The Learning Curve is a weekly column that answers questions about schools using plain language. Have a question about how your local schools work? Write me at Mario.Koran@voiceofsandiego.org.
This week San Diego Unified sent out layoff notices to roughly 1,500 employees, and it’s all but certain those layoffs are going to hurt the poorest schools worst.
Neither San Diego Unified nor the San Diego Educators Association, the local teachers union, would send me a list showing which schools have the most teachers facing layoffs. (San Diego Unified’s spokeswoman said they wouldn’t provide it. Teachers union president Lindsay Burningham didn’t respond.)
But one staff member at Millennial Tech Middle school, whose name we’re withholding because she wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, said that 17 out of 21 teachers there received a layoff notice. Most teachers at nearby Knox Middle schools are also facing layoffs, she said.
It’s just one example of an issue that’s played out for years. It goes back to longstanding but controversial state law that requires school districts to first lay off its newest teachers before cutting those with more seniority.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Every year we throw money money at education and every year the quality drops...yet we re-elect the same people. Seems the voters are the dumb ones.
This article from the the coast news group in north county tells why the layoffs and budget problems are real this time and will continue to be so over the next decade.
The pension tsunami is coming home to roost. This round is just the start
“But you can see between now and 2024 CalPERS goes up more than double and CalSTRS goes up just over 60 percent,” he said.
According to Johnson, the organization is made up by a group of experts in California who mainly focus on education policy, finance, politics, administrative analysis, and other services.
Term limits are a frustrating way to arrange politics, but Richard Barrera brought it upon himself.
I want experienced people guiding our government and our schools. However, when elections become non-competitive, we call that authoritarian government (e.g. China, Russia, ...). It is NOT communist, it is authoritarian.
If a region does not have a competitive election, there is no reason for politicians to work for your vote. If they don't have to work for your vote, then they don't necessarily act in your interest; they act in their own interest which may be contrary to yours.
The sad truth is that we have a number of non-competitive seats on the Board of Ed - Evans, Barrera, and McQuary to name the majority. How do I know they are non-competitive? Either they had nobody running against them or they perennially win.
I'm not sure that term limits will solve that problem. The question is that if you remove the long-time politician from office, will that enable candidates? There could be at least two reasons why the races are non-competitive:
A. Nobody wants to run
B. Nobody thinks that they can win
It is not clear which is the answer. When McQuary ran for office, the incumbent had retired. McQuary WAS THE ONLY CANDIDATE! That seems like (A) and NOT (B). Evans has had several challenges, but none were successful. I'm not sure the challengers were serious enough to even cause Evans to change his stance on any issue. If Evans is not changing, then is he doing a great job or is he just the entrenched incumbent: (A) or (B). Nobody has run against Barrera in over SIX YEARS! Sounds like (B) to me.
If term limits are not the answer today, then what is the answer to get more competitive races? Why don't more people run for office?
I'll tell you why I don't. My family is afraid it will ruin both my business and my relationship with my community. They are afraid I will never be able to return to the private sector and while I'm in office, enough of my neighbors will disagree with my position that I'll ruin my relationship with them.
Is this how other people feel? Am I a coward or practical or just not made of the same cloth as a politician?
The Dashboard is an insult to the public. Since when is a COLOR better for evaluating education than a NUMBER? Tests are the worst way to evaluate student performance *except for every other method*.
Is the State and the District really telling us that after decades, they don't have a way to "grade" students? To quantify how well students understand material? This is just a way to hide low performance. What else does a COLOR tell me?
I get that not everything can be boiled down to a number, but the reality is that this is how our culture, our politics, and our economy work. We grade restaurants - how many of you eat at a "C" restaurant? We count votes - do we elect our politicians by color? We count money - even though not everybody chooses the profession that makes the most money.
* We admit students to college based upon SAT / ACT scores.
* We give jobs to students with a high school / college diploma
* We give jobs to students with high GPA's
Evaluation is all around us. Deciding that it does not apply to education is just cowardice and deceit.
This is the ultimate irony... Title 1 schools sites have more funding per student. They have perennially had smaller classroom sizes. Yet, they still have a huge achievement gap. Clearly our strategy is not working!
Disruptive staff by laying off young and potentially innovate teachers is irresponsible.
