Sandra Nichols, California Budget Cuts, Adam Smith, Cuts from the top

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Jan. 29, 2009

Education Cuts:
What will upper management give?

Sandra Nichols
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  "As the very next step in our budget deliberations, I want to know what upper management is going to give up in this process."

I am mad as hell about corporate executives and bankers who redecorate their offices and buy private jets with bailout money while millions lose their homes to foreclosure because of bad loans that nobody should have written to people who just wanted a chance at the American dream.

Since I teach in the public schools, I experience first hand the devastating effects of budgets that do not stretch far enough to meet our obligations. We must educate and support learners in reaching their highest potential and prepare them to pursue successful futures and to make positive contributions to the community and the global society. If you don't recognize those words, they are the stated mission of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

As the very next step in our budget deliberations, I want to know what upper management is going to give up in this process. I don't want to talk about libraries and school buses until we resolve administrative perks and pay and how administrative positions will be consolidated. What will upper management give?

Recently a teacher, fearing layoffs or furlough days, spoke to the school board and complained about her salary and living expenses. In response, one of our top-level administrators stood here in front of everyone and declared, "we will all suffer, at every level and no one will be immune to the budget ax." I want to know what upper management intends to give, because the top-level employees in this district have contracts put in place at the dawn of this budget crisis. These are multi-year contracts lasting through June 2010. If the least well paid among us is going to suffer, then the best paid must give up even more. This is especially relevant to those who have these long-term contracts.

In 1776, Adam Smith wrote about capitalism in his book The Wealth of Nations. Adam Smith is well known as a pioneer in capitalistic thinking. His language is a little archaic, but the message is as relevant today as it was when our nation was founded. Here is what he wrote:

"The necessaries [not a misspelling] of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess... It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

Shall I explain what those words mean? When everybody takes 2 furlough days, or has their pay frozen, step and column, it is not fair. The board has written into contract a special perk of high-level administrators being able to work up to ten extra days at their per diem amount over and above their regular school year with the consent of the superintendent. How dare we consider chopping days off teachers' and classified workers' pay before we hear what upper management is going to give up?

We live in a place and time where those among us are losing their jobs and their homes. If you do not know anyone that is in foreclosure, you are simply not living among the people.

Let me also remind you of the words of President Barack Obama who was speaking of public funds and fairness when he said, "I do believe that for folks like me who've worked hard but frankly also been lucky, I don't mind paying more than the waitress who can barely make the rentÉ." Steve Coll, writing in The New Yorker, referred to Adam Smith's and President Obama's comments as expressing "a principle, which most economists would regard as unexceptionable," which means NOT OPEN TO OBJECTIONS. In other words, it's a no-brainer!

I read a recent newspaper headline that announced "County begins budget cuts by slashing road fund, engaging union." I hope to see one soon that proclaims: "PVUSD starts budget cuts at the top."

This is the text of a message Sandra Nichols delivered to Pajaro Valley Unified School District board members and administrators in open session, January 28, 2009. Sandra is a Teacher/Administrator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and a PVUSD Board Trustee. Her opinions are not necessarily those of any school district.

See Also:
California Republicans responsible for drastic education budget
Public Schools reach Level Orange Alert

© Sandra Nichols 2001 - 2009


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