That’s the point. It goes like this: Teaching is touching life.
In the Fall of 1979, I enrolled in Mrs. Rhodes’ kindergarten class at Viejo Elementary School. Yet my journey from Viejo to Niguel Hills Junior High to graduating from Capistrano Valley High School in 1992 continues to this very day as I’ve had the honor and joy of teaching at my alma mater for the past 13 years. My teachers and administrators-—now colleagues—-have shaped me and catapulted me into adulthood. Even in the midst of the teaching profession I underestimate the impact of educators on the learning and overall trajectory of the life of a child. Study after study shows that the combined efforts of family and the teacher form the most important variable for academic and, eventually, vocational success.
Teachers have a great life. We work 185 days out of the year, have unrivaled job security, solid retirement pensions, enjoy winter, spring and summer breaks and we get to swim in the waters of youth and vitality…for a living! However, the demands of the task have intensified greatly. Especially in Southern Orange County, economic and social forces have led to higher rates of two-parent incomes, divorce, addiction, illegal immigration, learning disabilities and the onset of rapid technological change (think texting, Facebook, video games & a multiplicity of cable channels) has birthed acute distraction and fragmentation in students.
And on top of all that, a recession has led to a $34 million budget shortfall for our school district. The teachers and school Board have been locked in a bargaining and PR battle over the past year, culminating in a contract imposed by the Board 3 weeks ago that permanently reduces teacher compensation by 10.1% over the next 3 years. This is much different than the non-binding proposal offered by the neutral arbitrator during the fact-finding process. On Friday, 87% of teachers in the Capistrano Unified School District voted to give the union the green light to call a strike in the coming days and weeks.
We teachers understand the vicious effects of the recession on the lives of Californians who are suffering a 12.6% unemployment rate, $20 billion budget deficit and an ongoing housing foreclosure crisis. We see these effects, in a myriad of manifestations, everyday in our classrooms. We understand that we, too, need to take a pay cut during this downturn. Yet, we do not agree that the Board’s
1. Despite what they are claiming, the Board is not inviting the union back to the table to negotiate, but instead to "participate" in a non-bargaining process known as "a memorandum of understanding" which would simply put the Board's stamp on it with the appearance of both parties agreeing to it.
2. The Board is doing something that no other school Board in Orange County is doing during this tough economic time: unilaterally imposing permanent pay cuts.
3. The Board continues to hide behind claims that the imposed contract is "the best thing for kids." We should leave the kids out of it. I think the consistent actions from just about everyone of us in the education profession reveals, day in, day out, how much we care about kids. Our work speaks for itself. The burden of proof is definitely on this Board's tangled web of agendas.
4. A teacher's salary and benefits package does not reflect the number of hours committed to "extra-curricular" commitments like sports teams, grading, clubs, communication with parents, etc. In my own situation, I was compensated about $2500 for work from mid-July to mid-November as the assistant cross country coach this year. This is a Mon-Sat commitment, including meets, that probably cumulated 300 hours of work on top of the 5 academic classes that I teach. Again, I share this not as a complaint but as a sample of the kind of work that goes into the teaching profession.
5. The teachers' union is using the neutral, non-binding, fact-finding proposal as its basic framework for negotiations. This represents a common-sense compromise that the Board has completely neglected.
Like parenting, the teaching profession is a vital and universal aspect of our humanity. Teachers and parents together form us during our most sensitive and impressionable years and everyone remembers a teacher who has made an important impact on our lives. We teachers are called on to have a precious blend of wisdom and innocence in the midst of a world of ravenous influences on our young. We, the teachers of CUSD, are moving towards this final, dramatic show of solidarity because of the deeply unnecessary measures that the CUSD Board has taken by refusing a good faith negotiation. We covet your creative and consistent support in the days (hopefully not weeks) ahead. Will you stand with us?