Thursday, September 24, 2020

Choose Democracy : Resist Authoritarianism

Choose Democracy: We can stop an undemocratic power grab, but only if we prepare and together, choose democracy.

Democracy is fragile. We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab — a coup. We also know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we may have to do the same in this country.

Elections work because the public agrees to honor the results. Similarly, coups work only if the public honors them. When the public refuses to accept the coup as legitimate, coups fall apart. Refusal looks like millions of people using nonviolent tools to delegitimize the coup by demonstrating, resisting orders, and shutting down the country until democracy prevails.

That’s why we are committing now to choose democracy: by voting, making sure all the votes are counted, and preparing to take the streets in the case of a coup.

Together, we choose democracy.

We will vote.
We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted.
We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted.
If we need to, we will shut down this country to protect the integrity of the democratic process


Saturday, September 19, 2020

CUSD Ends the 2019-20 school year with a huge $23 million surplus after originally projecting a $12.3 million deficit, a turnaround of $35.5 million

This marks the eighth consecutive year of grossly inaccurate budget projections by SCUSD administrators

Reserve fund hits highest mark ever at $93 million

The Chief Business Officer of the Sacramento City Unified School District, Rose Ramos reported to the SCUSD board of education last night that the Sac City schools finished the 2019-20 school year with a large surplus of cash and record reserves. 

Only last month, SCUSD administrators, along with the Dave Gordon of the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) were predicting that the district would run a massive deficit, be out of cash in February 2021 and face state takeover next year.

Contrary to the bleak forecasts presented to the public in August, the “2019-20 Year End Financial Unaudited Actuals” report documents that SCUSD ended the 2019-20 school year with a surplus of $23,113,422.98. 

In July 2019, the district projected it would end the 2019-20 school year with a $12,344,416.83 deficit — a $35.5 million turnaround from the district’s dire predictions. 

Just as significantly, SCUSD now has $93,048,610.81 in its reserve fund, $82 million more than the minimum reserve fund required by the state.
“Parents, teachers and business leaders have been bombarded with ‘the sky is falling in’ messages coming out of the budget office that are parroted by both the school board and the Sacramento County Office of Education year after year,” said Sacramento City Teachers Association President David Fisher, who also is a SCUSD parent. “Every year SCUSD goes through this exercise of telling the public that it is running out of cash and better cut programs, only to end with ‘never mind, we actually ran a surplus.’”

It is the eighth year in a row that the District's financial projections have been wildly inaccurate, falsely painting a picture of SCUSD on the brink of fiscal insolvency. Among other accounting problems, a budget officer previously hired by the school board based on recommendations from Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, was forced to step down in 2019 when it was revealed SCUSD forgot to count five of the district’s schools, a $25-million mistake.

The chart below captures 8 years of inaccurate projections by the District. This looks at the unrestricted funds. The $93 million reserve fund is the combination of restricted and unrestricted funds.
It's Time for A Leadership Change at SCUSD

In 46 days, voters have an opportunity to remake the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education. Four out of seven board of education seats are up for election.

There are four outstanding candidates who are running, each of whom has been endorsed by SCTA, SEIU Local 1021, the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento County Democratic Party. They are:
Lavinia Grace Phillips, a social worker for Sacramento's Child Protective Services and the president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association is running for SCUSD school board inArea 7. The incumbent is Jessie Ryan.

Friday, September 18, 2020

SCUSD No Longer Insolvent ? They Found the Money ??

How is it that SCUSD is no longer insolvent ? 

 Perhaps it is because the inappropriately took the money from the LCFF directed to English Language Learners and used it to cover their budget shortfall.


As we described to the Board  each year for the last 4 yearsl



Less than one month after the Sacramento City Unified School District announced it will run out of cash in Feb. 2021, citing a $40 million deficit, both the district and an independent fiscal adviser said this week that the district serving more than 40,000 students likely won’t go insolvent that soon.

Instead, the financially distressed district and FCMAT, the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, said the district is closer to having a $20 million surplus, due to savings from the coronavirus pandemic and overbudgeting on the district’s part.

The district is still in trouble down the road and will likely go insolvent. Mike Fine, chief executive officer at FCMAT, said it’s not a matter of if, but when.


Read more here:




Monday, September 14, 2020

Teachers- California Prop 15 Will Tax the Rich for School Funding

Overturning Austerity 101: California’s Prop 15 Will Tax the Rich

Fred Glass
August 24, 2020
Labor Notes

“We’ve got to be able to pass Schools and Communities First, as one measure, and then come back with another measure, and another, so that we make the rich pay their fair share.”

