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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Instructional Minutes at CUSD

Reader takes issue with cutting time in school to protect teacher paychecks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The calendars previously attached to this letter to the editor were not official calendars from Capistrano Unified School District and contained inaccuracies. Patch has since attached an official calendar, approved by the Board of Trustees.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago: 

It is unacceptable that a student graduating high school in Chicago has had four years less of classroom instruction time than her counterpart in Houston. Until learning time is extended, particularly for students that need it most, achievement won't dramatically improve.

On an average of U.S. students go to school 6.5 hours a day, over the course of 180 days. The state of Illinois requires 176 days of education. Last year, the Chicago Public Schools only had 170 days. All eyes are on .

As a parent, did you know that the state of California has lowered the required minimum number of days of school to 160 (half days are treated like full days in this count).

The currently approved CUSD calendar gives our students 129 full days of school plus 45 Minimum Days, which is 174 (if you are counting minimum days equal to full days).  

CUSD elementary school children are in school 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., six hours 20 minutes per day during a full day and five hours per day during a minimum day.

Are the children in CUSD going to graduate high school with four less years of classroom instruction than their counterparts across the country? 

The CUSD Elementary School Calendar for 2012- 2013 shows that our children will be in school:

 Month  Number of Full Days   Number of Minimum Days   September   14  4  October  17  6  November  9  7  December  12  3  January  14  4  February  14  4  March  13  7  April  13  4  May  18  4  June  5  2  TOTAL:  129  45

Holding Our Children Hostage

The district . This would put our school year at 165 days (technically 164 days if your child's back-to-school night is not held on a minimum day). The last day of school will be May 26.

If needed, the district can use five additional furlough days as needed (down to 160 days) to balance its budget. This would end our school year May 17, (10 percent shorter school year than last year, which would make it the shortest school year in the nation.)

As a parent - how do you feel about our district short-changing your children's education to maintain employee compensation? That was the choice that the current board made this summer while parents were on vacation. They did so behind closed doors with no input from parents or the public. They did so on the record and with no discussion .

If you care about your child's education, you need to be a voice for your child because there is no one at CUSD who is making decisions from the perspective of what is in the best interest of the children – it is all about adult jobs.

