February 2018 Educator Newsletter: Education Funding and Teacher Activism

Welcome back to the GO Oakland Educator Newsletter!

Education has been a hot topic in the news lately, with debates on the role of teacher as protector and teacher as union member, in addition to some promising news from the governor for school funding in California.

In this issue, you’ll find out how you can join local teachers in supporting students in the wake of the latest school shooting, find information about the Supreme Court case Janus vs. ACSFME,  and learn about additional state funds for Oakland in the context of bargaining the teacher contract.

Teachers Take Action Against Gun Violence

As the nation processes the tragedy in Parkland, FL, one thing has become increasingly clear—students and teachers are ready to step into their power when public officials fall short.

One of our former Teacher Policy Fellows, Sonya Mehta, is a local example. Sonya helped to co-found a group called Teachers Take Action Against Gun Violence that has grown to over 6,000 members from all over the country in a little over a week! They’re using the platform to help connect teachers with legislators for lobby days, to organize press conferences, to publish opinion articles, and to show support for student-led walkouts and marches.

They are also working to develop curriculum that’s related to gun violence, gun control, social isolation, toxic masculinity, the culture of violence, and social change and activism around these issues. The goal is to create toolkits for different age groups that teachers across the nation can use in their classrooms to sow seeds that prevent anything like what happened at Parkland (and Sandy Hook, and too many others) from happening again. All grade level submissions are welcome, but they are most in need of developmentally appropriate materials for early childhood and early elementary grades. If you would like to be part of putting together the curriculum, email ms.sonya.mehta@gmail.com.

You can also find this group on the following social media platforms:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeachersAction
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/154629445241300/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TeachersTakeAction
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teacherstakeaction/

Janus vs. ACSFME

The Janus vs. AFSCME  Supreme Court case could have a significant effect on teachers unions. This case asks the Court to decide if a state law requiring a union member to pay “agency fees” or “fair share fees” is a violation of their First Amendment rights. “Agency fees” or “fair share fees” are union dues directly related to collective bargaining activities. Under current law (depending on the state),  a union member must automatically pay these dues because they benefit directly from from collective bargaining. Union members can opt out of the part of dues that pays for the union’s political work.

Arguments in the case were heard beginning yesterday, and a decision is expected in June. Learn more about the case and its implications here.

More State Funding for Education

Governor Brown’s latest budget for California includes some extra money for education! HOORAY! These funds will be split among a few initiatives, such as recruiting more special education teachers, creating teacher residencies for those new to the profession, and money for county offices of education to help their lowest performing students. The initiative that will help Oakland most directly and immediately is a $3 billion dollar allocation that will complete funding the Local Control Funding Formula. It is estimated that this will bring $18 million more into Oakland Unified School District for next year, $13 million in ongoing funds, and $5 million in one-time funds.

The trick for us will be, how do we spend it? With costs of pensions and Special Education  rising, an almost depleted reserve, and the bargaining of a new teacher contract, there are lots of things we’d like to fund.  Now, more than ever, teachers will need to engage in discussions of prioritization and optimum impact on students to ensure progressive policies for students and teachers, while also helping the district attain financial stability.

Luckily, there have been some policies adopted by the school board that can help guide what we fund with one-time or ongoing funds, as well as how we fund our reserve. Follow our Budgeting for Impact Campaign to stay up-to-date on the budget creation progress for the next school year, and learn more about the financial best practices we should be moving towards as a community.

The latest bargaining update from the Oakland Education Association references the additional money from the state, and requests that it be used to fund the current bargaining asks. While this isn’t theoretically unreasonable, it should be noted that the current compensation ask would increase the current cost of OUSD’s teacher compensation by about $19.5 million dollars more per year (follow the link to see the basis for this estimate).

With the OUSD budget expected to see rising costs for the upcoming school years, and only $18 million in additional funds from the state for the 18-19 school year, it is highly unlikely that OUSD could fund this current compensation proposal and also pay for the other proposals that have been discussed.

Check out the specifics of all of the topics that have been discussed at the bargaining table and connect with your OEA Site Rep to start a conversation about bargaining in an era of financial uncertainty.

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