There are several different plot lines currently unfolding around us and they are on track to collide in such a way that the 2017-2018 school year will make or break public education in San Diego.
1) If you have not heard yet, with the appointment of the newest Supreme Court justice, California teachers (and everyone) are on track to lose fair share fees for union dues. It means that people can decide to not pay any union dues at all and yet still benefit from the union doing all of the contract negotiations and protecting them when there’s a lawsuit. By the end of the next school year we will all be Wisconsin, a state that serves as a case study for what happens when unions are destroyed. If you don’t know what happened to Wisconsin teachers please read this article here.
2) The most expensive school board race in the history of the world just happened in Los Angeles and the incumbent public education candidate and current school board president lost to a charter school candidate. Los Angeles schools are now on track to be converted to 50% charter schools as soon as possible. San Diego is the second biggest district in the state. We are absolutely next. They spent last year trying to win our County Office of Ed school board seats.
3) SDEA is currently negotiating our next contract with the district. The three times the district has come to the table they have been rude, unprepared, and presented the most hostile proposals we have ever seen slid across the table. The people running our district right now (Staci Monreal, Cheryl Hibbeln, and Cindy Marten) were all supporters of our previous Superintendent Alan Bersin and his policies. If you lived through the Bersin era, then you know what that means. If you don’t know who Alan Bersin is, ask an older teacher. Many of them will tell you about the anxiety, stress, and professional disrespect that the Bersinite “leaders” inflicted on our educators.
4) SDUSD seems to be uniformly denying all grievances and taking them to arbitration. Ask around. Do you know anyone that has settled a grievance that’s been taken to Step 3?
So here are my concerns (predictions) for the next year:
1) SDUSD’s bargaining team will continue to treat our teachers with disdain and disrespect at the bargaining table until the school board steps in and gives them a set of bargaining directives. Any school board member claiming to be pro-union and pro-public education needs to make sure that when SDUSD’s bargaining team shows up at the table on June 22nd, that they come with an offer worthy of our kids, educators, and communities.
2) Kevin Beiser is the only school board member who voted against finalizing layoffs this year and whose voting record has demonstrated his pro-union and pro-public education position. The charter school group is absolutely going to come after his seat, and we need to endorse him yesterday. I don’t always agree with everything Kevin does or says (I think he’s too nice sometimes), but he is definitely the best school board member we have and we need to keep him. I donated $100 to his reelection campaign and I urge you donate, too. Even a $5 donation demonstrates strength in numbers and sends the message that we will be voting for him. He’s hosting a kickoff fundraiser this coming Sunday and while the invite requires a $100 donation to attend, he’s made it clear that educators can donate less and still come. (Added bonus of attending: Todd Gloria will be there and you can ask him why he voted to extend the probationary time for teachers to three years.)
3) The district staff showed us exactly what they think of educators during the May 30 school board meeting when SDEA President Lindsay Burningham used her key card to open the door to the Ed Center hallway leading to the Superintendent’s office. Cindy Martin’s assistant put his two hands on and physically pushed our union president to prevent her from entering the hallway. Other educators participating in this action were also pushed back through the door. In contrast, when we picketed Kevin Beiser’s school with a bullhorn and fliers, he invited us into his classroom afterwards. When Lincoln community members shut down the school board meeting in protest, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne came out to talk with them and hear their concerns. Note the difference between the school board members and the district staff: Educators voicing their concerns were treated like gate-crashers seeking an audience with the Wizard of Oz at the Emerald City. If this is how top district staff treats our union president, be prepared to be treated even worse next year.
4) Based on the district’s craptacular and shitastic bargaining proposals, the uniform denial of grievances, and the knowledge that our union will take a financial hit next spring, I believe the district plans to push us into a strike situation. Our Union Field Organizers are having their time sucked up prepping for arbitration to deal with all these grievances, which means they aren’t out at our schools doing the site organizing work needed to keep us strong at the bargaining table. The district knows that if they ride these negotiations out to the bitter end, that their ability to impose a terrible contract on us will coincide with our union taking a financial hit from a drop in union dues and/or when our union is spending time and resources helping members renew their union membership. Betsy DeVos would be proud.
I’m sad and frustrated to say that we are living in a time period where we absolutely will see public education as we know it dismembered and dismantled. History is going to be written these next few years whether we like it or not. The only real question is: Will you stand idly by and watch it die or will you fight? When you look back on this time period, how do you want to be remembered?
Looking for a way to help?
1) Sign up with SDEA for the Summer Street Heat Team. Seriously, email firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up. Participating in these actions really does put pressure on the school board members and Cindy Marten and brings visibility to our contract negotiations. (Plus, picketing Marten’s penthouse in downtown was super fun and then we went across the street to East Village Tavern and Bowl and hit Happy Hour to debrief.) Once again, sign up already.
2) Donate to Kevin Beiser’s campaign. He’s facing a campaign contribution reporting deadline on June 30th and bigger sends a better message to the charter school lobby that he has the support needed to win. Have criticisms or concerns about Kevin? Good. Me, too. It means you’ve been paying attention and believe in holding elected officials accountable. And I hope you talk with him, like I do, about your concerns so that he can make better decisions and be a better advocate for public education. He will definitely be the best candidate for this school board race, and I am supporting him. I can’t make it to his fundraiser party this Sunday, but you should go if you can.
3) Go to a school board meeting this summer. Speak your truth to power. Tell the School Board Trustees your stories of how the grievances at your site are going to arbitration. Tell them how you still haven’t been recalled and are looking for and accepting job offers in other districts, even though you don’t want to leave. The Trustees don’t know what’s happening unless we educators tell them. It’s not like the district staff actually wants the Trustees to know what’s going on! Then they might make decisions that reflect stakeholder input instead of uniformly imposing the will of a few district leaders on everyone.
Do one of the actions listed here and don’t go down without a fight!
Written by Shane Parmely, Teacher, Bell Middle School
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.