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Next week: elections for Oakland teacher convention

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 at 6:21 pm in Uncategorized.

This month, I wrote about the school district’s Effective Teaching Task Force and the Oakland Teacher Convention to be held in Emeryville April 7-9.

Have you nominated yourself or a fellow teacher to be a delegate? (Each school may send two elected representatives.)

Principals have been asked to share information about the convention — and to solicit delegate nominations — at regularly scheduled faculty meetings this week or next, and to hold silent ballot elections a few days later (thus, giving nominees time to figure out if it’s something they want to do).

Is this happening at your school? One teacher told me a couple of days ago that her principal didn’t seem to know anything about the convention. This teacher had lots of good questions, and maybe you have the same ones. I have a couple of answers, anyway:

The convention starts at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7 and ends Saturday, April 9. The participants will be given leave to attend the all-day session on April 8 (the district is covering the cost of substitute teachers), and they will be compensated for the extra time, according to Ash Solar, who co-chairs the task force.

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  • Cranky Teacher

    This is off topic but…are folks aware of the massive BLOODLETTING that is the current budget situation in OUSD?

    Every school in the district is being told this month to cut from 15%-50% of their annual budget out for next year. And this is after two previous years of cuts and spending freezes. And that is if the Brown tax hikes are passed!

    This is just mindboggling. Even though we could see it coming for three years, the reality is no less damaging.

    And it doesn’t matter if a school has been doing better, test scores are going up, etc. — they are all being just HAMMERED. Fremont and Castlemont are becoming large schools again, regardless of the triple-digit gains some of the small schools have made in API.

    At what point should we be talking about shortening the school year rather than just cutting programs or making class sizes bigger? And shouldn’t the community be involved in such massive decisions? Is it enough just to trust the district and the principals to make the right calls?

    I realize this is a rather pathetic, pointless note. After all, what choice does OUSD have if the state’s citizens don’t want to pay taxes?

    However, I just don’t think the community really grasps the depth of these cuts. Or maybe we are just numb. The effects will be felt for a decade. Great teachers, young and old, will be swept away. All manner of support programs are going to evaporate. Nurses, counselors, security guards and custodians are being steadily phased out.

    Increasingly, we are looking at schools where a teacher will be the student’s only adult contact point — at the front of a room of 33 students.

    Who does this hurt the most? The vulnerable student, the potential dropout.

    Motivated, home-supported students can thrive in large classes — they manage their own education, to a large extent. Their parents make sure they do their homework, quiz them for the test, give them rewards for acing the test.

    But for the student who needs attention, personalization, the trust and support of the teacher just to get to the starting line? Whose parents tell them to drop out and get a job at 15? Ouch.

    I know money doesn’t guarantee great schools, but I have a hard time seeing out these cuts can’t be causing irreparable damage which we will ALL pay for down the road in higher social costs and lowered economic competitivity.

    Shortsighted.

  • J.R.

    “I realize this is a rather pathetic, pointless note. After all, what choice does OUSD have if the state’s citizens don’t want to pay taxes”?

    Don’t want to pay taxes? Those of us that do pay taxes, pay amongst the highest in the fifty states. Our cost of living is the highest in the US. In the private sector our pay is being cut while being asked to do more, and in many cases our positions are being terminated with no recourse. Many people are losing their houses, because we don’t know where our next check is coming from(remember: if we don’t do our jobs we lose our jobs, just like that). You need to complain about the make-work system that pays people who are not productive, and also pays the bureaucracy that pays them, all at inflated costs. Too many are people in this state are non-productive and the productive people are just not financially able to carry that load anymore.

  • EO Teacher

    At my school, we are increasing our student population next year by 15% with no additional staff to support this in the budget. Our class sizes are already maxed out (and in some cases over). Additionally, the several highly professional, experienced, and effective educators we hired from out of state are faced with losing their jobs because apparently their 10 years of experience with a similar student population is worth nothing in the eyes of Oakland when put up against cranky dinosaurs and TFA.

    OEA – here’s the worse kept secret in Oakland: positions are consolidated, not people. So pink slips are like Christmas in the hills – schools can consolidate the positions of the unwanted but tenured teachers without putting in the time or effort to evaluate them. They then get shipped to the flatland schools, where they complain about “these kids” and are even more worthless than they were in the hills. Oh, but the flatland schools have to make double digit gains in API every year regardless.

    I am a delegate for my school. And I can’t wait for the opportunity to get (pro)active about the systems in place by OUSD and OEA leadership that continues to guarantee our own failure.

  • Livegreen

    I believe in striking a balance. That is, I believe it should be up to the people to have a choice if they want to continue the taxes, and the State Legislature should let it proceed to the ballot. That said, both sides are using Education as expendable in order to score political points with their older special interests.

