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On Nov. 7, San Diego Unified School District moves forward with three new or re-elected board members reconfiguring a board of five, beleaguered by governing questionably in the students’ best interests.
In the last few years, we’ve seen more than our share of controversies that United Parents for Education, or UPforEd, believes served the political expediency of adults to the personal disappointment of parents, and the educational letdown of students.
Let’s consider just a few decisions made by five people, elected by the majority of San Diego Unified voters that leads us to question their motives.
Recently, San Diego Unified decided not to pursue $15 million dollars in funds under Race to the Top. The Obama administration put forward Race to the Top criteria and guidelines, in an effort to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap.
Yet, San Diego Unified chose not to even apply for these funds. A parent has to ask why wouldn’t the district pursue another source of funding during such tight budget times?
In another confounding example, the district faced spiraling healthcare expenses in 2010 to the tune of $167 million — the biggest share of cost aside from payroll.
The issue came up this year and the unions blocked hearings on proposals from competitors of the California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefits Association without even a public hearing on the matter.
The media brought the issue to light discovering that in 20 years, the district hasn’t put the healthcare bid out once despite best practices suggesting soliciting new bids every three to five years.
Because of decisions like these there is not enough money left in the budget to fund teachers. So our teachers, sometimes the best and brightest, get pink-slipped each year.
Yet for all these poor fiduciary decisions, voters continue to elect school board members who maintain the status quo and put what’s best for kids’ achievement second, placing the full burden on parents and teachers.
Just knowing a Pacific Beach parent recently took to the streets picking up and selling off crates of recyclables to help raise money for supplies even as the district continues to weigh bankruptcy is enraging.
How many times have we heard about teachers’ paying for supplies out of their own pockets? Or school foundations trying to raise enough money for school supplies or even staffing?
With a budget of $1 billion, these stop-gap funds should not be necessary.
In a perfect world, board members should put educating kids before making unfeasible financial decisions and deals with the bargaining units.
We expect the board to uphold its fiscal and policy responsibilities, such as approving balanced budgets, supporting well-rounded curriculums, leading discussions about dramatically improving student outcomes and reporting annual educational growth.
Most importantly, the board should be prioritizing great teachers for all students regardless of neighborhoods.
And perhaps most importantly, board members should be strong leaders in the face of adversity.
It’s not enough to talk the talk; UPforEd plans to walk the walk.
We want nothing less than a seat at the table and participate in long-range planning to ensure proactive and collaborative decision-making, such as choosing the best programs for students.
The bottom line: it’s time for a change.
Meet the candidates. Visit their websites. Learn their positions. Vote.
It’s so simple, but so important. Too much is at stake to just sit back and hope for the best.
We have to lead by example and fight for what’s best for our kids.
That begins with hiring the most qualified people to our school board willing to not only make the hard decisions, but who do so by putting students’ needs first.
Lisa Berlanga is a San Diego Unified School District parent and the executive director of UPforEd, a nonprofit of parent-engagement agents dedicated to ensuring a kids-first agenda at San Diego Unified School District.
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