Budget cuts, shared commitment, shared suffering

The San Mateo Foster City School Board is discussing budget cuts if Measure V fails. There are little program cuts here and there, but, basically, the way the district proposes balance the budget is with staff and teacher layoffs.

What seems to be lost in this approach is our overall responsibility to ALL our students and ALL our staff.

Let’s start with the biggest fact:

* SMFC is already substantially understaffed and underfunded.

We have no wiggle room for anything anywhere. After decades of cuts, all we are cutting is meat and bone.

* Cuts to “back office” staff hurt students.

Any “unnecessary” staff should have long since been eliminated. When principals and executives don’t have staff support, they do the secretarial and other staff work not very well and VERY expensively. It is a false economy.

* It hurts people.

San Mateo and Foster City have gotten to be very hard places to live. I know it (and live it). You know it (and we all live it). It is not like the folks who we are going to lay off are going to magically find another job around here. They may have to move likely robbing our community of valuable assets… to say nothing of the magic that some of these people do for our district.

* Most of our costs are people.

We can’t automate education. We can’t automate the operation of the school district. Some days it seems like our “technology” is costing us more than it gains:


There are no good choices here.

So, maybe we can share the pain….

Instead of laying off anyone, let’s spread the cuts out over everyone:

  • Share the cuts over all staff – no layoffs.
  • Break the cuts into thirds with a modest “progressive” system – the first third of the cuts go to the first third of total income (that is everyone’s income), the second third into the second third of total income, the third “third” goes into the top third of total income.
    • Like your income taxes.
    • If you make the least, you pay the least
    • If you make the most, you pay the most.

For example, the cuts might work something like:

  • 2% of  income under $50k
  • $1000 + 4% of salary from $50k to $150k
  • $5000 + 6% of salary over $150k

If the school board passes this as its policy, it can then become part of its negotiations with teachers and staff.

It has some real benefits:

  • It says to all our employees, YOU MATTER.
  • It also puts everyone on the same side.
  • It also gives the district as much time as possible to handle financial shortfalls because no layoff notices would be required (… though I’m sure other notifications would be needed).
  • It is also a recruiting tool… You won’t be laid off here when times get tough.

There is more to this that is needed and benefits everyone:

  • The district will also agree to run with a public,declared, minimum reserve. Specified by the board and confirmed via its contracts with the teachers and staff. We are not here to “save for a rainy day” – that day is here.
  • The district will provide more aggressive transparency on all salaries, contract employees, etc.

The bottom line of this approach is that it puts everyone on the same side. All teachers, all staff, all administrators, all executives. It shares any suffering, but it also shares a commitment to the one group that we are all here for –

Our kids, the students.

If you’d like to help make sure that we don’t have to make these cuts (and more – another $2 million will be required soon), join us and help pass Measure V.

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