As a taxpayer, a TUSD parent and a Governing Board candidate I know that a school district that doesn’t take care of its teachers isn’t taking care of its students. While the TUSD board majority touts its support for and from teachers, that’s becoming just another chapter of fiction in this election year.
Now TUSD teachers are taking voice! Despite the district’s best efforts to “explain” (justify) the abuses, the sleeping bear is waking up. At the last board meeting, one teacher spoke of the lack of support and overwhelming class sizes. Another (once-retired) teacher was told that the contract she signed that guaranteed that she would receive the same benefits as every other teacher was “a mistake.” And finally, there was the silent picket line of teachers demanding fairness in the use of Proposition 301 money.
I strongly supported their courageous actions at the last meeting, and I will continue speaking to it until it is resolved. When the voters levied a small statewide sales tax increase for education (Proposition 301) it was designated for teachers. We were trying to make up for our state Legislature, which doesn’t seem to care enough about education to fund it well. By now we all know the story of the state sweeping those funds when they needed to. How many of us know that the district too has been sweeping those teacher funds?
The teachers are rightfully protesting about the part of the funds that go to performance pay: while they have watched the superintendent regularly receive his performance bonuses, theirs have been stashed away in a district bank account. The district spent valuable classroom money on a newspaper ad to, unsuccessfully, refute Star columnist Tim Steller’s article shedding light on its practices. But now the actual dates and times when the district borrowed money from the 301 funds have been uncovered through careful examination of the districts’ own 2013, 2014 and 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) which are voted on annually by the board. Those “loans” were for $6 million, $10 million and $12.2 million respectively. These revelations were discovered by a retired teacher who specializes in “forensic” accountability.
The point is that this board majority and the superintendent they follow have not been good to either staff (who they continually try to privatize) or teachers as a whole. During the Superintendent H.T. Sanchez regime, they knowingly used teacher performance pay funds to balance the budget, all the while paying him exorbitant performance bonuses. The teachers’ association is scrambling to set up emergency meetings with teachers but it may be too little too late. Already there are teachers who are “cutting back” to only contracted hours, and there are very large numbers of teacher absences taking place.
This school board election could be a turnaround. We could implement the will of the voters and finally show teachers the respect they deserve. Our students, families and taxpayers deserve honest leadership that matches words with action.