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Teachers' 'work to rule' hurts kids

I am with you in your efforts to gain respect for your profession. But my son cannot get the help he needs because his teachers are "working to the contract."

An Open Letter to EGUSD Teachers:

I am with you in your efforts for an income that truly reflects your value.  I am with you in your efforts to gain respect for your profession. I am with you in your objections to the salaries administrators pull down while cutting programs, classes, teachers, counselors, etc.  I am with you in your outrage that our society no longer wants to pay what it takes to educate our children. I am with you in your cries at the massive bureaucracy and waste and the neverending string of cuts you must accept, and the increasing personal costs imposed on you for you to practice your profession while real reform continues to get pushed down the road.

I am with you in so many ways, as I believe that it is only through education and a system that works for all that we will achieve what we can individually and as a society. I am with you and have been with you for so long.

But, I can no longer be with you when my son comes home and tells me this:  In a year in which he has struggled (for many reasons attributable only to his own decisions and failings), at a time when he is trying to right the ship and make up for his poor decisions, he cannot get the help he needs because his teachers are "working to the contract."  He turns in assignments in which how he does will be critical to showing whether his efforts are showing results, but he must wait weeks for a grade.  He cannot get extra help from teachers because they have a point to make to district decision-makers.  It is impossible for him to talk with his teacher about what he needs to do to do better, because the teacher is simply unavailable. The resources and tools teachers could provide him are no longer available at a critical time of need because his teachers are "working to the contract."

I get the point, I feel your pain and anguish, but in making your point you are, ultimately, doing nothing more than joining the selfish parade of administrators who won't take real pay cuts, bureaucrats who won't look at the excessive cost of redundant layers of bureacracy and do something about it, and taxpayers who no longer want to pay what it takes for a world-class education system. 

