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Blames Going Digital for lower teacher pay raises in MUSD

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POSTED May 23, 2017 1:15 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I am writing concerning the teacher contract that the Manteca Unified School District administration is asking its teachers and trustees to approve. As a parent, resident and teacher in Manteca I do not think that the contract is good for our children. Our district derives its name from our ‘Family City’. I do not find family values in the process or the outcome of either this contract or the one approved for the classified employees. I believe that family values include playing fair and sharing fairly. I also believe that what one does shows one’s values better than what one says.
In terms of both process and outcome administration is neither playing fair nor sharing fairly with the proposal for weekly late start Wednesdays for the elementary schools. I know as a parent irregular school schedules are a challenge in arranging child care. Even if the schools are able to fund supervision, instructional time will be less. I think that the process should include families and that other outcomes to provide collaboration time should be explored.
In terms of process administration is not playing fair with its employee bargaining groups. Administration says that the need to reduce deficit spending limits compensation for the staff closest to the children. A review of the annual audits on MUSD’s website reveals that indeed administration annually projects future deficit spending. However when it comes to what the budget does, deficit spending occurred only three times in the past ten years. For example see the most recent audit on pg.75 which shows a $35M positive variance ($24M to $58M) in the ending balance. In a family card game this would be called a stacked deck.
The Going Digital project created the only two back to back past deficit years (pg.87 in current audit). This $30 to $40 million dollar expense was mostly for materials that could have been paid for by asking the community to support short term bonds. Instead administration chose the easier path of deficit spending. Currently administration says that direct service compensation increases must be limited while at the same time increasing materials and services millions of dollars higher than MUSD’s average. Hence future projected deficits. For example the most recent approved budget (5/9/17) says MUSD will spend an average of about $46M annually on materials in its projected 3 year budget cycle. This is about $26M higher than our past averages before Going Digital. Again a stacked deck.
In terms of compensation outcomes administration is not sharing fairly. Prior to the great recession MUSD’s state compensation average was aligned with its state revenue average. During and after the recession this alignment drifted apart to the current gap of 7% lower compensation averages compared to income state averages. (ed-data.org) This ongoing annual gap allowed administration to grow our reserves each year by unnecessarily freezing classified employees and laying off teachers. Reserves grew from S30M to $70M until the great Going Digital spend down. (ed-data.org) Even with improved hiring and compensation our reserves grew again in 2015-16 to $56M, which is about $50M above the state minimum and about $30M above MUSD’s prudent reserve goal. It is not fair that surpluses for financial markets and administrative projects have priority over staff.
Another unfair compensation outcome is that prior to the great recession teacher salary increases kept up with inflation. Since the great recession state data (J90 forms) show that salaries are slightly behind inflation. This falling behind is greatly exasperated by the fact that teachers accepted the risk of health care increases. The district has a hard cap on its share of health care insurance costs. Teachers now cover 44% of their insurance costs. As a result in 2015-16 the average MUSD teacher compensation was about 4K below the state average. (scusd.edu) Just like the rest of the middle class, teachers are losing ground in their real income and in their share of the economy. This is not sharing fairly.
The Manteca Bulletin’s projection at the adoption of Going Digital was more accurate than MUSD’s budget projections: “Just where do you think the money is going to come from to pay Microsoft, Panasonic and others? It will come out of the available pot of money for teacher and support staff’s future increases in salaries and benefits. The Going Digital initiative is reckless from a financial perspective. It puts emphasis in gadgets and not what really counts – teachers”. (10/2/2014)
In the current negotiations for compensation the classified staff accepted less than a 5% increase. The teachers requested 5%. The district started at 2% with the teachers and increased to about 3%. The gap to provide all direct service staff a fair 5% increase is about $2.5M. Going Digital’s ongoing costs are between 4-6M. I vote for a fair share for our neighbors serving our students before sharing with global corporations whose profits do not stay local.
In conclusion perhaps our trustees could consider the difference between the “Chicken Little” approach of administration (whose compensation is at 20% higher than our state average) to the “Little Red Hen” approach of our direct service staff. The latter is better literature modeling for the family values of working and sharing fairly. I welcome questions and clarifications at leocauchon@netscape.net.

Léo Bennett-Cauchon
Manteca

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