More experienced teachers may "teach" better, but they cannot teach more students than a young teacher.
In the end, SDEA and SDUSD have clung to seniority and have allowed teachers to transfer to their "favorite" schools. The *cruel* reality is that teachers have transferred AWAY from Title 1 school sites. There is NO OTHER REASON why young teachers fill the staff at Title 1 schools.
IF the BoE wants to continue with seniority, THEN they need to stop allowing teachers to move away from Title 1 schools. If they do not, then who is really responsible for the achievement gap? The Board and the SDEA.
Thank you, Educated Mom. Great website.
It shows that only San Diego Unified and Julian High School district have failed to balance their budgets in San Diego county. Just the two districts.
I suspected that this current shortage in SDUSD was based on bad fiscal decisions, as you mentioned.
I hope that voters remember, next year, that having a school board that has never said no to Marten, has allowed this to happen. Since they chose Cindy, they have failed to do their most important job, providing oversight.
Go to http://www.blog.com
A little ironic, as Cindy Marten was on the public comment microphone, complaining about the same unfairness, taking place at her school, Central Elementary, the last time teachers were fired...around 2008.
But I'd be interested to know if other school districts in San Diego County have overspent their budget, like Ms. Marten has.
I think I heard that Poway had some financial problems, but now have a new superintendent, after firing their previous overspending chief.
Other than that, I'd be interested to find out from the County Office of Education, what other school districts have failed to get their budget approved.
@francesca There are 34 districts across the state that filed interim reports in December 2016 that were deemed "negative" or "qualified" due to issues with the districts' ability to "meet [their] financial obligations" for the current fiscal year or the following two fiscal years. See http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fi/ir/interimstatus.asp Since that there are more than 1000 districts in the state, that's about 3%. (The only other local district on the list is Julian Unified.)
SDUSD also gets more LCFF funding--and more per pupil funding--than the average district in the state, which suggests that its fiscal problems are largely self-made. If one looks at the district's budget reports over Cindy Marten's term, the district has operated with budgets that used one-time funding every year, and that pool of one-time funding is gone now. So better fiscal decisions over the past several years could have avoided the current fiscal crisis.
"overspent" is exactly the right word!
We don't locally control the $$/pupil. That is controlled by the State of California. They hand us what the politicians and taxpayers are willing to pay to educate the public. We must do our best with that budget.
It is not the Board of Ed's job to create a "living wage" and pay "high" salaries in order to take the "moral highground". It is the public's job to levy higher taxes, local taxes, or lobby politicians for more money for education.
It is the Board of Ed's job to DO THE BEST WITH WHAT THEY HAVE. That DOES NOT include selling land to pay for today's salaries or renting their properties to make more money.
The budget is out of control because the BoE CHOOSES to pay a higher salary for teachers than the State of California provides. The Board has already reduced administrative oversight to all time low levels. There are few "managers" and "central office" staff to cut. They have to cut salary / benefits of teachers to maintain class sizes.
I would like to see the return of the Budget Book. The Budget Book used to show us the money spent at each site on teaching and other expenses / staff. This is all hidden now.
What I'd like to see is: WHICH SCHOOLS MAKE MONEY AND WHICH LOSE MONEY.
Every site has their own "budget". The students that come in bring a base amount of money and then LCFF brings more money for students that need more help (e.g. Title 1 and English Learners). HOWEVER, SOME SCHOOLS HAVE HIGHLY PAID TEACHERS AND SOME DO NOT.
If you look at the spending side of the equation, you'll likely find:
A. Title 1 schools have teachers with less experience and hence, LOWER SALARIES
B. Schools in wealthier neighborhoods have teachers with more experience and hence HIGHER SALARIES
If we merely forced each site to BUY STAFF BASED UPON SALARY AND NOT THE NUMBER OF TEACHERS, we'd automatically start seeing a more even distribution of experience!
The reason that layoffs at SDUSD schools impact schools with higher proportions of low-income students has much to do with how the district fills open positions at its schools. A school that receives Title I funding (that is, enrolls at least 40% students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch because they are from low-income households) can select "best fit" teachers from all candidates who apply for an open position at that school. By contrast, a school that does not receive Title I funding (which, by definition, is a school where less than 40% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and therefore a more affluent demographic) is only given the option of hiring one of the five teachers with the most seniority who have applied for the open position. This hiring practice restrains teachers with lower seniority from obtaining positions at schools in areas with relatively higher affluence. It would be better for all schools if the district were to allow best-fit teachers to be hired from all candidates interested in the position to distribute the teachers with lower seniority more equitably across the district.
