I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

07 February 2010

Not really funny.

As part of the Prop A funding, SFUSD and UESF got together and named a list of "hard to staff" schools: schools with high turnover and "challenging" demographics (high poverty, high percentage of English Language Learners, etc.). Teachers at these schools fill out a little form and get an extra $2000 annually. It's a pittance, but it's money.

Anyway, "hard to staff" schools have by nature had heavy recent staff turnover, which means they have a lot of new (overall or to the District) teachers. So their teachers are low seniority.

So their teachers will be laid off this year. So in essence, teachers at hard to staff schools are getting paid to stay and fired all at once. This is counterproductive.

One could argue that this is a short-term, single year counterproductivity. In theory, the fired teachers will be replaced with higher-seniority bumpees, who can collect the Prop A money and won't be subject to layoffs for many years to come.

In actuality, there is no reason to believe that bumped teachers will accept an assignment at a hard to staff school in the first place, nor stay any longer than necessary before transferring. Given these circumstances, SFUSD may resort to TFA teachers. Of course, most of these teachers leave after two years, so the "hard to staff" problem is ongoing.

So the district is throwing several hundred thousand dollars in salary away. We know that staff stability strongly correlates to positive student outcomes, and that trained, experienced teachers get better student achievement results by any measure. The purpose of the "hard to staff" funding stream was to increase teacher retention. So much for that.

In other SFUSD news, the BoE agenda is up and Garcia's merry band of budget cutters remains unwilling to let much sun shine on their financial proposals. They are asking for the union to agree to the District having total freedom over class sizes, which brings the 25:1 ratio into doubt. It also is decent evidence that SFUSD has no intention of ever reducing class size if we give that away (there's nothing in the proposal that puts in writing Garcia's claim that class sizes will be reduced as soon as possible).

Whatever the case, SFUSD is dragging its feet on specifying how and what they plan to cut other than union concessions. Given how quickly they want a union vote and a budget vote by the Board, their pace suggests (to me, at least) that speed is necessary to obscure inequity in cuts: agree to SFUSD's lifeboat now or we all drown.

There appears to be decent support within UESF for an option of 20:1 retention through furlough (it's possible; Garcia said it would be either seven or nine days over two years depending on whether or not he was counting the two days' furlough already in the pipeline. The funding actually works out for it to be no more than six days, but I haven't looked into this so I can't accuse Garcia of trying to throw a potential pro-CSR vote. Yet.) I don't think SFUSD plans to offer this option, though; it doesn't show up on the agenda. What they do want is so sketchily outlined it's hard to tell.

Still, there is a good argument for voting down any contract revision that does not protect students. SFUSD is threatening apocalypse if this happens: no budget, no reserve, state takeover, consultants from Sacramento bearing pitchforks and Open Court, etc.

That's apocalypse for Garcia et al, though, not for the teaching staff. The state is not required to take over districts that fall within the possibility of takeover, and I don't think Sacramento really wants to deal with what they have wrought on school budgets. And even if they did? Garcia's out of a job, but I'm not. Consultants would get the big bucks for stupid programs, but that happens already. Privatization and Eli Broad would come in bearing big bucks for big cuts and corporate philosophy, but again: already happening. San Francisco isn't such a good market for boot camp schooling, anyway: why add another market when it's possible to get more done in Los Angeles and Oakland?

I think the state takeover gambit is a threat of very little interest. Barring a good proposal, UESF should vote it down.

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