Abel Mejia: PVUSD needs to rearrange priorities


By ABEL MEJIA

After reading the PVUSD’s Oct. 5 offer to certificated staff, I was further disappointed by their lack of bargaining in good faith. The district continues to have its priorities in the wrong order.

Teachers need long-term stability and security. The district’s refusal to place even a $1 raise on the salary schedule implies that they don’t care who is teaching the 19,000 students in our district’s classrooms. They care more about having a “balanced” budget. They don’t value the many and varied experiences our veteran staff provides to our children and our fellow staff members. Losing one or 10 or 20 or more teachers due to low salary is not the district’s concern. The Pájaro Valley Federation of Teachers has offered the district a viable and sustainable offer of a permanent solution to bridge the divide between the two negotiating parties.

The latest offer by the district will not be extended to the teachers who retired last year due to the lack of progress in negotiations. The retired teachers deserved that raise, but left before they could see any direct benefit on their pension or yearly pay.

The one-time bonus of up to $3,200 only applies to full-time, current teachers. That simply isn’t fair to exclude them from any financial compensation.

Our most exploited teachers/staff working in early childhood education get denied a fair, just compensation as well. Some of them are paid less than janitors despite needing an associate’s degree to attain that position. Their salary peaks after their sixth year. We need to pay them a decent, livable wage. Their ability to decrease the achievement/opportunity gap is impeded by their low wages.

The district’s offer for ongoing stipends to bilingual, math and special education teachers is enticing. It sets up a “divide and conquer” strategy, however. Divide the union and have it fight against itself. We won’t let ourselves be divided. That is what makes us a union. Weakening our union must be one of their ultimate goals. Defeat the teacher’s union and they get to do what they want with our tax dollars. Our union is there to make sure that tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently.

In that same email the Santa Cruz County Office of Education apparently stated, “Our district (PVUSD) cannot afford to add ongoing expenditures without ongoing cuts to offset.” Why then are positions such as the public relations officer and more teachers on special assignment? Why ask for a $29,000 raise for assistant superintendents in the middle of continuous budget deficits? It’s like a parent telling their family that they can no longer afford to eat well because of low pay. That same parent then orders an HD sports package, wireless Internet, lawn maintenance service, personal massage therapist and a painter. What kind of message does it send to the tax-paying public? If we’re essentially broke why do we keep adding expenses? They must think that we have short-term memory issues. Short answer: we don’t!

Important question on the minds of many: Why don’t the teachers just settle and stop being so greedy? If we settle now the district gets to make changes to our benefits package that take effect immediately. Fully credentialed teachers will not fill 30 or more vacant positions.  We will continue to give all of those students a subpar education. The exodus of teachers will continue to negatively impact the quality of education we offer our children.

Eventually, retired teachers filling in as subs will have maxed out their allowable days of work. If they were to work the entire year, they would essentially be working for free. The low salary schedule will also convince other new and veteran teachers to find employment elsewhere and we will be scrambling once again to place a highly qualified teacher in each classroom.

For these reasons and many more, I urge our readers and their families to ask the PVUSD board of trustees to rearrange its priorities and settle this labor dispute quickly so that we can get back to our main focus as employees. If the district added $500,000 to the amount of their proposal we could reach a much more permanent solution that works for all teachers. That’s how close we are. Really!

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Abel Mejia is a teacher in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Register-Pajaronian.

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