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by Dennis Green

Opponents of Measure E regularly point to school closings and consolidations as an alternative to higher taxes, but the real solution is the one nobody wants to talk about. Layoffs.

Since base closure in 1996, and a decline in enrollment of some 900 students, teachers have avoided layoffs in a number of ways: class size reduction, keeping small schools open, and adding on special teachers, such as art, music and physical education teachers in ELEMENTARY schools, which never had them before.

Alameda teachers complain that the reason many of their students fail, or fall behind, or drop out of school completely, is not their fault. Not their responsibility. They blame cultural distractions such as video games, unruly students, uninvolved parents and cutbacks in funding that make them buy classroom supplies out of their own pockets.

They resist merit pay and accountability, saying that no one can assess the skills and diligence of any teacher. Not those lazy principals, (most of them former teachers), not student test scores, and certainly not their peers. Neither by observation, they say, nor extensive interviews can their excellence possibly be determined, let alone measured. The quality of their teaching cannot be, they argue, the basis for retention, let alone salary level, promotion or ranking.

Which is like saying students can’t be tested, evaluated, graded or awarded scholarships, detention or tutoring.

The first solution to the financial crisis in Alameda schools should be layoffs. Plain and simple. Both of teachers and administrative staff, in proportion to enrollment declines. Instead of all these contorted tricks for avoiding layoffs, we need staff size reductions. Sure — go ahead and close some schools as well if layoffs aren’t enough, but first cut the fat.

The only reason this isn’t part of the AUSD Master Plan and offered as the first line of defense against true reductions in the quality of education or heavy, egregious taxation, is because the teachers unions are the most powerful and dictatorial, the largest employee unions in the country. AUSD school faculties are closed shops, and the unions’ first goal is protecting the size of its membership.

1 comment to Layoffs

  • Barb

    I couldn’t agree with you more. And if the parents spent the time comparing classroom curriculum and resultant achievement between private and public schools instead of campaigning for Measures B, H and E, this wouldn’t even be news.

    Wasn’t it Willie Brown who said that the public employee unions have created an unfunded pension liability of over 512 billion dollars in the next years? Kind of ironic wasn’t that one?

    And of course Steve Jobs who said that student test scores are inversely proportional to the longevity of the teachers’ union.

    Nothing new here, just the same old unacceptable teachers and administrators saying that they need more money to do the job they don’t do very well in the first place. And the masses who accept that which they are fed as opposed to researching and thinking for themselves. Taking one’s children out of public school is a hard decision to make. Good public education is supposed to be at the very foundation of what makes our country strong. It costs an arm and a leg and many sacrifices to pay the tuition. But after all, the children are our future, and they are worth it.

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