Broad-sided in Long Beach
, a member of Teachers Association of Long Beach, reports on the big cuts that the school district is trying to force teachers to accept.
THE LONG Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is seeking to take advantage of the current anti-teacher climate generated by the likes of billionaire school privatization advocate Eli Broad to force concessions from teachers.
Although the district isn't in fiscal danger--it reported to the county that there is no likelihood of not being able to meet its obligations for the next three years--officials are pretending to be on the brink of financial Armageddon when they speak to the teachers and the press.
The cuts coming from the state are deep, and the LBUSD is playing the poverty card while it goes after cuts that have nothing to do with concerns about cash flow.
School officials claim that members of the Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB) need to start paying a portion of their health insurance deductibles so that they will start behaving responsibly (and by "responsibly," they apparently mean thinking about the district's budget before we think about our family's health).
All along, they've been saying it's about the money, but when the teachers' union offered them comparable cuts on August 29--$2 million annually--in the form of cost savings like higher co-pays and deductibles, they rejected our deal. These were harsh cuts--ones that would hurt our members, but save the district the amount officials claimed to be after--yet they still refused.
So what are they actually looking for? LBUSD officials hope to hamstring our ability to bargain by locking in a cut that will automatically get worse every year, and if the trends continue, some of our members could see cuts of over $10,000 within a few years.
The district wants a cap on health care benefits, and that cap will be 5 percent less than last year's premiums. Each year, the entirety of premium increases will come out of our paychecks.
At current rates, members with their families enrolled in the Blue Shield PPO will lose $1,000 per paycheck within five years. At the same time, the district will have freed itself from any concern about containing costs, leaving us to beg them for help minimizing the impact to our members whenever we come to the bargaining table.
The district hopes it will be able to push this through without TALB members realizing how bad it is until it's too late. If the district gets by with its plans, we'll be playing from behind the eight ball with every bargaining session because we'll come to the table with a pay cut already in effect. We'll have to fight hard to stand still.
The prospect of a future advantage at the bargaining table has driven school officials to pick a fight at the worst possible time: We'll have to point out to the public (to keep them from pitting parents against us) that the district has the largest reserves in its history and that they are wasting money in a lot of other areas that should see the cuts first (particularly excess administrators and high administrator salaries).
The bargaining process has never been so entirely exhausted in Long Beach. Impasse has come and gone. Fact-finding is done, and the report is being written. It could be published any day now, and then the district will be free to impose its changes. And we will be free to engage in job actions, up to and including a strike.
In 10 years, will we look back and say we held the line? Or will we look back and reminisce about the days before teaching was low-wage work?