San Ramon Teachers Strike is Coming!!! Parents Act Now to STOP it

Photo Credit- Jeff Chiu, Associated Press- Oakland Strike 21 Feb 2019

Update- 15 March 2019

Teacher’s strike is averted.

 The San Ramon teachers ratified a 4 percent base salary increase; 0.18 percent increase to the Retired Employees Health Benefit Plan and Trust; an extended work year and revised salary schedule for school nurses; lower student-to-staff ratios for counselors, nurses and teacher librarians; an extended work year and new salary schedule for speech pathologists; and caps on class sizes and caseloads.

Purpose of this Blog

On March 1st 2019, 98% of the SRVUSD educators have authorized the executive board of the  San Ramon Valley Educators Association (SRVEA) to call a strike if the contract talks with school district management (administrators and Board) are not resolved.  

SRVEA represents teachers, counselors, nurses, speech language pathologists (SLPs) and school psychologists.

The next step in the impasse process  is Fact finding where the state’s Public Employment Relations board (PERB) will review the proposal and make a recommendation.

If the talks fail, SRVEA may call for a  strike. Although the dates have not been set for the Fact Finding session, the strike could occur as early as following the spring break in April 2019.

The primary objective of this blog is to:

  • Raise awareness about the current situation in the San Ramon Unified school district (SRVUSD)
  • Serve as a call for action for parents to get involved to preempt this potential strike that would impact the lives and future of our children.

The SRVUSD encompasses the communities of Alamo, Blackhawk, Danville, Diablo and San Ramon, including the Dougherty Valley communities in east San Ramon.

Small portions of the cities of Walnut Creek and Pleasanton are included.

One would not expect a strike to occur in an affluent destination school district, so how is it that  we are now facing that very prospect?

As the parents in this community, supporting the educators, there is so much we can do to educate ourselves, and work with the trustees and the SRVEA to support our children.

Here is what you can do?

  • Join the Parents Advocacy Google Group
  • Attend the SRVEA Townhall Meeting on Wednesday 6th March 2019 between 7 to 8.30PM in Dougherty High School Library, San Ramon
  • Come to the #ForOurStudents Community rally on 12 March, Tuesday at 5.45PM at 699 Old Orchard Drive, Danville CA 94526. Thereafter attend the Board of Education Meeting at 7PM
  • Call and email your San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education www.tinyurl.com/srvusdboe

Why are schools all over the country and now in California striking?

Since 2018, there have been a number of strikes that have disrupted schools in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, West Virginia and elsewhere.  There is a #RedforED wave across our nation.

One of the major reasons is teacher pay not keeping up with inflation and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) especially in metropolitan areas.

Although there has been an increase in funding to education in California with the passing of Prop. 30 in 2012 and Prop 55 in 2016, there simply isn’t enough funding to catch up with the national average.

California schools are the 46th lowest funded schools in our nation.  

State and Federal funds for special education have not kept pace, and districts now are paying twice as much as they did a decade ago to fill the gap.

Teachers are advocating for cost of living increases to keep up with the high costs of living in the bay area, decreasing class sizes, adding more support staff such as nurses, teacher librarians, and counselors as well as attracting Speech Language Pathologists to our district.

Over the last two months, if you have been following the news, teachers have been striking across various California districts.

The Oakland and Los Angeles school strikes lasted over a week until finally they were settled.

Teachers, students, parents were all impacted and the communities such as churches, day care centers and volunteers came together to help.   

Even though the strikes were settled, reality is there is still pain. 42% of the teachers voted against ratifying the agreement in Oakland district and 18% in the LA district.

(Source- EdSource- Lessons from Oakland and Los Angeles Teachers Strikes)

Why must parents get involved?

It is imperative that  parents get involved and help resolve this issue preempting the strike.

There was a teachers’ strike in 1990s for 3 days and it had bad ripple effect in the community. The end of the strike brought about a recall of 3 trustees.  We don’t want to repeat history.

Strikes have a financial impact- teachers striking do not get paid, the school districts lose money as they get funded by the Average Daily Attendance – if the children don’t attend school, they don’t get funded.

The Oakland school district was losing $1 Million  a day (Source Edsource) when they were on strike. Only 6% of the 35,000  children attended school during the strike days. We can expect close the same as SRVUSD district has over 32,000 students.