Jim Reardon September 11, 2012 at 10:44 PM
There is a problem with school funding. This is plain for people to see. But what is the problem? In my view, California has an school funding formula that is close to a guarantee as one can get. While we can argue about the wisdom of it, Prop 98 is an iron-clad guarantee of education funding. So why is there a shortage of money? The reason is two-fold: 1. Growth in the California economy has been largely absent for the past several years. Without economic growth, state revenue is static or falls. Recently, it has fallen a lot, and with it goes the Prop 98 guarantee. 2. Teacher pay represents over 80 percent of school expenditure, and with negotiated agreements that provide automatic increases in pay for teachers based on years of service and continuing education, plus cost-of-living allowances and benefits that are unrealistic, the cost to merely operate schools continues to rise. The gap between falling revenue (1) and rising cost (2) has resulted in a reduction in the number of teachers hired (=larger class sizes and less enrichment), a shorter school year (=less actual instruction). This was a (bad) negotiated choice. So long as growth in the private-sector California economy remains mired, this gap will grow worse with each passing year. Outside of education, people prioritize needs and make sacrifices. It is not "singling-out" teachers to suggest they do the same. And one does not "pay for" a pay raise or position never negotiated or awarded.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) September 11, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Added.
Alberto Barrera September 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM
On that note, I find it strange that we would end school on a Friday since we always end on a Wednesday. Has the District released any official calendars that take into account the extra ten furlough days?
fact checker September 12, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Outside of a teacher paycut of up to 40% would you also fight frivolous lawsuits brought by people who have no children who attend CUSD schools when they disagree with your decisions as a board member? Every single pay raise must be negotiated by law. Would you circumvent the law? Are you willing to recognize the paycuts already taken by employees? Will you be participating in open forums so you can be held accountable for your ideas?
fact checker September 12, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Can you cite any credible source that backs up your claims? The voters of CUSD made a much more informed decision during the last election. All candidates had ample opportunity to make their case. This is also the case for this election. Voters are paying attention and the love of unions did not play a role. This is a conservative area and most are far from supportive of unions so how can you claim that they were influenced to vote to support a "union" candidate. Voters made a choice based only on the actions of Ken Maddox Lopez and the other guy. At least the other guy got the message.
fact checker September 12, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Alberto, just count back 10 days from the end of the school year. That would be the last day of school if it becomes necessary to add 10 furlough days.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Please see editor's note now at the top of this letter to the editor regarding the PDF calendar attachment. The official CUSD-approved calendar is now uploaded to the letter. Thanks.
Dawn Urbanek September 14, 2012 at 04:23 AM
In response to Fact Checker- "Every single pay raise must be negotiated by law. Would you circumvent the law? Are you willing to recognize the paycuts already taken by employees? Will you be participating in open forums so you can be held accountable for your ideas?" What would you say if the District in collusion with employee presented one senerio to the public which represented "shared sacrifice"... then behind closed doors negotiated a contract that protected employee compensation at the expense of my child's education. Well- is that a contract negotiated by law? What was represented to parents/public at the June 7th Public forum was substantially different then what was approved at the June 27th Board meeting. And let me say- there was not real effort by the District to include the public in budget negotiations this year. The "public" was only allowed into three of the 26 meetings. And one of the three (the last public meeting) totally misrepresented the negotiations that took place up until that meeting. Who is "circumventing the law"? Please share your thought- Documentation to follow in my next post.
Dawn Urbanek September 14, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Here is what was presented to "the public" June 7th- nothing like the contracts that were approved June 27th??????? Please see page 15 of the 2012-2013 Budget Forum Presentation July 7th link on the District web site Home Page under Budget News- June 7th Community Forum: Unilateral reductions saving $11 million Increase class size by 2 saving $8.2 million Freeze Salary Schedule advancement $2.7 million Total at 8 Furlough days - all employees saving $9 million Total of 8.0 Salary roll back all employees $19.8 million CUEA 1.2 current + 6.8 = 8% CSEA 0 current + 8 = 8% Teamsters 1 current + 7 = 8% CUMA 6 current days + 2 = 8% Riinstate if Tax measure is approved (contigency) $18 million Combination of salary tollback and furlough days
randy September 14, 2012 at 04:51 AM
We need that fact finding items to tell CUSD students the system is going to be accounted for. From what I witness, ongoing items are not resolved. I'm glad parents are not blind. How many "classroom teachers" did we really lose? The district was unclear and not responsive when asked multiple times. I've been noticing the class sizes are exceeding the limit in elementary classrooms and the students are learning again from past year grade level. Seems teachers are concerned about their students' accountability. As I have said in past, their problem getting bigger has started since day one now is becoming our problem. Classroom teachers are the resource we need.
John B. Greet September 14, 2012 at 04:52 AM
A reasonable Statewide school choice initiative would solve so many challenges where educating our children is concerned. Ever in the forefront of resistance to, and political campaigns against, reasonable school choice initiatives are teachers unions. Teachers' unions have one main focus, to protect the jobs and increase the wages and benefits of their members, regardless of whether those teachers are actually effective and competent or not. I have nothing, whatsoever, against either public or private sector labor unions. I simply believe it is important to understand that a teacher's union's main focus is *not* the education of the children who attend their schools...it is fighting for the jobs and wages and benefits of their members. Because this is so, they must necessarily be at odds with initiatives (like school choice) that *are* intended to help improve academic performance for the greatest number of children possible, regardless of curriculum attended.
fact checker September 14, 2012 at 07:46 AM
John, There is no evidence that vouchers have improved education overall where they have been implemented. The reason that teachers generally oppose vouchers is that they would encourage schools set up as profit making ventures and this is indeed what has happened to the detriment of students in many cases. The key is parent involvement, which is required by private schools. There would be no guarantee that every child would be accepted with their voucher. Students who do not succeed can be asked to leave. Parents who do not volunteer, attend conferences, and provide supplies could also be asked to leave. School choice exists already. Parents can transfer to any school in the district where there is space available and even to other districts. It happens all the time. CUSD has several charter schools as well. Your logic is flawed. The fact that unions have an obligation to negotiate on behalf of their members does not preclude them from also advocating for students. They have a long history of doing so.
Dawn Urbanek September 14, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Unions do not "advocate" for children- especially when budgets are shrinking and what is in the best interest of their members is an odds with what is in the best interest of children. In fact when budgets shrink- the Union will actually sacrifice newer members to continue to increase salaries and benefits for more tenured members. What CUEA has advocated for - ever larger class sizes to maintain compensation is actually making every teachers job more stressful. It is a sad thing to watch- and it is not good for the kids or the remaining teachers.
