Friday, September 04, 2015

What is Being Said about Possible SPS Teachers' Strike

Update: City's statement about all-day camps at community centers with before/after school care for September 9, 10, 11.

End of update.

Parent Petition in support of teachers.

I want to start with the ever-smart Kellie LaRue who is a long-time watcher of this district and knows minutiae I couldn't even comprehend.

Now that there is a little extra money, it should go directly to the teachers. That should be a no-brainer.

In the case of SPS building staff, teachers and administrative staff, to say that they have been asked to do more for less, is very much an understatement. 

Teacher salaries have fallen behind as a result of six years of no COLA. At a bare minimum, a catch-up COLA should be a top priority.

Under the old Weighted STUDENT Formula (WSF), schools were funded based on every single student in the building. Under the current Weighted Staffing Formula, buildings are just allocated a certain amount of staff.

That change may not appear like much on the surface. However, when most of the SPS buildings are stuffed to the gills and then some, this budget change means that many schools have 10% fewer staff than if staffing were allocated by the number of students in the building.

I ran the numbers a few years ago and it was truly shocking. At my students' elementary school, I had calculated under the old formula, there would have been 5 additional adults in the building.

A comment from the Times' editorial that appeared today said this about those exhorting a judge to threaten to jail the teachers basically said, 
"Well, if a judge says he will jail striking teachers, then a union lawyer has the right to ask why members of the Legislature are not being jailing for refusing to do as the Supreme Court has said about McCleary."
 As for the Times editorial, they make it all about the Benjamins, baby.  Now let's be adults and admit (shhh, don't tell the kids) that yes, most of life IS all about money but that isn't the entire story here.  We all know that and if you don't, you have not been paying attention.

First, the Times claims that our state is in an educational "crisis" and yet don't quite define how/why.  (They also claim that the kids were looking forward to going to school on Wednesday and those teachers are dashing their hopes.  As a former kid, I can only say that I ALWAYS had mixed feelings about the start of school.  I never wanted summer to end.)

The Times claims the amount of money the district is offering is good AND:

A raise is reasonable given district plans to extend the school day and Seattle’s increasing cost of living.

Yes, a raise is reasonable but they don't mention that that extra half-hour is NOT being paid for and that the amount the district is offering is nowhere that helpful to the costs of living in Seattle. 

Here's some of what I said in my own comment at the Times:

- the Times also leaves out how many, many parents are upset over recess/lunch times, particularly for low-income students where the recess/lunch times are less than the rest of the district. Who asks kids to get their lunch and eat it in 15-20 minutes? That's nuts.
- the Legislature has dragged its feet over McCleary so now is not the time to be chiding teachers over that one. That one is solely and completely the Legislature's fault.
You won't get quality education with under-paid, overworked teachers (and yes, they are both things). You won't get quality education with packed classrooms (many of them portables) and yet that is the situation in Seattle Schools. You won't get quality education when teachers see counselors and nurses cut at their schools and yet the district awards raises to senior staff, most of whom are making 6-figures already? And the district administration continues to grow - new "Chief of Schools" anyone?
The union has worked far more in good faith than the district. In fact, as a long-time district watcher, I have my suspicions about how this has all come about. It looks like some people trying to trump up a crisis rather than work in good faith.


Anonymous said...

How much is the admin budget and salaries going up year after year? That should be proportional to the teacher budget and salaries, whatever percentage that may be.


mirmac1 said...

NNNCr, ya know, I'm having a really hard time getting SPS to turn over its Central budget via public disclosure....

What do they have to hide?

Anonymous said...

What could they have to hide? It really hurts their negotiations doesn't it?

GarfieldMom said...

I can't find the info now, but I recall that sometime very recently (under Banda I think?), many central admin staff were given raises to bring their salaries up to "market rate." The district has also added many new positions -- high paying positions -- recently as well. It must be nice to be able to just decide that these are needed positions and salary increases that will be funded without having to answer to anyone for the money spent or forgo things like paper and pencils to afford them.