California’s November ballot will feature a challenge to the notorious Proposition 13, which in 1978 helped to inaugurate the decades-long neoliberal assault on labor.

Prop 13’s anti-tax, small government campaign, with a dog-whistle racist subtext, created a national template for conservatives to simultaneously attack public sector unions, public employees, and the people they served. For the right wing, this was the lab experiment for Austerity 101.

In a time of high inflation, Prop 13 exploited fear—older homeowners on fixed incomes were afraid that rising taxes would drive them out of their homes. It rolled back assessments to 1975 rates, set property taxes at 1 percent of value, and capped increases at 2 percent per year, no matter the inflation rate or the increase in market price of the property. When it passed, grandma breathed more easily.

But grandma was not the biggest beneficiary of Prop 13. The same rules applied to commercial property—including giant corporate-owned properties like Chevron and Disney. The consequent plunge in property tax revenues to local and state government forced enormous cuts to social programs and schools, led to layoffs of public employees, and established a new normal in the Golden State, described by former California Federation of Teachers president Raoul Teilhet as “poor services for poor people.”


Prop 15 is the long-awaited answer to this disaster. It’s the product of a 10-year-old coalition of unions and community groups, now known as Schools and Communities First, with a couple of previous progressive tax victories under its belt. Prop 15’s passage will mean commercial property is assessed at current market value, not purchase price, for tax purposes. In a non-COVID year that change will raise $10 to $12 billion for schools and local services. In the Pandemic Depression, it will mean a bulwark against soaring class sizes and public sector layoffs due to plunging tax revenues.

Carefully crafted after years of opinion research funded by public sector unions, it exempts commercial property below $3 million and all residential property, including rental units. It also eliminates a tax on business equipment that mostly affected small businesses.

The bulk of the campaign’s funding comes from two of the biggest unions in the state, the California Teachers Association (affiliated with the NEA) and the state council of the Service Employees (SEIU). But the backbone for the coalition over the years has been three organizations that spearheaded a Millionaires Tax ballot campaign in 2011: the California Federation of Teachers (the other statewide teacher union, affiliated with the AFT), California Calls, and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

They have been joined in the Schools and Communities First coalition by virtually the entire labor movement, as well as hundreds of community, civil, and immigrant rights organizations, and a seemingly odd bedfellow or two like the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife.

Although the measure is opposed by the usual suspects like the California Chamber of Commerce and the right-wing Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, some large commercial property owners like Facebook stand to gain from the measure: Prop 15 would level the playing field that currently gives an unfair tax advantage to older businesses that purchased their properties decades ago.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted signature gathering, initially causing worries whether the measure would qualify for the ballot, in fact the coalition had already pulled in a record-breaking 1.7 million signatures by the end of March. This was due to the scope of the coalition and a massive volunteer effort alongside paid signature collection.


Until the coronavirus put a stop to it, I staffed a table on campus along with other members of my union, AFT 2121, which represents faculty at City College of San Francisco. One union sibling, Kathe Burick, a dance instructor, said, “I’ve never had such an easy time filling petitions. Students, staff, faculty, even administrators—as soon as they heard what Prop 15 would do, they signed.” Local 2121 contributed 1,600 signatures to the CFT’s 20,000. In all the campaign’s volunteers collected 225,000.

Passage of Prop 15 is not a slam dunk. By their nature progressive tax measures attract well-funded enemies who, in addition to their war chests, have few scruples about lying to the electorate. On August 6 a judge ruled that the election information guide mailed by the Secretary of State to every registered voter had to be changed to eliminate “false or misleading” arguments by opponents. One claimed Prop 15 would allow the legislature to raise taxes on homeowners.

Another common tactic is to muddy the waters by implying that the tax in question will affect everyone. Undaunted by the judge’s decision, a spokesperson for the opposition commented, “This one will be won once voters know that Prop 15 is a $12.5 billion tax increase they can’t afford.”

In fact Prop 15 will draw 92 percent of its revenues from just 10 percent of commercial property holders, a reflection of the concentration of wealth in a state that, if a country, would contain the world’s fifth-largest economy—yet can’t seem to find money to properly resource its schools and services.

In addition to the usual flood of misleading advertising, Yes on 15 activists face the challenges of a pandemic election. Without the ability to canvass in person, the campaign will have to rely on phone banking, text banking, virtual house meetings, and the like. It remains to be seen whether labor’s grassroots “people power” can be channeled as effectively as usual under such conditions. But the need and the momentum for progressive taxes are real.

The California Labor Federation emerged from its annual convention the first week in August—held on Zoom—with solid commitments on two November ballot initiatives: Yes on 15 and No on 22. The latter is an attempt by Uber and Lyft to reverse legislation passed earlier in the year that reclassified drivers from contractor status to employees.