    Republicans with those who don’t want to pay taxes (even if the public will vote for the ones in question), and if they sense any compromise from the other side only ratchet up their demands by asking for more concessions (is there ever enough?). Democrats by refusing to strike a deal and compromise over Pensions for their State employees (and other labor unions support the 0 compromise position, saying everybody’s already given enough).

    Because neither side will compromise, education will lose either way. Unless PTA’s as a voice speak up for their kids and tell their respective parties to compromise.

    Now what will the OEA do? Advocate for practical compromise for the benefit of Education? Or follow a 0 compromise position to support State Employees?

  • Livegreen

    My previous comment was at the State level. Back to the OUSD level: Central HQ assumes too much of OUSD’s costs. I don’t care about last year’s cuts. They’re still almost 50% !! I want to know, who’s taken salary cuts? Which Central consultants have been cut? (Because that’s what Sites are having to do. And where’s the breakdown Troy?)

    Have catered hot dinners been replaced by cold sandwiches or nada? Have marketing mugs and t-shirts been eliminated? Are staff members going to Task Force meetings being paid overtime? And who’s paying for that, Central or the Kaiser grant? Oh, and when’s the next announcement for another Grant for the Strategic Plan, beyond just Kaiser? Because if OUSD doesn’t get any, how will all these changes be funded?

    I note that Mayor Quan took a voluntary salary cut soon after assuming office. Tony, will you do the same, while you’re asking Site employees to do this?

    My family took a 50%+ cut due to this economy. Neighbors have lost jobs, and others have lost houses. These same families are being asked by their PTA’s to make up for cuts to Site budgets, that Central is unwilling to make.

    Other OUSD Central Execs (besides Tony), how much are you willing to give back while still maintaining working hours? (Outside of any temporary increase in hours, paid or not, for attending Strategic Plan Task Force meetings).

  • Livegreen

    Oh, and what’s the OEA’s position on the Central vs. Site cuts? I know what their position is on Gang Injunctions, but haven’t seen the OEA Press Releases or heard Ms. Olsen on the radio about this direct impact on Education…

  • J.R.

    This should be the new mantra of California “The least necessary will be cut FIRST” no matter who you are. Trim the dead(and dying)wood, and the size of government(public sector except teachers, police and fire) needs to be drastically cut. No one has the guts to clear the dead wood though so implosion is very likely to happen.

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    California’s personal income tax is around 10%. I can move to Incline Village on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe and pay 0%.

    It’s not that people don’t want to pay taxes. It’s that California has already maxed out what they can credibly charge without people leaving.

    The Tribune had a good article last weekend comparing California’s welfare benefits to other states. It’s staggering. Cut welfare and MediCal to the level they pay in Texas and we’ll have plenty for schools.

  • Cranky Teacher

    “Don’t want to pay taxes? Those of us that do pay taxes, pay amongst the highest in the fifty states. Our cost of living is the highest in the US. In the private sector our pay is being cut while being asked to do more, and in many cases our positions are being terminated with no recourse. Many people are losing their houses, because we don’t know where our next check is coming from(remember: if we don’t do our jobs we lose our jobs, just like that).”

    Total red herring. Those who have lost their jobs/homes are NOT paying state taxes. This is right-wing populism, to imply all these families in foreclosure are being hounded by high taxes.

    We are talking about the megarich paying on a progressive tax scale. Richest state in richest country, and we can’t afford to have a school librarian or college counselor?

    And high costs (gas, land, etc.) affect government expenses, too.

    But yes, I’d also cut pensions in exchange for properly educating our young.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Welfare benefits made up 2.4% of the state budget in 2010, down from 3% in 1999.

    Another red herring.

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Cranky -

    I know you don’t care, but the thing you need to consider is that states are in competition with each other. It’s not like the federal system, which taxes you even if you live abroad.

    California has lost an incredible number of high earners in recent years. The allure of zero income tax rates in states like Washington, Nevada and Texas is just too strong.

    This is part of the public pension problem. California citizens just don’t care that much, because they know they can always just move to escape the taxation that will be needed to pay for it.

    California’s problem is it has chosen to raise most of its tax revenue from the top 1% of earners. This is great until they leave (or arrange their affairs so that they have no income — rich Google execs who never sell shares, for example).

  • Cranky Teacher

    “California’s personal income tax is around 10%”

    If you make 40K, like I do, you will get a refund of most of this at the end of the year.

    It is classic American “we have no economic classes” red herring to pretend we all do or should pay the same taxes.

    Yes, you can pay less in Nevada — but then you have to live in Nevada.

    Race to the bottom…

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Cranky -

    I count MediCal as a welfare program. Care to restate those numbers?

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Cranky -

    Great. So you pay nothing into the system but feel like you have some right to dictate what goes on. You’re just an overgrown child. How’s about letting us adults who, you know, actually pay taxes, make the decisions.

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Here’s the link for the budget information:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_17483017

  • Katy Murphy

    This blog is not a place for name-calling and personal attacks, even in the spirit of debate. Stick to the issues, please.

