTARY: Teachers Need to Take the Concessions That Others Have Already Taken – Is there a misperception about the need for cuts and concessions in the community? A letter to the editor of the Davis Enterprise seems to suggest as much.
Karen Newton of Davis writes: “Why is the Davis school district demanding concessions from its teachers and support personnel? Currently, there is enough in the budget to pay these educators.”
She adds, “If Proposition 30 were to fail, then it would make sense to sit down with school employees to see where to go from there. But please, no concessions before the fact.”
“School employees are working harder. Class sizes are larger, jobs have been eliminated and everyone is making do with less. It is demoralizing in the extreme to be hit with these conditions and to face less pay,” she concludes.
There is no doubt that the last paragraph is true. It is also true that this is really the last resort.
But the first paragraph is very concerning. Currently there is enough in the budget to pay these educators, but the cuts and contingencies are not being planned for now. They are being planned in case Measure E fails and/ or Proposition 30 were to fail.
The key is Proposition 30. If Proposition 30 passes, there will be no need for cuts in January. However, if it fails, even if Measure E passes, the district will need to cut several million from the budget for January. The simplest way to do that, which is also unfortunate, is to reduce the teaching year by as much as ten days.
However, in order to do that, teachers must agree to take the furlough days. Is that a good thing? Is that ideal? Absolutely not, and not just from the perspective of teachers who would be forced to take pay cuts on top of years of their salaries not keeping pace with inflation.
On the other hand, Davis teachers have largely been able to avoid pay cuts. Unlike their counterparts at the university, the county, the city, and state government, Davis teachers have largely avoided taking furlough days other than one year.
The reason for that has been the generosity of this community. This community in both 2008 and 2011 agreed to pay more in parcel taxes, despite the fact that many have themselves been furloughed and taken pay cuts.
Last March, the taxpayers overwhelmingly voted to extend Measures Q and W, providing the district with $6.5 million of the $10 million shortfall they would have been facing. However, faced with more than 50 layoffs, the teachers refused to accept concessions. The result is that the community who has time and time again stepped up, will now have their children in larger classes.
Accepting concessions – as both the School Employees Association and administrators have done – will allow the district to be able to continue to function at its current level even if Proposition 30 fails.
However, these would be contingent concessions. The key word is contingencies – that means that if Proposition 30 passes, the agreed-to cuts would never be implemented.
So yes, there is enough in the budget to pay these educators, RIGHT NOW.
But Ms. Newtown suggests that if Proposition were to fail “it would make sense to sit down with school employees to see where to go from there.”
She urges no concessions before the fact.
Never does she seem to acknowledge that these would be contingent concessions, but more importantly, her position makes no sense.
The school district would have a narrow window from November 7, the day after the election, to January 2 to find the money to keep the district operational should Proposition 30 fail (we need to remember that, while a passage of Measure E would fund the trigger cuts, the collection of that money would not take place until July 2013, which means the district has to fill a six-month gap).
It is not a really two months to get the cuts done. You have Thanksgiving and Christmas taking two to three weeks out of that two-month time period.
Why would you wait when you can get the teachers to accept conditional cuts now, and only implement them when necessary?
The position does not make sense and the district – unfortunate as it is – is doing the responsible thing by addressing the very distinct likelihood of necessary cuts.
Unfortunately, the teachers are refusing to play ball at this point.
The community has stepped up time and time again and I fully expect them to do so again this November.
In the past, many have asked the Vanguard why it has been so tough in terms of city employees but so willing to allow the school district to continue to meet budget shortfalls through revenue enhancement rather than cuts.
We have two primary reasons for this view. First, the salaries for teachers are not nearly as out of line as they are for city employees. The benefits received, in fact, pale in comparison.
Second, in terms of priorities, education has always been viewed as a crucial investment in the future and teachers sit on that front line.
It seems at least some teachers in this district do not believe they play by the same rules as all other government employees. That is most unfortunate and we believe a view not shared across the board.
There is a divide within the DTA over how to approach this, however, for the most part, the faction that is in control is the one refusing to make the deals.
In the end, the possibility of impasse is most unsettling. The district has to make tough decisions, we do not believe the district can continue to lay off 50 teachers at a time and continue to provide the high level of quality education, and so we may well come to a confrontation that most would like to avoid.
The most unfortunate part of it is that teachers are really only hurting themselves. The community values education like few others, and they have stepped up time and time again. If this persists, that may undermine the trust that the community has in the district and its teachers, and that may undermine support for future parcel taxes – if not this one.
We believe that this letter is completely inaccurate and misleading and that the only responsible thing for the district to do – the only think it can do other than pound and pray – is to plan for the worst case scenario. We need the teachers to step up if they want to retain the greatness of our schools.
—David M. Greenwald reporting