I really don't think I could roll my eyes any harder at this district.

Anonymous said...

thank you for the above post.

When I started teaching in the mid 2000's the cap load in my classroom was 6 students 2 IAs. I work with students who have significant challenges. To start the year this year- I have 11, 2 IAs..maybe. To say I have learned to make do with less is an understatement.

When I started, IEP's were actually hand written, 6 pages. Most of my IEPS are now 25 pages, plus. There is benefit to this increase, but it takes time, lots of it.

the supports? though the district says they have increased special education funding and supports, I don't see them in the classroom, at all. Administration? I'd love a document showing the spending and how its changed over the past 10 years.

Thinking of a move

Anonymous said...

And as to central admin pay, I believe that more then a few of the "supervisors" do not even have "supervisor endorsement" or an administrative certificate........` not that that would make a difference in their practice. I assume that they get paid as if they are endorsed, though. Why?


Anonymous said...

Thinking of a Move, Sped teacher, no other district has lower self contained ratios than Seattle, eg lower than 8:1:2. So, you aren't going to move your way into better staffing. You need to actively resist overages, and definitely file paperwork to be paid for it. Special central office has been richly funded. Extra directors. 3 of them. No experience. Lots of supervisors. All 6 figure salaries. For what? Assigning students to schools? Then, there's there's program specialists. They are paid the same as teachers, but what do they do? Lie to families and staff about seats available, and options for students. That is, they get paid to lie. They lie to make sure each chair in special ed, has a butt sitting in it. And they will do anything to keep those butts in those chairs, no matter what the child attached to the butt is learning. They are only interested in butts. Butt management. That's why special ed has more than 100 people in administration. They surely do not care about brains. Sure, managing butts is a job. But only around 2000 students receive special programs beyond resource room, which is available in every school. Do we need an expensive educracy to play special ed musical chairs? I don't think so. Butt management should take no more than 20 staff, for the 2000 who are subjected to it.

Free the Hostages

Greeny said...

@NNNCr - I'm with ya in spirit, but not the method - the math won't pencil out. The teachers have taken it in the wallet AND emotionally these past years. matching %increases to downtown% increases doesn't come close to closing the gap created by years of HQ over-inflated salary increases and management structure bloat. Turning the incoming (what...$40MM this year?) straight over to the front line troops just gets us closer to the starting line, IMHO.

And, @mirmac1, if you also get your hands on an itemization of the total (ie. our education) funds required instead for legal settlements and payouts in recent past and potential future (including English'and Nyland's full comp/severance package values) - I'd like to see THAT total $$ at least MATCHED and added to the funding pie slice negotiated for going to the teachers.

My strong support of McCleary has always been tempered by the alarming thought (to me, anyway) that any funds gained would come first through SPS central administration....

btw, anyone know who's writing HQ/Nyland's PR? These negotiation "updates" have been impressive spin docs....

ProSleep Mom said...

SEA tweeted tonight that the "District has agreed to guarantee 30 minutes of recess- major victory for Seattle students".
It is a major victory- but an odd one. Isn't this already the District policy- but one that they had refused to enforce?
I thank all the recess/lunch advocates for their work on this on behalf of all the students- and maybe they can clarify what the current policy is compared to what will go into the CBA. I hope the 30 minutes will now become a reality.

Lynn said...

There's been no recess policy in the past. I've heard nothing about enforcing the 20 minutes for lunch policy either.

Joe Wolf said...

Reply to NNNCr:

I am one of the admin staff you think so highly of.

In my (so far) 3 1/2 years of employment at SPS, I've received neither a raise nor a COLA.

Melissa - it would be awesome if you called out falsehoods like this "admin staff get raises while teachers don't" narrative. Thanka.

Anonymous said...

SPS has offered on several occasions for SEA to see their budget and SEA declined. Only in the last week or so did they request numbers. Pretty irresponsible to have so many asks on the table and not really have a grasp of the budget and where things are going.