As for Trustee Barrera's concern over equity in representation under the proposal to make elections to the SDUSD school board regional, perhaps he is forgetting that each trustee has a distinct region which he/she represents. This is not meant to imply that every trustee should not have the best interests of all students within SDUSD in mind. (With a district of more than 60% disadvantaged students, any given trustee cannot help but have these students' interests in mind.) However, it is the obligation of a trustee to represent the students of his/her district, and changing the school board elections to be regional rather than general allows a trustee to spend more time and effort with his/her constituents and affords the constituents better representation. On the other hand, since the learning curve for education policy and finance is pretty steep (especially since SDUSD trustees have no staff to help them with this), I'm not convinced that a two-term limit would be in the best interest of the students.
@EducatedMom I am able to read up to a point, and then I have to stop. Then I try again, but the result is the same. I settle for what my instincts dictate. They, my instincts, tell me that all of the reasons/justifications for the perpetuation of educational disparities can be distilled down to two words, "systemic racism. They tell me to ignore all finely-crafted arguments that define and describe the "system", as you have.
I should read less, trust my instincts more, and focus on the facts; the results; the effects.
@rhylton @EducatedMom To put the facts more simply & succinctly: teachers with less seniority cannot get a job at schools where the percentage of low-income students is lower (because of the hiring practices I spelled out in detail above). Therefore, when pink slips are issued to the teachers (which targets teachers with the least seniority, by the state), it impacts the schools that have higher percentages of low-income students (because the teachers with higher seniority are concentrated at the schools with lower percentages of low-income students).
In reality, all schools would like to be able to hire whatever teacher is the best fit, regardless of seniority. In fact, the schools in La Jolla asked for a waiver from SDEA to be able just that. Since their waiver was from SDEA, this suggests that these hiring practices are in SDEA's contract with the district, but it's unclear which party wants it this way or why. I am unaware of any facts that would support your "instincts," but please share if you are aware of any facts in this regard.
@EducatedMom Fact 1: You have perfectly described a"system," a hiring and firing "system" that leaves the children of poor people at a perpetual disadvantage. Fact 2: Poor people happen to be disproportionately Black or Brown. Fact 3: The term "Systemic Racism" is used to describe systems that create racial disparities; whether by intention or by effect.
People have to stand up to the blizzard of negative hype from the monied extreme Ayn Rand libertarian types who's single cause is to chip obsessively at union representation. And, in this case, union representation of teachers. Teachers are not the problem.
The system itself, the "ed" bureaucracy is substantially at fault. In education longevity is a big plus. That long lived teacher has more tricks and management than any hyper qualified recently minted super young teacher. That old soul can take effective charge of otherwise unruly, rude, and otherwise "haywire" young charges in the classroom. There is nothing in the system that can supplant that unique experience. On the other hand, newly "minted" young teachers are desperately needed. The problem is they are not supported and within a very short time, they are disillusioned and become very negative about the "ed" system. That is just poor management by the "ed" bureaucracy and has little to nothing to do with "unions".
The other factor has to do, in fact, with the administration/management at any school district. Senior teachers may well request this school or that school from HR. That piece of management has little to nothing to do with unions. Few,if any, union contracts allow that only "x" teachers may transfer to "x" schools. If teachers are not given a "green light" to move, they have the option to quit...like anyone else in any industry.
No. This issue that senior teachers have ultimate sway under all circumstances is specious at best. And, has been promulgated by the idiot radical conservative far right to the detriment of rational debate on how to best improve public education. Get real!
Hey John, how many of the head honchos of the "ed" bureaucracy were put in place with the blessing of organized labor? Which union backed state governor / legislator is fixing the "ed" bureaucracy problem? Which union labor organizer SDUSD school board member is doing anything about the "ed" bureaucracy problem?
