Will Chevron Save Our Schools?
|CTA Tops And UTR Pres Pixie Proposed Turning Richmond, CA Schools Over To Chevron In Privatization Scheme
From A United Teachers Of Richmond Rank and File Member
HERE IS A breakdown of the Rep training 9/25-9/26:
Friday evening was a good summary of the job of the reps during a
strike: communicate with each teacher, what to say to the parents,
photograph scabs, news that Local 1 has another tentative aggreement
for their members to ratify.
Saturday morning started with a "white paper", history of negotiations
with the district, many betrayals detailed. We broke into groups and
told each other what a good rep was.This was led by Marilyn from CTA,
well organized, useful info, for instance, we should be timecarding for
extra students if the sub doesn't show up- use the old contract
agreements except for the new imposed district rules, being assertive
with principals, an injury to one is an injury to all, etc.
We were promised a big surprise development after the break.
Pixie titled this part of the training "A Way Forward". This is the
proposed agreement, I thought to be submitted to the WCCUSD bargaining
She passed out a new, generous salary schedule, said it was an
alternative, new salary approach, not based on merrit pay, tentatively
of three years duration. Three catagories: Entry, new teachers (two
steps), Emerging career teachers ( six steps), Career teachers, (six
steps) Master teachers, slected by UTR and district panel (six steps).
All catagories had three ranges, no separate contract for librarians,
She described the formula:
Year one, no increase.
Year two, pay based on the Base Revenue Limit (BRL) per average daily
attendance, proposal would carve out teacher potion of the money.
Language would stipulate no decrease.
Year three, one time bonus.
Maximum health benefit: $975 month $11,700 year, no spousal benefits on
There would be an early retirement incentive, paid for with money saved
by hiring new teachers.
It would restore 15-23 days balancing period at beginning of school.
It would restore "ratio" language, but have new unstated class size
Why would the district accept this proposal? I am not sure about this
part. I think it is because we are threatening to form a charter school
district. Or was this the contract we would have with the charter
school district? Anyway, at this point the CTA bargaining specialist,
from NOD, Rich Boyd, stepped in to explain how we would negotiate this
We would form a new Charter School district. The Charter school board
would have 1/3 teachers, 1/3 parents, 1/3 community (business). We
would negotiate with this board for salary. Later on he said there
would be no board of education or supervisor to negotiate with, maybe
he meant no WCCUSD board or supervisor. Unclear if the charter board is
an elected board.
Each school would write its own charter.
Teachers expressed amazement. Rich Boyd said "we looked at the books
and there is no money. The district has no money and anyone who watches
the news knows that they cannot raise the money" Later he said that the
community is not sympathetic to lifetime health benefits, people are
losing their jobs, they think the teachers are asking too much.
Pixie said that our retirement health benefits were too expensive, the
district did not have the money. Pixie said,"Numbers show there is no
money for health care".
We went to lunch. Many cautions about how difficult change was to
accept, how we would all talk about this after lunch. Questions
suppressed, unless they were clarifications about the salary proposal,
which was to be proposed to a yet uncreated charter school board?
After lunch: they split us into 3 groups in three separate rooms. Rich
Boyd in my room. He kept saying that we would get the details later. We
requested written outline of the charter process, info about funding
for charter schools, infor about how the teachers would have money
allocated to their school, their programs. We were assured that we
could throw out Open Court, no testing, restore art and music, that no
child would be turned away from any charter school, teachers would
write the curriculum. He told us that we would buy the buildings from
the district. That we would get our full pension on retirement, that
even if the district declared bankruptcy we would get our pension.
Teachers asked "what if the district resisted this charter district?"
Lots of vagueness here. Teachers asked would we be striking to get a
charter district? Unclear answers.
Teachers asked about who would ratify such a proposal- the reps? The
members? Could the union administration call a strike based on a
proposal to make the district into a charter district? Vague assurances
that everything would be fully explained, we would have a member
meeting, all would be revealed and patiently explained to membership.
Then we were cautioned not to go into detail with the membership. The
union was using the threat of a charter district as a negotiating tool.
Do not alarm and confuse the membership with facts, just tell them that
the union had something wonderful it was considering.
We have nothing on paper, no outline of how we would legally create a
new district and take over WCCUSD's resources, nothing on paper but the
"Proposed Salary Schedule". A rep asked for "talking points" on how to
sell this idea to the membership. It was implied that talking to the
membership at this time would ruin the surprise secret weapon (proposal
of a charter school district) negotiations with the district. Then
Pixie said, "We must tell the truth". Then she said we didn't have to
go into detail with the membership, we should wait to tell the
membership after the rep meeting on Wednesday.
Lots of discussion about being positive, about not worrying the
membership, about more details to be revealed on Wednesday, about how
we would be told how to explain the charter school district proposal to
the membership on Wednesday.
Gail Mendes spoke about how she (and Mary, me) were confused because we
thought charters were bad. But this would be a good charter district.
She seriously said we need to call the charter schools some other name
than a charter, so people wouldn't get confused.
We were warned that as bad as the district's offer was at this time,
they were planning to cut away even more from our benefits next year.