I heard that the 30 min recess is separate from lunch. And that teachers will be expected to supervise it across the district - which is an equity issue. In the past, wealthier schools could hire parents or get volunteers to supervise while the poorer schools couldn't. This way it is equal for all teachers and all students.

I don't actually believe recess is a contract issue, but rather a district policy issue. It is not the union's place to decide how the district runs things. The union should only be dealing with working conditions and compensation. While I agree that recess is needed, it's unfortunate our board didn't do their job with it and left it for the negotiators to figure out.

I am a teacher with plenty of friends and colleagues in admin downtown. They are not the big wigs, but they haven't seen COLAs or raises for years. When the district made up the state COLAs for the past several years, admin didn't get them.

More Info

n said...

Administration of SPS is too big. It's not just high paychecks which the top tier certainly do have. Unreasonably high. Principals as well. Also, admin people aren't juggling twenty-five to a hundred-fifty kids every day. There's a difference between teaching and desk jobs. I've had both. I work harder these days - much, much harder. BTW, do you Joe get one trash bucket in your office area? Even so, one trash can in an office of adults is a lot different than one trash can in a classroom of twenty-thirty kids.

@More info: I work at a stable, higher end school and we do not have the budget nor a parent community that wants to do recess duty. Believe me, we've tried to get it but teachers are out there every day and mornings because we do not have enough support personnel to help out. Poorer schools usually have many more support people and, in my experience, they do the recesses.

I'm pretty tired of it. I rush through the day trying to get in mounds of curriculum which doesn't come in neat little packages anymore but thick manuals of mass reading and core standards which leave it to teachers to teach. I spend time in useless PD that I could use planning a really good lesson and preparing materials. I have a principal who loves to talk and takes every single minute possible for every meeting on the calendar. No time ever to work in the classroom - a principal who thinks cute fun activities are the way to get us "happier" when in fact a little support, understanding and even knowledge about what we do would go much further.

And recess may be a District issue but when you have principals making those decisions, they are no longer just "policy" but become a union issue.

And Patrick, maybe the trash isn't a huge issue but it may be for me the straw on the camel's back.

kellie said...

@ more info

Unfortunately, recess is a contract issue, not a policy issue at this point.

When schools were funded under the Weighted Student Formula, funds for recess were allocated on a per student basis. When the shift was made to the Weighted Staffing Standards, the underlying math of the baseline office allocations was ONE lunch shift and ONE one recess shift.

That made a certain kind of logic at the time when the average elementary school had about 300 students and had one lunch slot and all-grade recess. However, as schools have grown far past their capacity, many schools have been required to have 2, 3 or even 4 lunch shifts as well as needing to have multiple recess times.

In other words, under the original formula, it was presumed that office staff would assist with lunch and recess for one hour of their work day (30 minute lunch recess and two 15 recesses). However, two shifts is now two hours and there is no corresponding additional staff allocation. Now that might seem small. However, when you add that as a mandatory-must-do, and then consider that the split shifts are a result of an additional 100 kids in the building, with the corresponding additional work ... then ... you have a tremendous amount of pressure to just skip recess.

All of these capacity issues are contract issues because they directly impact the both the quality of education as well as the work environment.

kellie said...

@ Joe,

The narrative about administrative raises is largely tied to the major "market pay" adjustment that was done for "some" senior staff about two years ago as well as the $1M in administrative raises that was recently approved.

You are very correct to point out that while those pay increases have gotten a lot of attention, they were not uniformly applied to everyone at JSEE.

When the recession first started and the state legislature was making budget cuts, I heard Frank Chopp say that they were prioritizing preserving education spending. This was because when a recession turns, it typically takes two years for social services money to be restored but it often takes up to ten years for education dollars to be restored.

After many years of budget cuts, there are lots and lots of places where COLAs have been neglected. IMHO, restoring COLAs should be prioritized over any new initiatives.

Also, IMHO, the work you and your team does is student-facing work. Bringing all the new homerooms online is serious educational work and should be treated accordingly as funding is restored.