'Students are being used as bargaining chips'

Nearly 100 teachers gathered at Stoneridge Mall on Tuesday afternoon to participate in a "grade-in."

One of several actions to draw attention to a "state of emergency week," teachers from San Ramon, Danville, Pleasanton and Dublin graded homework and displayed placards that read "Ask me what I'm doing."

"We want to make sure that we've done something, that we won't just stand idly by for the budget that will basically kill us," said Ann Katzburg, a second grade teacher and vice president of the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA).

Katzburg and her colleagues were demonstrating their concern about a projected all-cuts budget, which could mean a potential loss of funding ranging from $10 million to more than $25 million for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD). The cuts could result in increased class sizes and a significantly shorter school year.

"The bottom line is we're at a stalemate when it comes to convincing republican representatives about tax extensions," said Laura Finco, a teacher at Stone Valley Middle School in Alamo. "Students are being used as bargaining chips."

In order to raise awareness about the need to extend temporary taxes, which are set to expire in June, teachers are participating several local demonstrations and an area-wide rally in San Francisco's Civic Center on Friday.

"The budget cuts that we're facing are unprecedented and our schools are at a point where we're falling off a cliff," said San Ramon resident Nancy Vandell, vice president of education and legislation for the 32nd district PTA. "We're trying to raise awareness among the public, help them understand that this isn't business as usual. If we don't extend the temporary revenue set to expire June 30, our schools are facing another $5 billion worth of cuts to education, on top of $18 billion worth of cuts that have happened over the past three years."

Vandell said the PTA is also spearheading a letter-writing campaign to those legislators who aren't supportive of the tax extension. Local legislators are supportive of the tax extension.

"We're trying to raise awareness among the public, help them understand that this isn't business as usual. I think what's important for the public to understand is they won't be paying any more taxes then they have in the past two years," she said.

SRVUSD teachers will also take turns "camping" in front of the state capital from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to "promote as much alertness and activity as possible so the legislators can see how serious we are and how concerned we are about an all cuts budget."

"As a teacher, I can no longer meet the individual needs at the level that I did before. We're doing more with less because we have great teachers, but it's taking its toll," Katzburg said.

California is already ranked 43rd or 47th (depending on the source) in per-pupil spending in the country. If taxes aren't extended, Superintendent Steven Enoch said the state could lose an additional $300 to 900 in funding per student.

"At some point, it could be soon, we will see the impact of these cuts. We have managed to hold them off because we've received federal stimulus money. We have been very prudent in the management of this district, so we've built up some reserves, but… we would completely burn through those next year," he said.

"I think this is potentially a turning point for this state. I worry that we're perhaps being short sighted by not adequately educating our population in the way that this state and this nation is clearly going to need for our kids to compete in this world."


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Posted by Tired of the game
a resident of Danville
on May 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm

My suggestions for the budget crisis:

1. Repeal prop 13.
2. Do not pass the DREAM Act.
3. The state can quit NCLB guidelines and refuse the miniscule federal funding. What the state would save in testing fees would offest the tiny bit of Fed dollars for NCLB. (other states have done this)
4. Use the funds saved from non-standardized test driven education to educate students to become 21st century citizens, not just technology driven and circle filling in robots.
5. Vote out ALL members of the CA Assembly who are up for re-election in the next election. And continue to do it until the figure out a solution to the problem the people of CA have created (more props anyone?)
6. Do not allow students to attend public schools if they are undocumented. (financial drain-not a racist statement...I don't care if they are from Eastern Europe, China, Mexico, Indoneisa, Philippines)
7. Stop signing petitions at Trader Joes and other grocery stores. These initiatives create expenses that divert money from education and the general fund.

Then, let's get serious about student achievement. Enoch didn't point out that CA is 48/50 in that, the most important criteria in education. Most inner city schools receive more money than suburban/rural schools and they don't have higher student achievement. SRVUSD is one of the best performing districts in the state. They are stuck with the old rural funding which puts them below surrounding districts in allocated state funds.

