Nothing bold, nothing new.
The seminal message delivered at the Ramona School board meeting on June 7th, 2012, was that the problem is the unions. While concessions from the unions will certainly be part of it, the real solution is much more complex. Too bad that the Administration and all but one of the school board members were willing to turn away from the reality, and instead cast a stone at a politically reliable target, public unions.
Dawn Perfect, the lone dissenter in approval of the 2012~2013 budget, remarked courageously that the administration had failed to produce a plan toward future solvency, paraphrasing here. The County schools executive told the board that the deficit projections are “huge” for years 13~14, and “beyond belief” for 14~15. They warned that if the school board fails to reign in the budget the state will take over and everyone will lose, particularly our children. They cautioned that Ramona Unified School District must budget assuming that the state school bond will not pass in November, because to do otherwise would be irresponsible.
The public urged bold action such as closing a school and changing to a year-round system and then, as if the nothing had been said, the school board approved the budget that contains no initiatives for a long-term solution. Nothing bold, nothing new.
The school district is hoping that the unions will agree to a permanent pay reduction of 13% and huge reduction in benefits. Such a cut would create an annual $2.7M in savings against a $1.3M shortfall this coming year, $8.5M and $18.5M for the subsequent 2 years. The numbers don’t add up in the long term and it appears that few at the district are really worried about it.
Asking the unions to sacrifice so that the inevitable calamity will be delayed only a year is unconscionable in my view. Like Rome burning, the administration appears monolithic while the place falls apart around them. The administration and school board are apparently oblivious to the fact that the district administrative pay is way out of line with reality, with the Superintendent at the helm with a salary that is larger that that of our Governor Jerry Brown. As if to throw a faux bone to the unions, the administration is convening a board of themselves to examine a 12% cut of administrative pay. The hawks are watching over the hen house.
A particularly sorry part of the meeting was the board members asking the County executives for what sounded like absolution regarding the current crisis. The executive assured the board that the school district had done nothing wrong, and that the problem was entirely caused by the State. Never mind what has happened they said, it’s not your fault. This seemed to please everyone on the board, except Dawn Perfect, and the board voted to accept a budget that won’t solve anything. How sad for our children. Nothing bold, nothing new.
Dave Patterson is a grassroots activist in Ramona.