Re: Sunday, February 7, 2010 Daily Press, Our Opinion, B4, "Spreading the pain, finally," & Steven Greenhut, B5, "Taking on the unions."


A recent Daily Press editorial piece got it wrong when it stated that the Hesperia Unified School District is "two years late" with its current decision to cut its work force. The HUSD noticed over 181 teachers last year when its board voted, on Feb. 23, 2009, to lay them off for the 2009-2010 school year. HUSD is operating in the 09/10 school year with 105 fewer teachers than they were in 08/09 and is looking to cut 94 more for 10/11, unless substantial concessions are reached at a bargaining table.


And those important auto mechanics mentioned in the editorial---much needed for fixing cars---once had teachers too, including their first auto shop teachers, who provided them with the skills needed to compete in their industry. We all were greatly influenced by teachers. Parents and teachers are the most crucial elements in guiding youth to productive adulthood.


Tightening belts in a collective bargaining controlled environment is, however, extremely difficult to do, as Mr. Greenhut, the Pacific Research Institute's Director Of Journalism Studies, points out in the Daily Press op-ed piece of the same date.


The PRI's 2002 study, published as Contract for Failure, is one of the most comprehensive works analyzing individual school district teacher contracts in California, and its authors found that the impact of collective bargaining in CA school districts is enormous.


Two relevant points in their study are: (1) the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) are able to place experienced labor negotiators in virtually every school district, and (2) their activists work long hours to put friendly candidates on school boards all over the state, thereby influencing both sides of the negotiating table.


In HUSD's case, for example, Hesperia Teachers' Association, the local chapter of CTA/NEA, put their support, and huge sums of money, behind the Robert Kirk, Hardy Black, Ella "Lee" Rogers candidacies in 2006, and the Anthony Riley candidacy in 2008.


I, too, currently sit on the HUSD governing board, being elected in 2008, having spent nobody's money but my own to get there. And I am only expressing my personal opinions here.


Robert Kirk (HUSD board president), Ella "Lee" Rogers (HUSD board vice president), and Hardy Black (HUSD clerk) ratified the Agreement between the HUSD and the Hesperia Teachers' Association/CTA/NEA on April 21, 2008. This collective bargaining agreement replaced the one that had been in effect between the parties from August 6, 2004 through June 30, 2007. And what a change it was for HUSD's budget.


An HUSD beginning teacher in 04/05 earned $36,313 for their 184-day work year, consisting of 392-minute workdays (6.53 hours). In three years, due to the new collective bargaining agreement, a beginning teacher for the HUSD now earned $43,275 for the same amount of labor. That $6,962 per year raise is an increase of 19%.


A teacher on the top end of the HUSD pay scale in 04/05 earned $72,264 for their 184-day work year, consisting of 392-minute workdays (6.53 hours). In three years, due to the new collective bargaining agreement, a teacher on the top end of the pay scale for the HUSD now earned $85,413 for the same amount of labor. That $13,149 per year raise is an increase of 18%.


Such substantial increases over a such a short span of time are difficult, if not impossible, to sustain. With this sort of public sector collective bargaining occurring all over California; is it really any wonder why we have the mess we currently do?


Another significant clause added to the new collective bargaining agreement, supported and ratified by HTA supported candidates Kirk, Black, and Rogers, was the addition of a level five grievance avenue for the teacher's union to avail itself of in resolving teacher complaints. This clause is generally known as binding arbitration and it removes the statutory-based authority provided to a local school board and gives it to an arbitrator. The extremely high percentage of good teachers don't even know what a level one grievance is so you can imagine the tenured teachers that this is designed to protect. And my dictionary defines tenure as guaranteed permanent employment.


The importance of negotiated labor agreements and their accompanying budget constraints on a labor-intensive institution such as public education cannot be over-stated.


The required AB-1200 (Form for Public Disclosure of Proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement, dated 11/05/2007, which is just eleven short months after the HTA supported Kirk, Black, & Rogers took office) that accompanied the new labor agreements at HUSD provides a clear picture of the budgetary challenges HUSD currently faces. [Full Disclosure: The AB-1200 covered all new agreements with HUSD groups, CSEA Units A & B, HTA, and Management.]


The new agreements (covering years 07/08, 08/09, & 09/10) would increase HUSD salary and benefit costs by a whopping $11.9 million dollars in the first year alone. HUSD salary and benefit costs went from $116,284,381 per year to $128,265,183 with the new agreements. And when you factor in yearly step and column increases to salary schedule increases done in this fashion, the results down the road are staggering to absorb.


I absolutely admire, support, and fully appreciate all good teachers and will do anything reasonable to ensure that they are adequately compensated for their labor. But negotiated agreements like the one described here are deadly to a school district's financial health. We need contracts for success, not failure.


And the first place to start is in recognizing that this is an election year for HUSD and teacher union supported school board candidates, and incumbents, should be scrutinized with great care and intensity -- starting right now.