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Katy -

    You’re absolutely right. I apologize. What I should have said is this:

    It is frustrating to those of us in California who pay lots of taxes to be lectured by those who pay none about not being generous enough. And, it also frustrates us that our voices are nearly always drowned out by those of peopled describing what is “needed.”

    29% of Californians are on MediCal, compared to 17% in Texas. California pays $786 a month for welfare compared to $233 in Texas. Our schools cost $8,852 a year per pupil, which should leave plenty of money for teachers ($170k or so per 20-kid-class), but the money just seems to evaporate.

    And finally we charge $790 a year for community college versus $2,490 in Texas. My opinion on that is, you got your 13 years of free school – you can get a job and pay $2,490 for community college.

    Point is, California spends too much on questionable stuff and then tells the people who pay the taxes to shove it. And, that’s why people are leaving and income tax revenues have not and will not recover.

  • Livegreen

    I guess Oakland isn’t good enough to host this conference, so OUSD moved it to Emeryville. Or is OUSD moving to teach in Emeryville?

  • Ms. J.

    On the tax question–I don’t know the numbers so well as you seem to, Boss, but I do know my own numbers. My husband and I make $120 between us, both working full time. We have kids in preschool and we have a mortgage. We are going to owe money this year (close to $10,000 combined state and federal) despite having paid in throughout the year. We are also paying a decent amount of property tax, having bought our house when prices were a bit higher. But although I do think that the rich should pay more, and that corporations should DEFINITELY pay more, I am not saying (as you imply others are) that others should pay and I shouldn’t. It’s a bit painful, but I feel good about paying taxes to support the things that we as a society have decided we value–schools being the entities closest to my heart, but roads, public hospitals, and other safety net systems being up there as well. I really cannot get my mind around the idea that people who make $200,000 a year deserve a tax cut. We live in one of the most expensive areas of the country on much less than that and we have more than enough. It’s kind of mind boggling that our perspectives should differ so dramatically, but the notion that the people who pay taxes are being told to shove it is completely opposite to my understanding of what is happening.

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Ms. J -

    It has nothing to do with “deserving” — it has to do with the fact that California is in competition with other states, and ultimately the US is in competition with other countries.

    Do you think Texas cares what taxes people “deserve” to pay in California? No! What Texas cares about is encouraging the high earners to move from here to there. And that’s what’s been happening in torrents for the past decade.

    This is why our perspectives differ so sharply. You’re imagining how the world “should” be. I’m looking at how it is and asking how we best succeed given the environment.

    Yes, ideally everyone would have enough money, food, shelter. But if we hand out money too much, that creates disincentives for people who do the actual work.

    So, the question of what “should” happen — while philosophically interesting — is mostly just a distraction.

  • J.R.

    People create jobs that create wealth, all governments can do is confiscate that wealth(taxes,fee’s,levies and licensing), and re-distribute it(sometimes for the public good, and sometimes not). Helping those in need is noble up to a point, but greed quickly takes hold and people seek to “get over” and persist on the public’s back. What should happen is that people who earn money through the fruits of their own labor and initiative should be able to keep most of it(taxes are necessary and legal up to a point).

  • Ms. J.

    The Boss, J.R.,
    Who are “the people who do the actual work”? Are you saying that the corporations and their CEOS do more actual work than the laborers? Since both of you are such experts on economics, on the world as it is, and on the free market, can you explain how a system which subsidizes business is free? How it is fair that people who are making vastly more money are taxed vastly less? And don’t say that they create jobs and help the economy all without government interference.

    Take the example of the rice growers in California. Rice is a singularly inappropriate crop for the dry climate of the Central Valley, yet huge rice farms flourish there, enriching enormous agribusinesses. They can do this because they get their water subsidized by the government. And the people who “earn” most of the money there are not doing it “through the fruits of their own labor” but through the labor of underpaid, exploited workers. I don’t know if the rice growers of the Central Valley have a union, but I’m sure you think such a union would only exist in order to help those greedy farmworkers “persist on the public’s back,” don’t you?

  • Ms. J.

    On another note…I hope that a lot of teachers will attend this convention and help to determine the future of the profession in Oakland. I have learned a lot from my colleagues over the years and I think the best hope for substantive teacher evaluation and professional development is the creation of a peer/mentor system such as those in other districts, notably in Tennessee and Milwaukee, where respected, experienced and effective teachers are released from some of their classroom time to spend time observing other teachers and giving them feedback, as well as being observed as master teachers themselves. I would love to be part of such a system and see how both the master teachers and the teachers being mentored could benefit and learn a great deal.

  • wdcrachel

    Is there any movement/energy around the teacher convention among Oakland teachers? It seems great in theory, but I’m not hearing any buzz on the ground. Hope that EO Teacher and Ms. J both get nominated and attend but wonder how it doesn’t even generate a conversation on the blog.