I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

02 July 2011

The Mercury News is Maaaaaaaad.

Usually, the Mercury News blames school problems on teachers' unions or a lack of adequate charter schools (true fact: I got an obscenity-laden email from one of their ed reporters a few years back after I wrote (calmly and politely) to refute some pro-charter silliness).

Now, Jerry Brown is just as bad.  Let's look at their ire.

Every year, the Legislature passes a budget - perhaps in June, perhaps in October - and the public waits to find out what's actually in it. And every year there are some appalling provisions that should not be allowed to stand. But for pure chutzpah, it's hard to top Assembly Bill 114.

The so-called education trailer bill contains giveaways to teachers unions

Nooooooo!  At least some editorial policies never change.  Remember: teachers' unions are not collective bodies of teachers.  They are unparalleled evil aimed at the heart of corporate reform.
...and outrageous restrictions on school districts' ability to manage their finances, making a mockery of Gov. Jerry Brown's commitment to local control. It was passed in the dark of night with nary a committee hearing - probably because it could not have survived public scrutiny. No wonder voters distrust lawmakers. These provisions must be repealed.
...Because voters would prefer proactive 40:1 classrooms?
AB 114 bars further teacher layoffs in the coming school year due to state budget cuts, and it requires districts to assume funding will remain at its current level next year; they can't cut programs. Yet everyone knows state funding for schools could well be slashed in January, since tax revenue may not meet the optimistic projections in the budget. This bill essentially requires districts to budget recklessly.
Let's be honest.  California's pitiable school funding has required reckless budgeting for years.  It's a different kind of reckless, but reckless all the same.  Is the Mercury News not familiar with the ever-growing watch lists of school districts teetering on the edge?
It also means that if revenue doesn't materialize in January, school officials' hands will be tied. Their only real option for closing a big gap will be up to seven furlough days, but those must be negotiated in each of more than 1,000 districts. With layoffs off the table, districts will have no leverage in those talks. Cuts could instead fall heavily on those who are not teachers.  That, frankly, may be the point.
Because all right-thinking people know that teachers must take the brunt of cuts.  Look at all the cuts we've already refused.  Heck, I've only taken a $2000 annual pay cut (not including the contracted bonus I lose this year on top of my salary cut).  And I didn't even get a pink slip this year!  Indeed, a mere half of the teaching staff at my school did!  Clearly, I am a goldbricking union worker.  I mean, look at all the cuts to the SFUSD Central Office!

...Oh wait, don't.  You won't find any.  A mere seventeen non-renewal notices went out.  The redesign has led to ever-growing administrative forces in the Bayview and Superintendent's zones.  And as always, among the district officials incapable of taking any extra hit in the name of sharing the pain is the Superintendent.