randy September 14, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Exactly. All kids need more teachers. Agenda or not, hire/rehire classroom teachers, end all profit makers or social plutocrats. CUSD teachers will prosper if they are respected, so will their students on campus. Yes the district knows who are good and bad "teachers" and "students". The intervention of politicans and elites are causing problems as teachers are defending themselves while working with students. While they teach kids, they ask to unify and get help from community. The community has been divided, pitting against or supporting teachers. The face value of classroom teachers are weakening because 99%ers are not prosper right now, so therefore students' face value will be something to be looked at.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) September 15, 2012 at 01:46 AM
This is what the district has to say about minimum days (posted on its website, of course CUSD officials are more than invited to contribute to the conversation here at Patch): In the 2012-2013 school year, the District has 46 days where students in the elementary grades are released early from school. There are 13 true minimum days and 33 Articulation and Collaboration for Excellence (ACE) days, which are reserved for teachers’ collaboration, professional development and instructional preparation—all focused on improving student learning. This collaborative time has been captured by restructuring minutes across the week. Students are in school for an extra 15 minutes on 129 days. Those extra 15 minutes are “banked” so that one day each week can be shortened for the ACE day. Banked minutes were introduced districtwide in the 2004-2005 school year. Those extra 15 minutes have started being considered part of the regular school day and the ACE days considered minimum days. The concept works this way (using Grades 4-5 as an example): Four days a week, students receive 323 minutes of instruction. One day each week is an ACE day. On those days, students receive 248 minutes of instruction. If you add the minutes, students receive 1,540 instructional minutes each week, or an average of 308 instructional minutes each day.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) September 15, 2012 at 01:47 AM
See this and related Q&As here: http://capousd.ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1294471264166
fact checker September 15, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Dawn, you are mistaken. Advocating for their members does not preclude unions from advocating for students. Please visit CTA.com for extensive evidence of their efforts on behalf of students. They do it now in these troubled times and they have always done it. Sorry if that makes it more difficult for you to cast the union as an adversary rather than a partner in the education of California's students.
Dawn Urbanek September 15, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Did you mean to send me to the link CTA.com- I know they do not work on behalf of students???? CTA is a proven provider of end-to-end Information Technology skills and know-how spanning all key disciplines: systems engineering, security, networks, hardware, software, embedded applications, and human factors. With 30 years experience designing, developing, and testing mission critical, public sector and commercial systems, CTA provides government and business IT solutions that demand full functionality and are reliable, scalable, secure and user-friendly.
Dawn Urbanek September 15, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Re: Instructional minutes- SO- I still am confused- are you saying that on full days the kids should be getting out of school at 2:05 but because of "banked days" they are getting out at 2:20????
Dawn Urbanek September 15, 2012 at 04:46 AM
In response to Fact Checker- Just think about what you said- and I mean think... "Dawn, you are mistaken. Advocating for their members does not preclude unions from advocating for students." So you want me to believe that if the choice is to cut employee compensation of union members or: institute furlough days, increase class size and reduce instructional minutes ... the CUEA would say - we will take a pay cut so that the children can actually get an education. Well - that might be a nice thing to "say" but in reality the District has balanced the budget every year by choosing to "never" to take a salary cut (oh - 1.5% over the last five years) The District has cut $150 million from the budget. Employee compensation is 91% of the budget so to be HONEST the kids have taken ALL of the cuts. WOW that is really representing the kids!!! Thank GOD we pay Vickie Soderbergs salary and pay to teach her how to better negotiate on behalf of our children. Please- I have spent a lot of time advocating on behalf of my child which means I actually attend school board meeting... read the school board agendas... and therefore know what is actually being done- I do not just rely on what the press or District press releases. When budgets are being cut the Union does it's job and advocates on behalf of its members... and DOES NOT ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF THE KIDS. Just look at what the district represented to the public vs the contracts that were passed.
fact checker September 15, 2012 at 05:00 AM
So what do you propose?
Capo mom September 15, 2012 at 06:39 AM
You are too funny, fc. You say unions advocate for students. What have you been smoking? Here is what we have gotten in CUSD-increased class sizes and a shorter school year. How does this reflect CUEA's advocacy for our kids? As a (presumed) advocate for students, what do you propose?
Dawn Urbanek September 15, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Working with parents and Orange County Community members to change funding formulas- advocating for more local control of our schools. If the Budget continues to be cut- some "shared sacrifice" like a real pay cut so that programs and instructional minutes won't always be cut to maintain compensation.
fact checker September 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I concur but what you leave out of your collaboration is employees. The union has been advocating for those issues for decades along with the PTA and district officials and administrators. What would that "shared sacrifice" entail? What would be your share?
fact checker September 15, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Perhaps if you recognized the efforts of teachers to deal with this crisis you might end up with less animosity. I propose that everyone work to find solutions without demonizing anyone or utilizing the situation for political gain (and in some cases financial gain).
Dawn Urbanek September 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I think the kids have sacrificed enough already and school days should be restored.
Capo mom September 15, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Typical CUEA response, everyone else needs to do something more. We in the community are already sacrificing. And our sacrifices will never be restored. The kids that are on the cusp of a breakthrough or preparing for an AP exam, their opportunities are simply lost. Now it is your turn. Bearing in mind that my expectations are quite low, come up with a tangible sacrifice/contribution that CUEA is willing to make that doesn't involve taking something away from our kids, please. We have seen how CUEA shares in the sacrifice-they go on strike. Vicky Soderberg has raised that as an ongoing possibility in the current environment. Things would look very different for our kids if unions actually advocated for them.
fact checker September 15, 2012 at 06:15 PM
What have the parents sacrificed?
Capo mom September 15, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Wow fact checker. Just wow.
Dawn Urbanek September 15, 2012 at 07:14 PM
$50 billion in taxes, countless volunteer hours plus millions in "donations"... My school site budget is about $450,000 (that is the budget the school is suppose to run on) but in addition to that we rely on $350,000 in donations. That is not sustainable and is by ACLU settlement standards- illegal. We now have schools fundraising for teacher compensation, instructional aids and library staff. If the District had not taken the furlough days- then employee compensation would be over 100% of the Districts budget.

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