The seemingly never-ending saga of tensions over the school district budget has come to an end, with the teachers’ union and school board finally reaching a deal on the contract for teachers. This also means that the teachers strike initially planned for September 10 has been cancelled. While this is certainly welcome news for teachers and students, the drama leading up to this point has revealed that Superintendent Jesus Jara and the CCSD School Board are willing to risk the quality of education for our students for the sake of convenience.
The fight over the budget started in early June when Superintendent Jesus Jara made the decision to eliminate the deans position in all CCSD schools because of a $17 million budget deficit for the 2019-2020 school year. After facing a legal and political backlash from administrators who were about to lose their jobs, and parents who felt that deans were important for schools, Jara eventually backed down from the plan and gave schools the freedom to choose how they want to accommodate to the budget cuts.
Even then, Jara had little concern for how students and educators would respond to his initial plan for budget cuts. By voting on the decision behind closed-doors, which may have been illegal, the school board showed a complete disregard for the deans losing their jobs and the students and teachers who felt they were an integral part of the school experience, by approving Jara’s proposal. CCSD employees, including deans, were notified of this situation through a video announcement via email.
Fast forward about two months, and the school board entangled itself in yet another fight over the budget. This time, the drama was over the district’s initial promise to teachers who completed 240 CUs of professional development that they would receive an approximate $5,000 salary increase. While the school board had vowed to maintain this commitment to teachers, it was revealed that those overseeing the school board budget didn’t even account for these salary increases when asking the state legislature for extra money.
The decision to not provide these teachers with their promised raises sparked immense backlash among educators, as illustrated in an explosive school board meeting held on Thursday, August 22 at Liberty High School.
“I thought, ‘No way would they have us earn 225 CUs, spend 675 hours away from our families, spend thousands of dollars out of our own pockets, wait 1, 2, or 3 years, and then deny us the column advancements again,” Kelly Edgar, an educator who finished her professional development plan and was at the meeting, said. “Boy, was I naive.”
The district’s plan also showed that they were unconcerned with the pain teachers felt. School board President Lola Brooks managed to pour salt into the wound with a callously tone deaf: “Your anger is misplaced, but it is our job to absorb it,” in regards to teachers protesting the superintendent’s actions at the school board meeting.
However, to the surprise of virtually everyone involved, the school district managed to somehow find the money to give teachers their promised column movements, claiming at a press conference that revised projections show how they will be able to afford the raises. Now, while we should all celebrate teachers being given what they were promised, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the school board’s actions caused this in the first place.
In fairness, Jara claims that the school board had tried their best to abide by the previous contract, and they had made an effort to do so in some cases. They offered $69 million in teacher pay raises, as compared to the $45 million that they had to pay. Additionally, they kept their promises that teachers overall would get a 4% increase in health care, a 3% salary increase and a 2% step increase. But the things they do correctly do not override the past six months that have harmed their credibility.
In order to ensure that incidents like this don’t happen in the future, the onus falls on everyone to hold the superintendent accountable for any other decision that affects those involved. While the school district heard immense outrage from educators and parents, students were noticeably absent from any school board meeting during this time.
The district needs to hear from everyone who is affected by their negligence, and that includes the students who rely on their schools to function properly for their education. Perhaps mishaps like this won’t happen in the future if the school board knows that the people they work for are holding their feet to the fire on abiding by their promises.