Feel free to distance yourself from the problems special interests have created in public education and good luck finding "idiot radical conservatives" anywhere in the "ed" bureaucracy chain of command. Your fine upstanding union hacks on the SDUSD school board can't balance a school budget check book but have no trouble banning non-union workers from bond funded construction projects through their union only Project Labor Agreement. By all means keep pretending unions represent "the children," tax payers or the middle class.
Perhaps an "idiot radical conservative" is exactly what's needed to save "the children" from the "ed" err, union bureaucracy.
@philip piel @John H Borja This is a very deep blue state. And, it is deep blue over fears that have already come to fruition from uncaring right wing politicians that have hurt kids, families, and the economy. Witness, for example, the "trickle down" governor in Kansas. He cut, cut, cut to where he damaged the Kansas economy and schools over his over zealous attempt to prove that "trickle down" works. It doesn't. Unions are not strong in Kansas. So, the courts had to step in. No. We need rational politicians like Kevin Faulkner to be able to coalesce disparate groups into effective action. Unions are not the problem. And, for the record, it is the voting public that agrees to place people that support worker and labor rights.
Thanks for the information on Kansas John, I'm wondering what excuse you'll use for California's ills? I'm wondering why California isn't the "worker's paradise" good hard working union members deserve?
You bring up Kansas, I don't blame you, who'd want to talk about the Democratic crown jewel of public education closer to home, Los Angeles Unified School District. Of course when I ask you to point out the, oh what was it, "idiot radical conservatives" responsible for LA. Unified's horrible track record in getting rid of child beating / molesting teachers you'll give me Kansas.
John, one of the problems with ownership is responsibility, union labor owns public education. I would have at least a little respect for you or your opinions about "idiot conservatives" if you'd just stay quiet and enjoy your monopoly on tax payer funded education. If you want to continue your diatribe please show me the "Rush Limbaugh" in the Ca. State Legislature or on the SDUSD school board that created / supports the "ed" bureaucracy you speak of, all I see is elected / appointed union puppets in the chain of command up to and including Jerry Brown.
@philip piel Unions did not create globalization, trade deals, robotics, nor work place crime. There was no union to blame when Levi Strauss decided to move its manufacturing to Texas. And, no union to blame when those non-union jobs in Texas were moved to Mexico. No. Unions only make up, at most, 25 percent of the work force now in America. You are angry at something, but being angry at teachers and the people that represent them is misinformed emotion. Public employee unions are the most transparent organizations in America today. Corporations look only to improve profitability and that is bedrock America. But, regulation helps to keep America safer. Unless, regulations are ignored, as in the case of Flint,Michigan.
The "Ed" bureaucracy is a separate entity not represented solely by unions. Ed Code drives what is or what isn't allowed in public schools. And, what often happens is that "book" contains competing regulations that often complicate how schools are run. That bureaucracy is not very transparent and not easily moved.
The school districts of LAUSD and SDUSD are very large, indeed. And, there have been arguments regarding their size. And, there have been arguments to consolidate very small school districts with other school districts. There are pluses and minuses to each approach, but I don't see much movement to change the size of some districts.
But, school budgets are set two years behind in order to reduce the chaos of yearly state budgets that are created in June just two months before the new academic year in September.
And, there is very little waste of available State funding. What goes in is rationed out to the max, razor thin.
Public schools need more money. So, the "voucher movement" only would help to take essential money away from extremely tight public school budgets.
Children are not commodities and schools will not be more "competitive" by shaming through what for profit schools may provide.
The argument that low income children will be provided a great boost in better education through "vouchers" is specious, at best. "Vouchers" are an example of the relentless attack by the radical "right" in America to undermine public education. This has been their focus since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960's.
Thanks John for that very informative post. At the risk of yet another sidestep on your part can you tell us why a Democratic President with a majority congress did nothing to solve the "ed" bureaucracy? Can you tell us why California hasn't solved the problem? Can you explain why, with the "razor thin" funding in education the Teacher's Union isn't more proactive in making it easier to fire bad teachers?
The "radical right" has had their job of "undermining" public education done for them. The "radicals" need only to sit back and watch the implosion of public education. Perhaps children should be considered "commodities," but then again who in the government sector would want their efforts subject to valuation?
I'm still waiting for an example of the "idiot conservatives" in the California Public Education system that are responsible for the "ed" bureaucracy?