Speaking at a recent Zoom rally for Prop 15 hosted by California chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, United Teachers of Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz said, “We’ve got to be able to pass Schools and Communities First, as one measure, and then come back with another measure, and another, so that we make the rich pay their fair share.”

Fred Glass is the retired communications director of the California Federation of Teachers, and the author of From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement (UC Press, 2016).

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Why Can't They Just Get Along ? Union Teachers v SCUSD Administration

 Many in Sacramento are frustrated and angry about the continuing conflict between the Sacramento City Teachers Assoc, and the SCUSD Superintendent and Board of Education.  Families are being disrupted and children are having their school schedules scrambled.

So, what is going on ? 

To find the District view, read the Sacramento Bee and particularly Marcos Breton.  He opines regularly.

I wanted to hear the teachers' side. So,  at a meeting of the Communities Priority Coalition, I asked David Fisher, President of SCTA to explain the issues.  I got an explanation I could understand.  Here it is.

At its heart, our dispute can be boiled down to one major difference. It's not a dispute about the length of teachers' workday, or teacher pay, it's about providing the best instruction to address student needs and foster a love of learning. In a brick and mortar setting, teachers have the ability to use their professional expertise and judgement to provide an education based on the individual needs of their students. Rather than extend that respect for the professional judgement of teachers to the distance learning setting, SCUSD administrators, with no direct experience teaching in a distance learning environment, are trying to impose a rigid, overly scripted learning model that devalues teachers' professional judgement. It's a choice of quality, rather than simply quantity.

Other districts have been more respectful to the experience of teachers. Here is what one assistant superintendent from Folsom Cordova Unified who "placed his full faith in the teachers" had to say: "Teachers are the educational experts. They went through a lot of training, a lot of college, and a lot of credentialing classes on how to engage kids and help them with their learning."

There's no reason such a respect for teachers should not apply in Sac City as well.

We are moving forward teaching every day to the best of our abilities based on the needs of our students but we want the learning experience to be much better than it was in the Spring.

Last Spring the District unilaterally implemented their proposal without any input from educators at all. It was unclear what the expectations were and was inconsistent at best. 

We want this fall to be much better with much clearer expectations based on input from those who are charged with implementing the instruction. That is why we pushed so hard for training that the District only finally agreed to a few hours before the day began.

That is also why our current proposal including our schedules were developed by hundreds of teachers from every school site and segment. We considered our experience in the Spring, expert recommendations by the American Association or Pediatricians and the W.H.O, we reviewed research on sleep patterns of teenagers, as well as looked at what other Districts were doing and what was working and what wasn't. 

The teachers on our bargaining team believe their ethical obligation requires them to teach in the manner that is in the best interest of students.  In addition we have received feedback from hundreds of parents, teachers and community members who prefer our more flexible, comprehensive proposal.

As far as the schedules, we are in agreement with our District that the total instructional minutes are the same as recommended by the CDE and the same that most districts also have. While there is some variance in other districts around required live screen time, most other districts give teachers the same discretion they have in a brick and mortar setting to divide their instructional minutes between whole group, small group and independent practice.

For example Folsom Cordova has no minimum required synchronous minutes and leaves it up to the discretion of the individual teachers based on student needs.

San Juan requires 45-65 synchronous minutes at elementary level.

Our proposal requires a much higher minimum of (110 1-3) and 120 synchronous minutes at the elementary level (4-12) and gives the teachers flexibility to increase the minutes for those students who need extra support.

As far as standards and assessments, all teachers will continue to use standards to guide their instruction and will assess students appropriately just like they always have.

It's also important to emphasize that the decision to propose our schedules was not made by me or only a handful of leaders, it was a unanimous Decision of our 85 member bargaining team and by hundreds of school site representatives elected by their peers at each school. 

I could not unilaterally make that decision nor change that decision even if I wanted to. And for some additional context, after discussion with other local association leaders, they all said they would never sign on to our District's overly rigid proposal as written. Natomas even went so far as to take a strike vote to make sure they got an acceptable plan and Folsom Cordova didn't have an agreement until about two weeks into their school year.

All that being said our teachers are committed to, and will continue to teach our hearts out to the best of our abilities with or without the trust or respect of our district leadership. And instead of ignoring the disparities in the schools we proposed multiple options for meeting the needs of students that are unable to connect during the live screen time instruction. Unfortunately the District has rejected those ideas. 

David Fisher
President SCTA 
Phone: 916-452-4591
Fax: 916-452-4675

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