My Turn: What a difference a year makes, or not | SierraSun.com

My Turn: What a difference a year makes, or not

Gina Stephens

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and its teachers are again at an impasse in salary negotiations. Again? Yes, once again, teachers are being told “not this year.”

I wrote a My Turn piece last year (Dec. 25, 2006). It started with: “Merry and bright? I’m not feeling it. Any person involved in education isn’t feeling it. Our community especially needs to be aware of the dismal atmosphere your educators are in now.”

I could write the same article today. When will our elected school board trustees start supporting the teachers?

What a difference a year makes? How about what a difference 30 years makes? The year is 1978. Teachers bring their sleeping bags to a school board meeting because they vowed not to leave until an agreement could be reached. I guess I need to get my sleeping bag out because it might as well be 1978 all over again. 30 years?

What a difference 10 years makes: From a 1998. Sierra Sun article, “… A financial plan….is dependent on district employees and teachers giving up a portion of a promised raise in 1999-2000.”

What a difference three years makes: From a 2005 Sierra Sun article, “School administrators say money will be too tight in 2005-06 to give teachers what they’ve requested.”

You can guess what’s next. A Nov. 1, 2007 Sierra Sun headline, “Teachers union begins annual negotiations.” How sad that I have a longer contract with my cell phone company than I do with my employer.

Here’s the final insult: Sierra Sun March 11, 2008, “District officials suffered a surprise hit to their budget last week when they received a letter notifying them of their obligation to pay $1.2 million for two charter schools in the district.”

One guess where that leaves teachers’ hopes for a raise.

The press has tried to explain to the community that we are a basic aid, locally funded school district. In fact, we have been since 2003. It’s a bit confusing because we all have grown up knowing that schools are funded by the state. This is not entirely the case with TTUSD.

Our funding changed when our property values went nuts. Arnold can do what he wants; our property taxes help drive our district’s budget.

Where’s all the revenue going? Not to us. In fact, if you compare salaries of teachers who live in comparable basic aid districts, we are at the bottom of the salary pile. But the very reason we are basic aid (high property taxes) is the very reason the school board should pay teachers a fair, competitive, professional living wage.

The school district has the money. In fact, our former superintendent said so in this newspaper on October 5, 2006. “‘Things have changed,’ Williams said. ‘The budget is more robust than it has been in years, thanks in large part to basic aid funding from property taxes, and options for spending and investing are on the rise.

‘Rather than stressing about where to find more money, board members will now be determining how to spend it.'”

Merry and bright? After looking up past Sierra Sun articles I am again discouraged, deflated and disappointed with the way our district has treated its teachers.

Teachers are not discouraged in educating your children. The students, in fact, are truly the only reason we tolerate all of this nonsense. The classroom is our haven.

We often hear of the squeaky wheel. After 30 years, the wheel is ready to fall off.

Your teachers are tired of fighting this battle. We are pleading with our community to become those squeaky wheels. Talk to your child’s teacher, ask some questions at board meetings ” please do something! We need to put on our rally caps. This community is unbelievable in their ability to affect change for the good of the order.

After 30 years, give teachers something to look forward to. Stop the nickel-and-dime negotiating. I’d love to get back to teaching, not writing guest columns to the Sierra Sun.