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Posted by Duffy
a resident of Danville
on May 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

If I thought this had anything to do with educating our students and raising California from a third world status to first in the nation in education, I would certainly support it!

Like this comment
Posted by Highlander
a resident of Montair Elementary School
on May 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

Students First, unions last

1. Ban teacher's unions;
2. Ban tenure;and
3. Grant vouchers to all parents

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Posted by LMP
a resident of Danville
on May 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

OK, we either have a "state of emergency" or have no problem adding foreign language immersion programs. Two stories in Daville Express contradicting one another!

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Posted by Highlander
a resident of Montair Elementary School
on May 12, 2011 at 9:54 am

Money isn't the issue. The issue is that students are not the first priority of the monopoly unionized education establishment. Repealing proposition 13 is not the solution to the problem. Granting choice to parents, banning teacher's unions and tenure is the solution.

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Posted by psmacintosh
a resident of Danville
on May 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm

The liberal politicians don't HAVE to cut the education budget. They are choosing that route because they know that it will hurt you the most--and therefore you are most likely to cave in to their demands for higher tax money and higher costs.
They could cut the budget by cutting elsewhere.
Hey Politicians,
REDUCE GOVERNMENT SPENDING! And do so without hurting "education"!
If you think the current education funding amount is correct, then stick with it (ie, cut elsewhere).
If you think the current education funding is being well spent, then stick with it.
If you think the fundings should be spent differently or reduced, then do so.
Stop black-mailing us.....and do your job properly!
Quite frankly, I think that the current education funding is being spent unwisely and incorrectly (to achieve the actual needs).
Think out-of-the-current-box and actually teach students things that they really need to know in order to work well in society. Don't "pass" students, unless they master tasks sufficiently. If "maintenance" costs are too high, then have the students clean their own schools. Etc.

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Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Danville
on May 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Totally agree with post by LMP. Can't believe that San Ramon Unified is funding an idiotic immersion program and at the kindergarten level no less, but that teachers are passing out "pink slips" yet again along Camino Tassajara in front of Diablo Vista. Quite an oxymoron, don't you think?

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Posted by Bella
a resident of Danville
on May 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm

When the teachers' union refused to accept 4 furlough days a year for 4 years to maintain 20:1 in K-3 and avert layoffs last year, they lost my support. There are many teachers who truly care about our students in SRVUSD, but there are way more than a few who simply are collecting a paycheck and waiting to cash in their pensions. Unions might have served a purpose many years ago, but they are now dinosaurs, and ruining public education in America. If someone knows how to disband the teachers' union, I'd happily sign that petition at Trader Joe's.

Like this comment
Posted by Louie
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on May 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm

As a retired teacher who did not support a Democratic Union agenda, I repeat my suggestion: Send the monthly(required) Union payments back to districts until the crisis is averted. Teachers are forced to pay approximately $900/year in "dues." Teachers are required to pay in order to work at their "trade." It isn't a "profession" is it, if we have a trade union?

NO on repealing 13. See Connie's previous contribution re: the Serrano decision regarding how your property taxes are reallocated.

Eliminate waste. Pay politicians less; the same logic should be applied to politicians as to teachers. Aren't they there because of their concern for their fellow man/woman? Eliminate their perks and their better-than-the-little-people retirement and health benefits.

You might want to re-think the tenure issue, however. How many teachers would be "let go" if the grade inflation didn't continue? There is unimaginable pressure from parents regarding grades. Earned grades are not necessarily what vocal parents want.

Like this comment
Posted by Vince
a resident of San Ramon
on May 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm

The BIG Lie is that California ranks at or near the bottome of per pupil funding. A recent study by the Cato Institue states that per pupil funding in every district they looked at across the US was underreported by as much as 100 percent. They don't count bond debt, they don't count pensions or teacher benefits. LA unified for example was underreported by 90%, and true funding last year was $25K per student. This was the case in EVERY district they examined. If you think SRVUSD counts pensions or they'll count the bond payments for the $25 million dollars they have borrowed for the new solar panels being installed this summer...think again. Here's the Cato Institue Study entitled They Spend What? The Real Cost of Public Schools Web Link

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