I know teachers—most of them, anyway—work hard and are dedicated public servants, providing value that far exceeds the financial and emotional recognition you get from the community at large.  I only wish that the teachers who have decided to "work to the contract" would realize the only point they are making is that they are willing to damage the chances of our children—the individuals who have the least responsibility for the decisions teachers are protesting, but the most to lose as a result of these teachers' decisions.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marc Daniels February 25, 2012 at 05:36 PM
The below comment was by Marc Daniels wife.
Marc Daniels February 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I must apologize misstating Dr Ladd's weekly salary in my above comments as "the almost $5000 he makes each week." He makes approx $280,000 a year + $800 monthly expenses for a total of $289,600 annually. $289,600/52 weeks = $5569! Yep, he makes over $5500 weekly! But we still have to buy his gas and foot the bill for the super-sizing of his combo meal.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Mario... maybe you've been fortunate enough to find a good private school, but there are plenty of issues with private schools, and the simple reality is that many people can't afford private schools no matter what choices they make about giving things up. I know plenty of people who complain about the private schools they send their children, too -- particularly if their child doesn't fit into the easily managed middle.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Tom ... I probably agree with just about everything you've written here. The biggest problem lies, not with the teachers and local administrators, but back in Sacramento, where this funding mechanisms and laws governing the education system are generated. I don't know what the answer is, but I wish there was a way to back to the beginning. Trash the entire system and say "how do we want to educate our children with the minimum level of bureaucracy necessary to achieve the greatest good for all." See, I don't think public schools or vouchers are the solution because no matter what, most of our children will always be educated in the public school system -- so, first and foremost, a top notch public system has to be at the center of it all. And, the taxpayers have to be willing to pay for it. That you may be paying for private school for your own children doesn't excuse you from that burden. A quality public education system benefits all of us by producing a more educated population, regardless of whether we or our children are products of that system.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Thank you.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Marc ... I hope nothing in my original post here suggests that I think teachers have it easy. I know that's not true and I know they have many legitimate gripes. I have a friend who teachers high school english in Sacramento. She's at the school from 7:30 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening most school days. She goes in on days off to do prep work. Grades papers at home. For this, after six or seven years of teaching and six years of college education, I'd be surprised if she's making $50,000, and every year now she gets a pink slip in the Spring and has to worry about whether she'll have a job next year. I get it ... but there's another side to this, too. The teachers who skate by, as you mention. Yes, it isn't just teachers. It's pretty much any profession. But, let me share another annoyance with you. The teachers who believe they are infallible. With the advent of School Loop, we're able to monitor our kids' performance. When they get 0's on homework, I talk to them to find out why. Do you know how many times those 0's have been the result of the teacher screwing up and not recording a turned in assignment? Do you know, even after knowing that, how many teachers deny that they could have ever missed something? This isn't really relevant to my point here, but ... I guess for every story you or I can provide of a hardworking teacher going beyond the call of duty, I could also produce a counter to it.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Marc ... I've posted elsewhere about this on EG Patch. Administrators make too much money. The problem is that school districts, like other government agencies, have to compete with each other, which forces the salaries to be driven up so they can attract the "best talent." If I had my way, no state or local government employee would make above $150,000-200,000, regardless of their position or perceived importance. And, a salary structure would be in place for all government employees so the competition is eliminated.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Marc ... I saw something recently that described the high, average, and median salaries for EGUSD teachers. The point of the piece was to show how highly paid EGUSD teachers are paid, primarily focusing on the high. To which I wanted to respond ... yes, and in order to get to that high, a teacher has to work how many years and then compare that to somebody who is in a professional position with the same number of years and same background in terms of years of education and advanced degrees and then tell me that teachers are overpaid. Trust me ... I know teachers are underpaid.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Marc ... tell me what "working to the contract" did. Seriously, what did it accomplish other than what I describe in this entry? Protest, march, sign petitions, speak at board meetings, meet with legislators, pay taxes, do all of those things, but when a kid comes to you for help don't tell me the message is more important than that kid.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 07:39 PM
No need to apologize ... you raise a lot of good points.
Mark Paxson February 25, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Excellent.
Marc Daniels February 25, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Mark, wish I could reply to your replies.... "Marc ... tell me what "working to the contract" did. Seriously, what did it accomplish other than what I describe in this entry? Protest, march, sign petitions, speak at board meetings, meet with legislators, pay taxes, do all of those things, but when a kid comes to you for help don't tell me the message is more important than that kid." I understand your frustration. All three of my children have needed speech therapy. In 2nd grade my now 10yo was having serious reading problems. We spoke to his teacher and asked if it was possible that his speech issues could be affecting his reading. His 15+ year tenured teacher responded that she didn't see how that would impact. Well, the speech therapist told us exactly how it would impact his reading. How in the world, would a 15+ year teacher not have ANY idea that a speech issue would impact his reading, you know he wasn't the first student they have taught that was in speech. Because of cuts by the district, the school no longer employed a reading specialist and they didn't have anything to help a struggling reader. Our only recourse to get him help, was $5000+ at Sylvan (who by the way did a fantastic job getting his reading up to grade level).
