Last Friday night at an emergency school board meeting that wasn't televised, the SCUSD school board resolved to set aside an administrative law judge's ruling on skipping teacher seniority on layoffs. In voting for the resolution, the board decided to protect newer teacher's jobs at Superintendent's Raymond's Priority Schools, rather than accepting the judge's decision that the teachers at the priority schools didn't meet the criteria for skipping layoffs laid out in the Education Code.
The district's Priority Schools have undergone "transformation" by having new administrators and replacing at least half their staff in the last two years. They have also had an infusion of cash at the expense of other high poverty district schools through the Superintendent's decision to raise the criteria for Title 1 funds. Schools now have to have a higher percentage of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunches to receive the federal funds meant for students in poverty. Another unacknowledged piece of the turnaround plan is alternative placement for some students. Hiram Johnson High School, one of seven priority schools, has hundreds fewer students now than it did one year ago.
Budget projections are so dire that every district school has had layoffs, even teachers with as much as ten years experience have received layoff notices. Every school has at-risk students living in poverty. The effects are especially noticeable at the comprehensive high schools which are now at 35-1 teacher to student ratios. Luther Burbank High School, which is not a Priority School, has 100% Free Lunch and a higher percentage of English Language Learners than Johnson. To argue, as some of those speaking in favor of the resolution did, that somehow teachers at one school care more about their students than teachers at another school or that students at one school are more deserving than students at another is divisive and damaging. Moreover, if the Sacramento City Teachers Association decides to litigate the board resolution, it will mean district education dollars spent on legal fees not on students.
Instead of taking an easy out they had to take a year to work on staffing solutions that could benefit all schools and all teachers, the SCUSD board made a decision that pits teacher against teacher and school against school in the scramble for scarce dollars and resources. It has created upheaval and ill will with what amounts to union busting, and Michelle Rhee didn't have to spend on dime here in Sacramento.