I have been a teacher in the Sacramento City Unified School District for 10 years. I am also the parent of two young students in the district.
This year I wanted to become part of our union’s bargaining team because the district was in such a strong financial position, contrary to the lean years of the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath.
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Our union expanded our bargaining team to include a wide variety of certificated staff. Many have never been involved in bargaining. Our goal was to work with district administrators to “Make Sac City the Destination District for California.”
But the district didn’t really want our involvement. Our first bargaining session was Oct. 11, 2016, at 4 p.m. Rather than welcome me and my co-workers who were there on our time after a full day of teaching, the district’s negotiating team fought unsuccessfully to keep us out.
After 17 bargaining sessions, I now understand why. What we have seen over the past six months at the bargaining table has been startling.
Based on the district’s own audited financial statements, we have seen that the district’s revenues increased by 41 percent, or more than $103 million per year over the last four years. Its reserve fund increased by over 400 percent, to $98 million – enough to fix the Oroville Dam, and 10 times the amount required by the state.
Sac City Unified is in the best financial position in its history. For the first time this century, the enrollment has increased.
Unfortunately, the district is stuck in the recessionary past. We have offered forward-thinking proposals – reducing class sizes, increasing the number of school nurses and psychologists, creating an inclusive restorative practices culture to address racial inequities, improving special education, and adding arts, music and physical education for all students. The district has rejected every single one. It cites “budget priorities” and “fiscal inability to take on additional costs.”
But the district’s “fiscal inability to increase costs” is selective. For instance, in the last two years, the district increased the number of administrators from 190 to 251, an increase of 32 percent. Net spending on administrators’ salaries has increased while decreasing on net spending on teachers, facts detailed in a March 27 article in The Bee.
Today, more than 2,000 students are being taught by teachers who aren’t fully credentialed because of unfilled vacancies.
While teacher vacancies go unfilled, the district spent $175,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim against the principal at Hiram Johnson. After he was removed as principal the superintendent created what appears to be a no-show, six-figure job for him, a scandal reported in The Bee.
The district also paid over $2,000 to fix the superintendent’s car (in addition to his $290,000 salary), and it has spent as much on the outside labor law firm for these negotiations as it would cost to add four classroom teachers for an entire school year.
As teachers, we know we can make Sac City into the destination district for California.
As a parent, the district’s argument that it doesn’t have money rings hollow.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the public school system our students deserve. The district’s slogan is: “Put Students First!” It needs to be more than the words on a letterhead.
Victoria Carr teaches seventh grade at Fern Bacon Middle School in the Sacramento City Unified School District. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.