December 14, the board once again gave raises to the teachers even though their current 2015-18 master contract had not expired. The historic 12.5% raise combined with a “highest salary in the county” guarantee was not enough. The additional raise was given to help staff offset higher health costs bringing the total raise under the 2015-2018 contract to a whopping 13% (Salazar objecting). Remember voters, this is not a business that gives raises based upon performance. This is a publicly funded entity with a relatively fixed income that gives raises to make sure its staff can be the highest paid in the county of all 42 school districts.
Some might argue that sound business practices for limited income organizations such as school districts would have been to include discussion of the additional raise as part of negotiations for the new 2018-2021 contract under the current circumstances because the 2015-18 Master Contract is still in effect through June 30, 2018. Given that the current contract already had such a huge raise (highest in San Diego County), maybe it would make more sense to wait until the district weathered the pending $9 million deficit in a way that made sure sufficient reserves remained for future years. But, our district has never been known for using sound business practices.
San Dieguito does not use balanced budgets as a practice. Instead, the district uses “deficit spending” practices. Deficit spending is defined as spending more than the revenue. But, as bad as this practice is, what is more concerning is that the district does not even include all district expenses in its budget so it is hard for taxpayers to even know what the total and real costs of operating the district really are.
The actual costs to operate the sites, for example, are not included. If they were adequately reflected in the district budget, parents would not have to raise so much money for materials and supplies and other items because such expenditures would be included in the district’s budget and paid for through district allocations to the sites. Parents assumed payment of many of these items during the period of economic downturn to help the district avoid layoffs of staff. However, once the economy turned around, the district never reassumed the costs and families continue to pay for these items previously paid for by the district through the hefty funding of their site foundations.
What is going to happen if we have an economic downturn again? The parents are already shouldering many of the district’s site expenses. What will these tapped out families be asked to do next to avoid layoffs since the district failed to use a balanced budget as a financial model?
Let’s not forget too how funding for our music programs continues to be under funded in the district’s budgets. Our schools don’t have strong music programs even though music is emphasized through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as a critical component of a ‘well rounded education,” a point highlighted in past public comments to the board. See, e.g. 12/8/16 Board packet, p. 19, #26.
A majority of the board is comfortable with the practice of incurring additional (and reoccurring) expenses despite projected deficits and despite the fact that the reserves are unable to cover the projected deficit at the time the budget is approved. The position of Joyce Dalessandro, who has served on the board for over 20 years, its essentially that the use of such “deficit spending” budgets is okay because they normally work themselves out.
Even though this unsound practice may not have resulted in insolvency in the past years, the district has been able to weather those years because it had strong reserves and supportive families. Now the district's reserves are down and the parents are already shouldering many of the expenses. The real issue is not how things may hopefully turn out, but how the board plans in general. Note to the Board: Real transparency is using all of the real numbers.
Plus, should this unsound “deficit spending” practice continue given that by most accounts, including warnings from the Governor and State Controller, an economic downturn is impending? Shouldn’t the district be planning better and buildings its reserves instead of depleting them on reoccurring costs. If reserves for some reason need to be depleted, doesn’t it make far more sense under the circumstances to use the funds for “one time” expenditures that the district will not be beholden to in future possibly difficult financial years? To us yes, but not to the board majority. Instead, they approved raises even though they didn’t need to do so because a solid "negotiated" Master Contract was already in place.
Board Member Dalessandro touted at the last meeting how teachers are #1 in her book. It's no secret why she considers teachers #1 and not students.
The San Dieguito Faculty Association (which is a 501(c)(5) political action committee), spent over $37,000 to support re-election of her and another incumbent, who both approved the Master Contract. And once elected, she quickly: approved the 5% early retirement notice to benefit her supporter PAC President Bob Croft (the one making most of the decisions on how to spend the PAC's money to support their campaigns) even though he was no longer an active teacher, and of course the recent and additional raise making the already history making raise now an even higher 13%, never once recusing herself. And, of course, neither of them have children in the district impacted by their decisions.
Yes, the teachers' PAC is the single and by far largest fund raiser during the board elections, spending almost $40,000 in 2016 to get Dalessandro and another incumbent elected (see the State form the PAC filed shown below). Until board leadership changes, students will apparently always be #2 for some of our board members. We hope that we get new board members who will adopt measures to ensure board independence and who firmly believe students are #1.
Note: The teachers' PAC donated a total of at least $37,219 to support Board Members Dalessandro and Hergesheimer who approved the teachers' record setting 12.5%, now 13%, raise, just months before the 2016 election.
Voters, if you’d like to change things, please go to the board meetings and speak, submit public document requests, get involved, RUN FOR OFFICE. Apathy will not bring change.
“School layoffs planned more than 40 California school districts,” by A. Guzman-Lopez, KPCC 89.3 (3/17/17)
“K-12: Tidal wave of expenses in looming California school budget crisis,” by. S. Noguchi, The Mercury News (7/2/17).
“Brown Unveils Austere Budget, Warns of Economic Downturn,” by M. Lagos and K. Orr, KQED (The California Report, 1/10/17).
“San Diego Explained: SDUSD Insolvency,” (San Diego Unified) Channel 7 San Diego in partnership with VoiceofSanDiego.org,
“What Happens if City Schools Go Insolvent,” (San Diego Unified) by K. Kyle, Voice of San Diego (10/16/11),