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MUSD in worse shape than other districts
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I’m getting a little tired of the blame game that’s being played in our school district at the expense of the teachers.  

We’re told over and over that the teachers should be taking their 5% pay cut, just like everyone else.  Really? The teachers are to blame?  Let’s compare our district to other local school districts.  Turlock teachers gave up 1.5% and over 160 layoff notices were rescinded.  Immediately.

Modesto City teachers gave up 1% in salary cuts and over 200 layoff notices were rescinded.  Lodi Unified teachers gave up nothing and over 175 layoff notices were rescinded.  Do we see a pattern here?  Manteca teachers gave up 1.8% in salary concessions, the largest single pay cut in San Joaquin or Stanislaus County, and what do they receive as thanks?  Some 261 or over 20% of the teaching staff received layoff notices.  This is the largest percentage of a district’s teachers receiving layoff notices in San Joaquin or Stanislaus Counties. Of these 261 layoff notices, only 100 were rescinded or taken back.  Not only that, small class sizes at K-3 are being eliminated.  Did you know that if the district went to 32-1, they would still receive $3 million from the state for class size reduction, even if the classes are at 32 students per class?  I call that taking the money and running.  

If the district maintained K-3 classes at 20-1 like almost every other district in our area, they would receive $7.5 million from the state, and they would only have to come up with $415,000 for class size reduction.  So, for $415,000, the school district keeps 115 teachers on the job rather than on the unemployment line.  That’s a steal at $3,608 per teacher for the entire year.  Oh yes, the district can blame it on our teachers not taking a bigger pay cut, but as you can see, the numbers from other school districts in comparison to Manteca just don’t work out.  That’s what the district wants you to believe.  Or, they want you to believe that the current financial crisis is to blame for all of our problems. And, don’t get me wrong, that is partly correct.  Our current crisis will arguably be the biggest challenge that will face our generation.  People are losing their jobs all over the country, in nearly every industry.  However, our district’s financial mismanagement of the past must take a large share of the blame for our current troubles.  

Let’s look at other school districts and see why they are not nearly in as bad as shape as Manteca Unified.. Let’s compare Manteca Unified to some other local school districts.  Our total budget for this year is approximately $170 million.  Before the budget was revised in May, MUSD was cutting $23.5 million for this year and next.  That is 14% of our budget.  Lodi Unified has a budget of over $250 million, and they are cutting $24 million.  That would be 9.5% of their overall budget.  Elk Grove is cutting $30 million from its budget of $612 million.  That is 4.9% of their overall budget. Ripon is cutting $900,000 from its budget of $22 million.  That is 4% of their overall budget.  Lincoln is cutting $2.6 million from its budget of $70 million.  That would be 3.7% of their overall budget. Turlock has a budget of $115 million, and they are cutting $4 million. That is 3.4% of their overall budget.  14% versus,9.5, 4.9, 4.0, 3.7 and 3.4.

Not only that, the school district took $10 million from its reserves and placed it in the medical retirement fund.  Those monies could be used to help reduce our deficit now.  Reserve monies are a rainy day fund, a savings account if you will, and it is pouring right now.  I believe you put these monies into the medical retirement fund, so you can say that you have no money to meet your budget deficit, which would enable you to say to your teachers, we need your 5% pay cut.  Medical retirement funds should be paid on as needed basis, not just place more money in the fund than is necessary for a year.

Finally, recently the school district took the $6 million in federal stimulus monies and used it for payroll this year.  This year!  Without the federal stimulus money, they would not have been able to issue paychecks to its teachers.   I can’t speak for the entire state, but no other school district in our neighboring area has made this decision.

What conclusion do I draw from this?  There is serious fiscal mismanagement going on in our school district.  All you have to do is look at the district office.  This Taj Mahal cost us $13 million.  Granted, most of the money for this district office came from state construction grants and Mello-Roos, which couldn’t be used in the classroom.  However, it didn’t need to be built, and that’s the point. The district architectural plans for the old district office allowed for a second story to be built on top of it.  My analysis is that you are spending taxpayer money that you didn’t need to.  Let’s talk about the internet wireless towers at each school.  Those cost $2 million.  The school board was told it would make money.  The school board was guaranteed that by school district administrators.  It hasn’t made a dime.  It is the fault of the school board to not hold the people responsible who convinced them to build these projects.
Ken Johnson
President, Manteca
Educators Association
June 6, 2009