That all the numbers showed an even worse crisis next year, there was
no hope for winning a strike, everything they didn't take away this
time they would take away next year. (The contract is for two years,
did not understand this part.)
We were told over and over again how much money there is for charter
schools, how of course we would be unionized with the same pension
coming to us, how there would be no district curriculum.
When I said that charters don't need to accept all students, they said
we would write it into the charter, no child turned away.
When I returned to the subject of the !/3 parents and 1/3 "community"
(Chevron) and 1/3 teacher run board, asking what power they would have,
how they would distribute money, who was to fund them, or if the
charter money was going straight to the schools, who hired teachers,
did they need credentials, etc. Rich Boyd accused me of deliberately
misunderstanding him, started yelling at me. Later a teacher told me I
should not tell the membership anything if I was going to be negative,
that I was disrupting the negotiating process. Teachers asked me if I
had seen the 5 minute 7 frame power point presentation, why was I
repeating questions (unanswered questions), that I was being negative.
Here is what I said:
There are 89 school districts in danger of being administered by a
state trustee or administrator. Money was slashed for UC, state
universities, community colleges. UCB had 5000 people in the street on
Thursday. This is a state malfunctioning, it is a created crisis in
large part, voters are angry and ready to repeal the 2/3 majority
needed to raise revenue initiative, there is a stranglehold on the
state that must be broken, that will be broken. Now is the time to join
with other districts, with the colleges, and support public education.
Now is exactly the time to strike, Californians are outraged at this
situation. There is a statewide school walkout currently being planned.
California is the eighth largest economic entity in the world. We need
an oil severance tax, we need to restore income and corporate taxes on
the top 1% who hold 90% of the wealth.
The Charter school movement has been co-opted by the right wing. They
don't want to pay for public education. Eli Broad, a multi billionaire
who financed Schwartzneger's campaign, has spent tons of money
championing the union busting version of charterschools to undermine
free public education. He has trained the state appointed
administrators in Oakland, and promoted the charter schools as an
alternative to public schools. (Oakland still owes 80 million after 6
years of a state appointed administrator, 50 million more than when the
state administrator was appointed. tThe state gave up in June and
returned the district to the superintendent and the elected school
board to administer OUSD.) The state has a committee that goes around
to the school districts with their accounting software to tell
districts they can't afford their union contracts. WCCUSD's own
trustee, Linda Grundhoffer, is on that committee.
Charter schools cherry-pick students, which weakens the public schools.
A Stanford study has shown that California Charter schools are not more
effective than public schools in educating students. The same people
who brought you Open Court and relentless standardized tests are
promoting the charter school movement.
We were told that the biggest charter school district in California had
only 4 schools in their district, but there is a charter school
district model, In El Paso Texas, that hotbed of progressive education
reform. Also, they claim, in Massachusetts. So we would be the first
Charter School district of any real size in California.
The Green Dot schools in LA, which the LAUSD poured tons of money into,
were brought up as an example of successful charter schools. Yet the LA
teachers' union, UTLA, fought the charter. Although Green Dot is
unionized, it is a separate union from UTLA, offers no tenure or
lifetime benefits. It's contract with LAUSD is a tenth as long as the
UTLA contract. It's teachers are very young. Duffy, the president of
UTLA, said, "Our view of a decent contract is that it will provide
longevity of teaching staff." (May 11, 2009, The New Yorker Magazine.)
How did the LA district get the Green Dot schools?
California lawmakers have created an option for schools to abandon
the district for a charter arrangement if at least 50 % of tenured
teachers vote to secede" (same source)
From Rethinking Schools Magazine, Summer 2008:"Philosophically, the
charter school movement started with several core assumptions. Two are
most important: first, that freedom from bureaucratic rules and union
contracts will foster innovation and improve academic achievement; and
second, that the charter movement's successes will be used to improve
public education overall." (p.12). Charter Schools "can create a
painful wedge in many communities, especially among African Americans;
it can weaken the political will for a collective solution to the
problems in public education; and it can promote the deterioration of
traditional schools....The worse the schools get, the more appealing
the escape to charters and private schools, all of which feeds into the
conservative dream of replacing public education with a free market
system of everyone for themselves, the common good be damned."(p.13)
"One cannot deny that the charter school movement, as a concept, as a
movement, has been hijacked by individuals, groups, and corporations
who are guided by free market principals, often with a hostility to
unions, and who do not necessarily embrace core values of equity,
access, public purpose, and public ownership." (p.13)
A successful charter school takes energy, parent involvement, study,
planning, time. a commitment to serving all students, including special
ed students, those with severe emotional or physical needs, and those
who don't speak English as their first language. It is an enormous
undertaking for each school, and we would be besieged by special
interest parties who would not20have students' or teachers' best
interests at heart.
We need to strike for a decent contract with WCCUSD. Teachers have
gotten where they are by fighting for their rights, we need to unite
with all the other teachers in the same boat (Oakland has not had a
contract for two years). We can't let the district take away the
medical benefits, pile the students into the classroom. We need to
strike and win.
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