repeal the raise art

The West Sonoma County Teachers Association stands in opposition to the outrageous plan to provide the West Sonoma County Union High School District’s superintendent, chief business officer, and other district leadership with a 4% raise in the 2019-20 school year, and 4% again in the 2020-21 school year. 

This decision was approved by the school board trustees on April 8, 2020, and came immediately on the heels of an approval for a variety of questionable cuts to direct student services. These cuts include a reduction of 3.8 full time teaching positions, a full-time librarian, counselors, counseling secretary, elimination of bus routes, delay of textbook adoptions, as well as cuts to other classified positions. 

The cuts to librarians and counseling services stand in direct contrast to the promises in the recently passed Measure B parcel tax, which included “keeping libraries open… and improving student counseling services.”  It’s unclear which classes will be affected by the elimination of 3.8 full time teaching positions, but it seems most likely to affect the student elective offerings for next year. The availability of quality electives stood at the heart of the parcel tax promises.

In addition to improving elective offerings such as career technical education, art, music, drama, culinary, media, etc., Measure B also provided for “certificated and classified salary increases.”  It even went as far as to explicitly say it provided “...no funds for administrators’ salaries.”  The tentative agreement that ended the teacher strike provided for a 4% raise to teacher salaries for 2020-21 if Measure B passed. Therefore, when the school board approved a “Me Too” for management, they effectively tied Administrator raises directly to the passing of Measure B.  A decision that stands in stark contrast to what the voters approved.

Elected school board representatives voted for substantial cuts, while at the same time providing raises for those at the top.  Leadership is leading by example, and we expect leaders to step up and take the cuts first.  At a current salary of approximately $168,000 per year, the Superintendent’s raise is not about ensuring the ability to pay rent, food and health care expenses.  Meanwhile, as we write this the classified staff is still at impasse in their contract negotiations.  Instead of paying the top more, why not prioritize paying our woefully underpaid classified staff a living wage? The school board should offer them the raise they need and move our district out of yet another impasse.

At the April 8 board meeting, the school board indicated that “this has always been a ‘Me Too’ district”, referencing that all employees are offered whatever the teacher’s union settles on. But our salaries are nowhere near each other. An 8% raise on the superintendent’s and administration salaries is a lot more than an 8% raise on a teacher salary. Years of this bad practice have further deepened the income inequality in our district.

If cuts are indeed needed, district leadership needs to take these cuts first, and to a greater degree, because they are in a much better financial position to afford it than already underpaid frontline educators or classified staff.

While asking us all to tighten our belts, it seems only fair that the school board should be first looking at suspending the Superintendent’s unique benefits — such as vehicle and phone allowances.

Despite demanding the WSCTA contribute 15% of their own health care expenses, the Superintendent enjoys 100% paid health care benefits. And, yet, during this challenging time of distance learning, no offer to pay educators’ cell, internet or additional technology expenses has been forthcoming.

The WSCTA has long advocated making budgetary reductions as far away from the classroom as possible and has repeatedly highlighted the unusually high percentage of the operating budget that goes towards the services and other operating expenses line item.  In 2017-18 the services line item represented 19.6% of total district expenditures. That number increased to 20.8% in 2018-19.  The statewide average in 2018-19, according to the Ed-data, was 10.7%. This percentage discrepancy represents over $2.6 million in misdirected funding.  The WSCTA continues to advocate for reducing the unnecessary spending in the services and operating expenses line item prior to any cuts to student services.

The WSCTA continues to advocate that the board look for proactive measures to improve the fiscal outlook of our district,  such as developing a plan for increasing enrollment and increasing average daily attendance as recommended by School Services of California. To date, we have seen no such action by the trustees.

So, the school board that forced teachers out onto the street to strike, to lose pay, and struggle in negotiations for nearly a year, now gives out the same raises we fought for to the principle person who stood in our way for so long.  Are these actions deserving of a raise?

The WSCTA demands the board of education rescind all the approved cuts to direct student services until these unnecessary raises are withdrawn.

(2) comments

RIONEEDO

Does this not exemplify the dysfunctional nature of all government in the county? Tone deaf to the common good as long as there is the perception of 'good times' in terms of public funding or economic activity.

nancyh

Why is it that every single measure we vote on turns out to spend money on things we didn't vote for? We are disgusted by the lies and chicanery at the federal level. It's very sad that we get the same lack of honesty even at the local level now.

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