By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
CTA chapters throughout the state are asking district officials to show them the money when it comes to how federal funding provided by the Education Jobs bill is being spent to save jobs in public schools. In many cases, there is not much to show, and teachers are outraged.
California received $1.2 billion from the federal government, known as Ed Jobs money, in August 2010. According to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the money was supposed to “help California keep thousands of teachers in the classroom.” Duncan commended California for being the first state to submit its application to receive its share of $10 billion in federal funds, earmarked to save an estimated 16,500 education jobs in California, according to the Associated Press. The one-time funding was allocated to districts in varying amounts based on student population, and they have until September 2012 to spend it for the purpose of retaining teaching and classified positions. Amounts that districts have received and spent as of March 31, 2011 — the most current date available — were recently posted on the California Department of Education’s website at cde.ca.gov/ar/rr.
In Stockton, the district has pink-slipped about 200 teachers, and is sitting on $6.7 million in Ed Jobs funds. Ellen Old, president of the Stockton Teachers Association, says, “They haven’t spent a red cent, and they are asking for $6 million in concessions from us! They are asking us for a 10 percent salary decrease over three years.”
Even more amazingly, the Rowland Unified School District has spent $1 million of Ed Jobs money to purchase 700 iPads for special education teachers and students. John Petersen, president of the Association of Rowland Educators, says another $95,000 is being spent on a community survey, and so far, not one cent of the $3 million his district has received has gone to actual jobs. Even though his district did not have layoffs, the money could have been used to decrease class size and hire additional teachers and classified staff, he says.
Sacramento City Teachers Association President Linda Tuttle says her district is “waiting” for the state to pass a budget before using $8 million in Ed Jobs money to save district teaching jobs, despite 200 teachers being pink-slipped.
“They clearly could do the right thing by children and families to ensure that schools open with a smooth beginning by having all employees return to work,” says Tuttle. “People need to be valued and need to be working. This money was meant for people to keep their jobs until schools get over the economic hump. So much turmoil has been created unnecessarily.”
CTA leaders say the money should be used to stop the bleeding immediately, but it’s not happening in many cases.
So far, California’s 1,023 districts have received 90 percent of their funding allotment, but only 26 percent of that money has been spent. Furthermore, 375 districts — 36 percent of all districts — haven’t spent any money, according to an analysis by Becky Johnston of CTA’s Negotiations and Organizational Development Department. A breakdown by Johnston reveals that 52 percent of districts have spent less than 25 percent of their allotment; 12 percent have spent between 25 and 50 percent; and 15 percent have spent between 50 and 75 percent. Figures show that districts “saved” just 716 classified positions and 4,399 teaching jobs with possible Ed Jobs money.
In many districts, CTA members are downright disappointed.
In the Colton Joint Unified School District, 72 layoff notices were issued and 42 temporary teachers were let go, resulting in the elimination of 114 teaching positions. The district has not provided any detailed accounting of how $4 million in Ed Jobs money has been spent, alleges Karen Houck, president of the Association of Colton Educators.
“We’re very frustrated with our district for not producing any documentation of how they have used Ed Jobs money to save teaching positions,” says Houck. “They say they’ve ‘saved’ jobs because they’ve used the money to offset the deficit, which means they don’t have to cut more jobs. I do not understand how that works, when you use federal dollars to offset your deficit and still do layoffs.”
Houck went to the California Department of Education’s website to fill out a complaint form
alleging that Colton had mismanaged its funds, but the state replied they needed more documentation. The district hasn’t shared any documentation, says Houck, “so we are caught in a loop and don’t know how to get out of it.”
Monique Segura, president of the Orcutt Educators Association, says the Orcutt Union School District used $900,000 in Ed Jobs money to hire hourly certificated part-time teachers instead of bringing back teachers who were laid off. She says teachers are “demoralized” at the district’s decision to pay part-timers $20 an hour instead of giving teachers their jobs back.
The Simi Valley Unified School District will use $3.8 million in Ed Jobs money to “stay afloat” and keep class sizes from being increased. Administrators have told Dayle Gillick, president of the Simi Educators Association, that they will bring back pink-slipped employees in exchange for the union agreeing to furlough days.
“They have enough money to have no furloughs and no RIFs [reductions in force], but we can’t convince them of that,” says Gillick. “They are sitting pretty financially, and it’s a game to use the Ed Jobs money to bring back RIFs that never needed to happen in the first place. They are meeting the letter of the law, but playing a game.”