Marc Daniels February 25, 2012 at 11:06 PM
The district know exactly what the teachers can do the "fight back". They have readily showed their eagerness to break contracts and agreements. They have done so numerous times in the last few years. At what point is it the teachers right, and are they justified to use what they can to fight back and show their displeasure? Contracted disregarded twice, four times, ten times, where is the line where it is understandable to do actions such as they did affecting your child. Remember here, the root cause was the district, who knew very well what the teachers could, and might do to respond.
patchreader February 26, 2012 at 05:13 PM
First, no doubt Ladd is WAY overpaid, especially given the economic situation of the district. However, I never defended his pay, did I? Please don't try and make my non-support of the union support into support for Ladd. One does not mean the other. As to the teachers working more than the contracted hours-teachers have contracted hours because of the union. Do you think that salaried employees in other jobs are told they have to go home at 5:00, when there is still work to do, still preparation for meetings, projects and deadlines to meet? No, they don't. If they go home when work isn't done they will get fired. Do you think that salaried employees are paid more to work the 60+ hours a week many work, rather than the 40 or so hours people think they work? No. As to the earlier comment that doctors and lawyers don't work for free and that "lawyers charge by the minute"-that was a completely stupid comment and shows the lack of knoweldge about both of those professions. Please educate yourself before you make comparisons aboout careers you know nothing about. I have friends and family members who are teachers in almost every large district in the state, and many out of state as well. I know first had the realities and costs of being a teacher in California. I also know that your union is doing teachers a giant disservice by asking for support from families that have experienced the same healthcare cost increaseses and salary cuts that you are facing.
Marc Daniels February 26, 2012 at 09:07 PM
patch- As to the earlier comment that "doctors and lawyers don't work for free and that "lawyers charge by the minute"-that was a completely stupid comment and shows the lack of knoweldge about both of those professions" I know exactly how they are paid, and never made any statements about those professions. So, let's try to please keep the name calling and petty comments out of the discussion. But, since you mentioned needing to be educated..."Do you think that salaried employees in other jobs are told they have to go home at 5:00, when there is still work to do, still preparation for meetings, projects and deadlines to meet?" WHY, do you keep comparing an Elk Grove teacher to a salaried employee. TEACHERS ARE NOT SALARIED EMPLOYEES! They are contracted hourly employees. To give an example, let's say a fast food employee made $10 per hour. They sign a contract with McWhatever's that they will work 8 hours a day, 5 days per week. So McWhatever's would pay them $400 weekly. But regardless of that contract, McWhatever's then made that employee, that is still considered as hourly regardless of the contract, to come in on their own time to chop onions for the next weeks shift. What would you say if your employer asked you to work for free? Again, please stop basing your arguments on inaccuracies, teachers are NOT salaried employee. If my wife works a half day and leaves her pay gets docked. A salaried employee just has to be there for 2hrs.
Marc Daniels February 26, 2012 at 09:14 PM
patch- Also, "As to the teachers working more than the contracted hours-teachers have contracted hours because of the union" The District set those hours, the union would actually prefer them to be longer than what is currently set. Why?...because the district knows that the vast majority of the teachers are gonna put in that extra time to get their jobs done. Setting such short daily hours actually saves the district money since they KNOW they will get work hours out of the teachers that they don't have to pay for. I am normally not a major supporter of unions, I hate how they have influenced and subverted many of our elections. But, I have seen first hand the type of garbage the district pulls, some of it blatantly walking a fine line of being criminal or legally actionable...and if the union wasn't there to protect my wife, to protect other teachers the district would literally walk all over them.
patchreader February 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM
To Marc D- Actually, in your very first post, you made the statements I posted in reply to. Here it is for you: Marc Daniels 9:35 am on Saturday, February 25, 2012 I am a teacher and very few of us are actually following the "work to rule." We just take everything home and do it there. Don't lawyers get paid by the minute? Don't they get paid for all the preparation for a trial? Do doctor's work for free? I don't think so. I
Marc Daniels February 26, 2012 at 10:52 PM
patch- I was just getting on to apologize for missing that. "The below comment was by Marc Daniels wife" My wife made that entry and I was not aware of it. Sorry.
Graham Stewart February 27, 2012 at 08:13 AM
We have been trying to get your attention for 4 years as the district has slashed funding, laid off teachers, and increased class sizes. Last year close to 800 teachers were given pink slips in a process that ultimately cost EGUSD $350,000. Each year teachers are asked to do more with less. We cover the holes so that parents rarely notice the reduction in service. Whether you agree with 'work to contract' or not, it has sparked conversation about the state of schools in our community. That was the point of the exercise. I personally would have slashed the budget for after school sports to get the public's attention instead of working to contract but that was not in my power as a classroom teacher. The district already made the choice to shoehorn more kids into elementary classrooms and fire specialists to help those kids instead of canceling football. Why is no one angry about that?
Marc Daniels February 27, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Graham- "Last year close to 800 teachers were given pink slips in a process that ultimately cost EGUSD $350,000." Teachers are entitled to represent themselves and speak during the layoff hearings, the district had to pay to cover subs during those hearings, and I have no idea how many tens of thousands that cost. Even though the district has legal counsel on staff, they went outside and hired a private firm to represent them during the hearings/negotiations, and we were told that this outside attorney cost the district over $800,000. They easily spent around 1-Milion. I don't blame that all on the district, a lot of the blame falls to the unrealistic hoops that the state expects the districts to jump through. But, that still doesn't clear the district of the fact that the teachers agreed to deep cuts two years ago, in order to avoid cuts last year. The district broke those agreements and went ahead and did whatever they wanted to last year...so that $1mil +/- last year was simply spent on the districts posturing. The district tried to do things that their own legal council told them they couldn't do...to only get shot down by the mediator at a later time (just like their legal council told them they would)..
