Second concern about UESF parcel tax survey – what’s this about community schools?

Here are a few things I know about community schools.

At a UESF meeting earlier this year, it was talked about how the new SF school partly funded by Zuckerberg and Chan, “the Primary School”, will be a community school, and UESF should support (consider supporting? we didn’t vote on it) this effort.  Is the survey asking for UESF members’ support for using parcel tax funds for this school?  Remember only part of the parcel tax money goes to salaries, and part of it goes to the SFUSD.  See my earlier post about who controls how parcel tax funds (tens of millions of dollars) are spent.

Will UESF members be canvassing and phone banking to raise money for a project of two of the richest folks in the world?

WTF?  Hope I’m wrong.

There is a growing movement for community schools across the US and California right now, which is an attempt to support public schools and to push back against the wave of privatization that going on.  The following are two examples.

California Alliance for Community Schools:   UESF is part of this group, although we have mostly opted to NOT participate in state-wide actions.  Here is the link to their founding event, and their platform.  Note that this is not calling for partnerships with billionaires.

We Choose campaign:  This is a rapidly growing campaign initiated by Journey for Justice, a group from Detroit. Here is the platform.  I think they are in 23 states now.  Again no billionaires involved.

It’s a 10% raise – in terms of its cost to SFUSD

One percent of the raise in the second year comes from re-purposed funds from the QTEA parcel tax, taking from one part of your contract at give to another part.  No net cost to SFUSD, but a financial loss to some UESF members.

Somewhere there is a table explaining the changes to QTEA stipends over the next three years.   An officer tells me that each individual teacher would see a small loss from PD stipends, but bigger increase from the raise.  But the title of this post remains true.


Rejecting the TA – two examples

Here are two recent examples of union members rejecting a tentative agreement and getting a significantly better contract as a result.

Cleveland Teachers union 2016-2017:  Cleveland teachers rejected the first tentative agreement brought to them and approved the second one, thereby fighting off most of Republican backed merit pay plan.   They won a better contract.

Fiat Chrysler 2015:   Auto workers succeeded in rejecting a multiple tier system where new hires get less than older employees.  They did this by rejecting the first TA, and then approving a second better contract.


Does rejecting the TA mean a strike?


There are two parallel processes that have to be completed before UESF could legally strike.  One, according to our By-Laws, there have to be two strike authorization votes by the members before the UESF leadership has the authority to call a strike.   Following CA law, a second series of steps has to be completed as well, which are as follows.  If bargaining breaks down (one side or the other gives up on it), then it goes to impasse and a mediator is brought in, who attempts to get the two sides (no longer speaking directly to one another) to reach an agreement. If mediation doesn’t work then a fact finding panel looks at both sides stories and makes a recommendation for settlement.   After that the district may impose its offer, at which point the union my strike.

Rejecting the TA just means that membership tells the bargaining team to go back to the table and try again.  The BT returns to negotiations with a stronger mandate from its members.

Open bargaining – four examples

  1.  Oakland Educator’s Association – bargaining team sends out a one-question survey, the “Question of the Week” to the membership, to inform the decisions that the BT are making.  If UESF did that, they would have asked the membership for guidance on salary demands before dropping them.   I was told that OEA members simply went to the BT and asked for it, so its easy to do and quite possible.   Here is the link to OEA website; scroll down to 10/18/2017 to see a post about a “Question of the Week”.
  2. Fresno Teacher’s Association has groups of union members in the room during bargaining as observers who then return to their sites and talk about it. 

    For example, groups of SpED teachers are in the room when something about SpED is being negotiated.  Many nurses unions do this.

  3. Chicago Teacher Union does it a different way.  The executive officers do the negotiating, but bring any decisions out to the Executive Committee (equivalent to our EBoard) for discussion and approval before making a decision.  This would have been nice!
  4. Concord Teachers Association (Massachusetts) open bargaining strategy is described in this article.  Their first step was to find out what matters to the members.  UESF did exactly this with the Listening Tour two years ago, but it doesn’t seem to have informed our negotiating very much.  According to the Listening Tour UESF members’ top concerns were: affordability, special education staffing and support, real implementation of Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution and student discipline, and the growing expectations and duties.

Special education staffing crisis

Here are some things I have learned.  I know many others know far more, but this is a start.   SFUSD is cutting services to students, when they should be cutting top administrators!

Back last spring, a very smart union activist within UESF explained how SFUSD had changed the “special academic minutes” requirement (?) by one minute, thus allowing them to reclassify a number of students to a lower level of services, and thus to reduce special education staff at school sites.

At the May 10 rally last spring many people came out and were very angry because the consolidations of special ed staff at many (most?) school sites had just been announced.   Based on what special ed staff have told me over the years, it is pretty much impossible to actually provide the services required by the law and that the students need!   So to reduce those services is outrageous!  With less support, the remaining teachers and paras just have to work even harder!   Not to mention that vulnerable students get less of the support that they need.

I attended the June 27, 2017 school board meeting for a different reason, and happened to hear the annual report by the Special Education Community Advisory Committee, and was shocked to hear that according to a request for information (RFI) they had filed with SFUSD, there was a projected loss of 34 SpED certificated positions and 139 SpED classified positions from last year to this year.  And then the district official said the cuts were necessary to pay for anticipated pay raises for teachers!  Here is the committee’s website, and the audio of the school board meeting (relevant part is 25:14 – 26:55).  I think SFUSD considers this to be part of its 3% “cuts to central office”, since special ed funding comes from the central office.   But actually the cuts are to the classroom!

Direct quote by SFUSD SpEd official from the audio,  “The CAC appreciates that our teachers deserve raises, massive raises…but we don’t have an unlimited supply of money and one of the ways the SPED department is doing its part is by changing RSP staffing guidelines and how students wth IEPs are being supported…. based on a public request for information from the District the CAC requested data for 2016-2017 anticipated staffing in SPED ..compared to 2017-18…there will be 39 fewer teacher FTEs , and 134 fewer paras….More and more of the work to support the special ed. kids is going to fall on teachers…big red flag,…they will need training, training, training…”

Later a committee member told me they did not know yet what the staffing levels for special education are for this year.  This person said she wanted special ed staff to report out(to the union?) about services they provide, using “Form 2” from Stetson, the firm that SFUSD hires to monitor SpED services, thereby proving on the district’s own terms that they are under-staffed.   She said they suspect SFUSD is cutting costs by doing this, which is illegal.

I just filed an RFI on SpED staffing levels for this year myself, on Nov 6, and they are required to reply within ten days.   I’ll post what they send.

Please contact the SpED CAC and UESF to report on staffing at your site, but also post somewhere else, if you feel comfortable doing so, so that the word gets out.


Brief Intro

I’m doing this for the first time, and starting it on my own… but I know, from dozens or hundreds of conversations with UESF members, that there is a strong need for greater transparency in our union, for more critical questions, and for much broader involvement of the members in making important decisions. This blog is an attempt to bring the needs of those members out in the open, in hopes we start talking with each other about how to build a more inclusive, open, democratic, and powerful union.