So if we had an average of 7 days of a strike, it would mean that $7 million needs to be found in the  budget the rest the of year. Averting a strike would help prevent the opportunity loss.

Parents’ lives get disrupted as they have to plan child care and change their work schedules. There is no research to estimate the emotional, economic and productivity losses for the parents and the students, whose routines get hampered.

A teacher strike could influence the use of money within the district, but it cannot ADD money to the equation. It’s zero-sum. The district only gets what the state gives under LCFF (Source- Ed100).

Classically the direct result of a strike is a new contract that raises the pay of some teachers, usually trading off support services and reducing the investment in leadership.

The indirect result of a strike is reducing community confidence in the institution of public education. It erodes a key intangible asset.

The teachers in San Ramon Unified schools have been instrumental exceeding in all the performance indicators based in the recently launched  California Department of Education DashBoard in 2017.

They moved away from Academic Performance Index  (API) scoring methodology, which was based solely on test scores. Even at that time SRVUSD had API score over 900/1000 in most of its schools.


Source- https://www.caschooldashboard.org/reports/07618040000000/2018

Don’t we reward top performers in the corporate world.

We are professionals- lawyers, accountants, doctors, financial and technology executives, who have the expertise to lend to our community. We have the collective power to influence and make an impact.

IT IS TIME FOR PARENTS TO STEP UP AND GET INVOLVED IN BRINGING THE TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS TOGETHER TO RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES

Please join the Parents Advocacy Google Group to learn more.

Why are the SRVUSD teachers striking?

I attended the San Ramon Valley Educators Association (SRVEA) town hall meeting on Thursday 28 Feb 2019  to learn more about the situation and get answers to my questions.

The teachers are advocating for

Pay Hike

The average salary of a teacher is $77,512 in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, according to the California Department of Education. In the district, the lowest teacher pay is $49,107 and the highest teacher pay is $96,311. (Source- East Bay Times)

The compensation is not tied to inflation and cost of living adjustments (COLA). Over the last 5 years, rents and home prices in our areas have shot up and are not affordable.

The teachers. like many of our government service employees (fire and police personnel) are commuting over 3 hours a day to get to work. They lose time to grade, prepare for course work and other student related activities.

Imagine a new teacher with a starting salary of $49,000.  The teacher has to pay an average rent of $1,500 per month for one bedroom in our area and pay the student loan debt that averages $30,000 and more.

Teacher’s compensation increases are based on the number of years on the job as well as the credit they receive from on-going education such graduate school and other certifications, paid  at their on own cost.

“Does this sound sustainable when you know the highest salary you can reach is $96,311 while  accumulating more student debt?”

Another myth is teachers work for only 9 months and hence they are fairly- compensated. A 2008 OECD report on education dispels this myth.

We live in the digital age, where we expect our teachers to inform us about the minutiae of what happens to our children via email and reports. Teachers are taking time off their personal family time to correspond with the parents.

Improve the class sizes

The teachers want to improve the teacher to student class ratio.  Our most vulnerable students in Special Education have classes with a targeted maximum, and sometimes the target is exceeded.  

Our children deserve to have classes with a class maximum. Some of the advanced elective classes are quite large. As many as 38 students are in some of these classes.  

Some the physical education classes may go up to 60 students – this is a safety concern.

Increase the current full time equivalent by adding an additional 3 nurses

Currently they have 1 nurse to 4500 students.  They have less than 7 full time nurses for over 32,000 students. They spread the 7 nurses across 36 schools.  

As health educators they rarely have time to serve our students needs. Their recommendation is to increase the FTE and provide more nursing at our schools to support our students.

Improve the Counselors per student ratio

The LCAP plan focused on mental health, but adding counselors has never been an outcome of the projected budget by the district because adding personnel is too costly according to management, but this position saves lives.

Increase the speech therapists (SLP) and change the compensation structure

Today students have more mental health and substance abuse issues that we had before.  The counselors are unable to address the needs of the students due to the large caseload.

There are many more students who have Individual Education Plan (IEPs) as well as demand for special education teachers such as speech therapists.

Many of the SLPs choose to go private and become contract workers as they get compensated better. These staffers are transitory and last for period of 1 or 2 years and there is change.

There is a proposal to change the compensation structure for SLPs so that have an incentive to stay with the school district.

Why is the SRVUSD Management not giving in?