Graham Stewart February 28, 2012 at 02:15 AM
The district spent $81,925 on subs and $238,950 on legal costs for the layoffs last year. Source http://www.egteachers.org/GoDocUserFiles/308.layoff.pdf I do blame the district. They issued 736 layoff notices in 2011 while we were in the middle of a two year contract that gave the district a record surplus of $63,000,000. EGUSD uses the worst, worst case scenario every year and lays off according to that plan. For the record, all pink slipped teachers were offered jobs by September 2011. What a waste of $342,000.
Marc Daniels February 28, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Graham- Don't get me wrong, I blame the district for most of what is transpiring as well. BUT, if the state didn't force them to turn in balanced budgets before knowing what they were getting from the state the district wouldn't be able to play these "worse case" scenarios like they are. Nor would they be able to put out budget numbers knowing damn well that the public is gonna take them as hard financial numbers. I have a background in corporate budgeting, and I could put a budget together showing that Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are broke. I keep hearing $800k from teachers, and also seeing it in some news reports. I have no idea where it is actually coming from, but thanks for th link.
Marc Daniels February 28, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Okay, that $800k figure is the approximation of what the district paid in legal fees to their outside representative over the course of the year, with $239k of it occurring just during the lay-off hearings.
patchreader February 28, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I believe that your union contract also dictates that lay-offs need a specific time frame. Pink Slips have to be issued no later than a specific date, hearing no later than a specific date-and that the date can't be moved up-so that the district MUST plan for a worst case scenario for lay-offs, because the district can not go back and issue additional pink slips in April, May, or June.
Marc Daniels February 28, 2012 at 04:18 PM
patch- State law dictates that lay-off notices need to be distributed to any teachers that "may", not will be, just "may be" laid-off. State law also dictates that school districts are required to submit a balanced budget at a date earlier than the state is required to. Imagine having to put together a household budget, and have it submitted to someone before they ever tell you how much money they will pay you next year. Now this is fairly easy to do using actual run rates based upon the current year and historical records.from previous years. The district doesn't do that, they take the worse possible scenario imaginable, I mean the end of days worst possible case imaginable to base their budget on. Oh, and when the do their budget, the completely disregard how much ACTUAL cash the district has on hand. So if the say "next year we will be $25mil short", that is only based upon their imagined worst possible case imaginable (I mean absolute worst possible case imaginable). Which if they use say that $25mil figure, in actuality they would still have a surplus of $40mil. The last two years they have "imagined" being short tens of millions every year, if that were the case how did they manage to stockpile a $65mil surplus. It is one thing to be conservative in your budgeting, but to use scenarios that simply won't happen isn't realistic from a fiscal perspective.
Marc Daniels February 28, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Let's not loose perspective of what the teachers are fighting and protesting for. They are NOT asking for additional...new things beyond what they currently have. Teachers have paid for health care. Their 2010-2012 agreement included concessions which budgeted for 10% increases to health care for each of the two years. What the district doesn't tell you is that the real increases were only 5%-6%, the teachers over paid for health care through their concessions of furlough days and salary roll backs. I realize that it can be misinterpreted as not paying for health care when there isn't a payment from their paycheck each month. They took an 8% salary cut to pay for health care as well as save class sizes for students. The manner in which they paid for health care should not be manipulated and used as spin to say the district is paying the entire cost. Employees have forgone COLA's, changed providers, increased copays for doctor visits and prescriptions on top of the concessions in paying for health care. In 2010 the teachers voted to take deep cuts in pay/benefits in order the save class sizes. The district told them that these deep cuts were needed, and that agreeing to these cuts would keep them from having to lay-off employees or make benefit changes in 2011. Then, regardless of this agreement, and cuts already made, the district went ahead and made cuts in 2011 anyways. The teachers are fighting to get what the district agreed to do.
Marc Daniels February 28, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The district is spinning this fight as it is all about that $63 they are asking the single teacher to pay. By single, MANY readers take it as meaning individual, as in every teacher would just pay $63. This is evident by comments on other sites such as "$63, what are they whining for I pay $300 every month for my families coverage". By single, the district means "not married, no kids". We have 5 family members on my wife's plan through EGUSD. I looked at what they are proposing, and it is very possible that we could be paying $1000 a month out of pocket just for basic coverage. Having a hard cap leaves the district with ABSOLUTELY no reason to shop for quality coverage and at a reasonable price. They have no stake in it at all. What the voters/tax payers, even those without kids in the district should be outraged by, is that their elected school board, that their public employees are LIEING to them. I would understand these people being upset, but every figure, every statement they are reading in print, and seeing on the news is coming from the district spokespeople. I know the union has their own spin, but their job is to represent the UNION members, not We The People. The leaders of We The People are lieing to us, and we should be outraged.
Graham Stewart March 02, 2012 at 06:27 AM
Video from the protest at the EGUSD board meeting. It states the teacher position rather well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnfOWZ0dh0E&feature=youtu.be
Felicia Mello March 02, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Thanks for posting, Graham!
Stephanie November 16, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I am a teacher in CA and find the debate fascinating. Teachers--stay strong!!! We know how hard we work! Collective bargaining and actions described here are what are available to us as union members. That the public wants to blame teachers for everything is getting BORING. Allow teachers their rights as Anericans. Shame on you for this shame and blame you're trying to heap on educators. I, personally, do not accept it.

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