An Open Letter to Angry Parents of Manhattan Beach

Recently, the teachers at Mira Costa High School overwhelmingly endorsed suspending writing letters of recommendation for college pending a comprehensive contract agreement.  There are those in the community who are angry.  We understand that.  Your anger is misdirected.

For 10 years teachers in MBUSD have received no salary adjustment that overcomes the effects of inflation.  For five years, teachers have received no salary adjustment, at all.  In that time, this community has supported a massive expansion of technology and a tax measure for buildings.  You have elected officials that have offered administrators raises that meet COLA and then offer 3% on top of that.  That compensation is in addition to the range of perks that your elected officials have offered in compensation packages to those administrators.   Yet, to the people that most affect your child’s future, the teachers, you have been silent in the face of the erosion of their compensation.  You haven’t spoken out on our behalf.  You haven’t advocated for us.   While we have tried to educate, we have been met with silence, at best, hostility, at worst.  You have chosen to endorse administrators who have nothing but a marginal direct effect on the educational development of your child.  You have elected board members who, using their finance experience to the hilt, have sought to drive down labor costs while improving the quality of the “product” that labor produces.

During the last ten years, teachers have been repeatedly asked to sacrifice our family’s financial health while various boards and administrators have sought to correct the errors of their predecessors always with the promise that if we did that, the board would make it right.   We believed the financial numbers we were given at the table at previous negotiations only to be told by the current administrative team that we were deceived.  Unprecedented reserves were built up on our backs for 5 years through budget trickery that over budgeted expenses and under budgeted income leading to a claimed deficit.  Then, in the quiet of summer, 1.5 million to 3 million dollar surpluses would be moved into the reserves.  Then, as negotiations approached, the board and administration took over half of those reserves and moved them into accounts that supposedly kept them from being used to begin to right a decade long wrong perpetrated against its teachers.  This year, we’ve seen COPs (Certificates of Participation) removed as a general fund obligation to the tune of 1.7 million dollars per year.  We were promised by a previous administration and board that once that was done, that would free up general funds for long overdue teacher pay adjustments.  Today, we’ve been told that there is no reason the current board and administration feels compelled to honor that commitment.

We are angry and we aren’t going to accept the status quo any more.  Teachers with over 15 years of experience have taken nearly a 20% pay cut over this decade.   While test scores have skyrocketed and your sons and daughters have received admission in the finest colleges, as AP scores have saved you scores of dollars in college costs and made your kids competitive in the college market, as our sports teams have excelled offering opportunities to many and our extra-curricular programs from MUN (Model United Nations) to choir have become national leaders, the community has allowed your leaders to treat the teachers responsible for this success as mere commodities.

You are angry.  We are angry.   We are angry that our kids in our families, thanks to the decisions you have allowed to happen over ten years, will not even reach the stage of having to ask for a recommendation for college.  For them, thanks to the shortsighted and cruel manipulations of this board, college is quickly becoming simply a dream that financially can’t come true.  Rather than be angry about us choosing not to offer a voluntary service that we have in the past, a service you have grown to rely on and feel entitled to, your anger should be directed at the individuals who have unnecessarily driven the financial situation of some of the finest professional educators in California into the ground.  We plead with you to speak out loudly and clearly to your elected representatives that teachers are important.  They are a priority.  They deserve to have their salary adjusted to begin to right a terrible decade-long wrong.  It can be done.  The financial means are there to get it done.  Teachers want to get it done soon.  The real question is, do you?

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