According to the East Bay Times article, here is the school district that believes the teacher salaries are at or near the top in the region for total employee compensation.

Over the past five years, the teachers have received a cumulative total of 14 percent in ongoing salary increases and an additional 8.3 percent in further one-time salary payments.  

However, SRVEA reports there were no salary increases for 4 years preceding the recent increases.

The only reason the trustees were able to offer salary increases were due to the new funding brought to schools by Prop. 30 and Prop. 55.

The management believes the 3% that was eventually presented to SRVEA’s negotiation team will enhance the comparables for pay in SRVUSD to being one of the top compensation packages in the area.

In addition, the district indicated that it remains one of the last districts in the state to offer fully paid, family-level health benefits for full-time employees and said it spent $35 million on health benefits in the current school year.

However, there are neighboring districts, such as the Acalanes school district that fully pays for their employees health benefits.  

SRVUSD states

“We want what our employees want,” the district said earlier in a statement. “We want what is best for students.

We also want to protect the long-term financial health of this district so that we do not end up like other high-profile districts that have abandoned this fundamental responsibility and are now unable to get their budgets approved without making draconian cuts.”


Source- East Bay Times Article- 1st March Article 

Why is there an impasse?

With the advent of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013, the school districts have more discretion on how to use the LCFF funds as they are classified unrestrictive unlike the old days.

The school districts have to engage the parents and community to create a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

The accounting detail in the LCAP is minimal. Nonprofit law firms and advocacy groups like Public Advocates and the ACLU have begun playing this critical role, bringing cases against districts that use LCFF targeted funds in untargeted ways.   

The school district has a Chief Business Officer who manages the budget, allocations and reserves.

The SRVEA believes that the district is underspending and not allocating for teachers remuneration and hiring after reviewing 5 years of unaudited data.

They feel the district is not making the right projections and aggressively accruing reserves above the recommended limits and not fully transparent about the budget.

On the other hand, the school district says it is building reserves to ensure it can meet the health benefits, pension obligations in case there is a downturn.

The school district is projecting reduction in enrollment by 400 students per year compounded at 1.25% at current levels and this will impact 2051 students in 5 years reducing the LCFF.

Both parties are not negotiating about using new innovative models of inclusion or training and learning budget for the educators  to keep themselves updated.

Are there any possible solutions?

One of the experts on CA public education, proposed SRVEA and the SRVUSD Board and administrators work along the parent community to advocate locally for a parcel tax for SRVUSD.

This would be a long-lasting solution for SRVEA and SRVUSD board to be on the same side rather than at odds.  

Does paying taxes hurt? Sure, but so does not paying them. Teachers and students are hurting now, and as parents, we are responsible for our children’s future..

San Ramon and Danville residents have the highest median household incomes of $130,000  -almost double what the SRVUSD teacher median salary is of $77,000.

We need to work together to increase the revenue in this district with a NEW parcel tax that directly pays for our students’ needs – smaller class sizes, more counselors, nurses, and teacher librarians.

As I mentioned earlier, a teacher strike could influence the use of money within the district, but it cannot ADD money to the equation. It’s zero-sum.

If we can convert the conversation to one about finding a non-zero-sum solution, it might be possible to redirect the energy in a more positive way.

To sum up, it is necessary that we parents intervene and  not let this strike from happening.

We are professionals- lawyers, accountants, doctors, financial and technology executives, who have the expertise to lend to our community. We have the collective power to influence and make an impact.

IT IS TIME FOR PARENTS TO STEP UP AND GET INVOLVED IN BRINGING THE TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS TOGETHER TO RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES

Please find the social media bar on the left to share this post with your friends, neighbors and family and attend the events.

  • Join the Parents Advocacy Google Group
  • Attend the SRVEA Townhall Meeting on 6th March 2019 between 7 to 8.30PM in Dougherty High School, San Ramon
  • Come to the #ForOurStudents Community rally on 12 March, Tuesday at 5.45PM. Thereafter attend the Board of Education Meeting at 7PM
  • Call and email your San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education
    www.tinyurl.com/srvusdboe

Click here if you want to read more about

Funding and Future of California Public Education

REFERENCES

Ed100 that provides lessons simplifying the complex concepts in Public Education

Ed-Data that provides financials of the CA school districts,

PDK Poll of the public attitudes toward the public schools

East Bay Times– local news publication

EdSource– Education Publication

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