ETA: It's not clear how the Mercury News thinks those negotiations should work, anyway.  The rider closes the late layoff window, which would close anyway on 15 August.  After that date, you can't lay off teachers (unless you pass a rider allowing that).  So is the Mercury advocating districts go into negotiations now?  And where would bargaining power reside in that case?  Or does the paper really think we need another rider, allowing for teacher layoffs...oh, whenever?
This editorial is revolting because of its nasty assumption that union negotiations are always out to destroy school districts with their unreasonable demands and love of striking.  How many teachers' strikes have occurred in San Jose over the last ten years?  I'm pretty sure the answer is zero.
I know this is hard for the Mercury News to understand, but as a union member, I want the best for children and schools.  Unlike the Mercury editorial board, I actually do the job.  And I'm good at it.
I have given up pay, time and resources to make sure my students have what California won't give them.  I've already spent $350 on my classroom this year and school doesn't start for a month.  I spent four days after my contract ended doing the cleaning jobs the District won't pay for and will be in three weeks early for unpaid professional development, carpet cleaning and basic repair.  I have spent time taking my students to the park, library and informal tutoring sessions this summer.  Needless to say, these aren't paid pursuits.
It is beyond offensive of the Mercury News to cast such aspersions on my motivations.  And given that the largest school district in their city has a very specific contract that has required major teacher salary and benefit cuts, I don't know that they even have the basic understanding that having an opinion requires.
I'm in a District that has laid off relatively few teachers.  The state is something like 30,000 teachers short from a couple years back, and there are more students than ever.  Class-size reduction is over.  Furloughs are everywhere.  And teachers keep on trucking to meet those standards.  Shame on you for expecting pay, teachers!
No one, least of all superintendents and school boards, wants to lay off more teachers. But for some districts, it might be preferable to a disruptive furlough or cuts to already decimated libraries or counseling programs.
That's debatable.  We are all entitled to our own opinions, of course.  But opinions should be based on a healthy foundation of facts, and I don't know that the Mercury News can marshal any here.
Moreover, who told the Mercury News how the late window works?  I'm pretty sure it was me, actually.  I had to write repeatedly to their education reporter, who spent lots of ink observing how lucky teachers have to get 15 March letters and man, don't they complain a lot.
Decisions on how to cut costs should be made by districts and communities - not Sacramento. That's what Brown himself touted in his campaign, promising to "return more decision-making to local school districts." Yet he signed this bill Thursday.
But wait. It gets worse. The bill suspends the law requiring county superintendents to ensure district budgets are balanced in the current year and in the future, identifying problems before they become crises. As of mid-June, there were 143 districts on the state's financial watch list, including six in Santa Clara County.
Wait!  They DO know about the watch list!  Do they know how it's grown as the state refuses to fund schools adequately?  No offense, editorial board, but the balanced budget demand has been tossing districts onto the watch list for years now.
Ron Bennett, CEO of School Services, is an adviser to districts. In a letter to Brown, obtained by journalist John Fensterwald of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Bennett warns: "Stripping the county superintendents of their oversight responsibilities in 2011-12 will almost certainly bring dozens, if not hundreds, of school districts to the state's door for emergency loans."
Ron, that's happening already.  How nice of John "Charters RAWK" Fensterwald to share with his former employers.  I really should find those emails he sent me, because they are pretty classic.  In the way a train wreck is classic, but classic all the same.
The California School Boards Association on Thursday asked Brown to support repeal of these troubling provisions, saying "the state should not be substituting its judgment for that of those who live in the communities affected."
The communities affected haven't had anyone listening to them in ages.
The California Teachers Association is one of Brown's and the Democrats' biggest backers. But Brown's reputation as a straight shooter is at stake. Having signed the trailer bills in a hurry, he should go back to the Legislature and ask that these provisions be repealed. School officials and good government advocates should keep up the pressure until he does.
So apparently the Mercury News, given their huge fear of what that terrible CTA will do, would prefer to weaken it by mass teacher layoffs right now, effective on the first day of school.  That would certainly be great for education, wouldn't it?
Not that I expect better from a paper that publishes Dan "Bipartisan Man" Walters or has never seen a charter school it didn't like.  I hope that their not-very-august advice goes into the same circular bin as their demands for tax extensions and reasonable GOP members evidently did.
In the unlikely event Mercury News reporters read this, I'd like to ask them to refrain from using bad language in any comments they would like to leave.  I am aware - personally! - of what creative swearing they can do, but I am a Kindergarten teacher.  Assume I am wearing a Pooh Bear jumper and charm bracelet* and respond accordingly.
*Okay, technically I am wearing a sharp little dress from a local designer, heels and earrings I bought at the Met.  But pretend.  Speaking of which: crossing my fingers for fog on the first day of school, because I have the BEST dress to wear on its way to me.


Muirautismplayproject said...


I'm a teacher at John Muir ES and I'm trying to get a playground built using Pepsi Refresh. My project is up for voting right now and I need people to vote for it. I wonder if you might help by blogging about my project or letting me be a guest blogger. You can read more, and contact me, at:


E. Rat said...