The Superintendent, Contract Negotiations, Budget Cuts…
More than 18 months after our last website post, we are reaching out again to the Northgate community to say that we have not forgotten our commitment to the 6,700 residents who signed the petition to create a new Northgate Unified School District. The year leading up to the August, 2017, County hearing took a toll on our lives outside of NorthgateCAPS and each of us needed to step back, get some things done, and regroup. We have families within our organization who have grown (literally), families who have left the district, and families whose students have graduated. However, our opposition to a district that is too big, too dysfunctional, and too unreliable to be responsible for the education of our children will continue. We are in the queue for a hearing with the State Board of Education, where our petition will be evaluated and approved or disapproved. We have not yet been provided a hearing date; it could be another year at this point.
In the meantime, we intend to keep a close eye on district matters. Much has occurred in the Mt Diablo School District since our County hearing in 2017.
– Superintendent Meyer has resigned and will be leaving MDUSD at the end of June 2019. She has accepted a position as Superintendent of Schools in the Mt. View/Los Altos Union High School District (MVLA). Ironically, she will oversee a district with 4,300 students, the size of the proposed NUSD, which we (and much of the published research) regard as a more optimal size for a public school district. The MVLA district is one of California’s few “basic aid districts”—that is, a district that is funded directly by their property taxes, since those taxes exceed the state funding granted to non-basic aid districts. In the case of MVLA, the district receives more than $14,000 per student.
– The teachers and the MDUSD administration are at odds once again, with the most recent contract having expired June 30, 2018. Teachers are still wearing the “MDUSD Proud” buttons that were created for the district’s campaign against NUSD, but now the “Proud” is crossed out!
– NUSD’s most vocal opponent left teaching mid-year to take a job in the private sector.
– Cheryl Hansen left her post as an MDUSD Board Member to run for County Superintendent. She lost and is neither a factor in MDUSD or at the County.
– The Mt. Diablo Education Association (MDEA, the union representing teachers in MDUSD) has elected a new President. As you may recall, MDEA coordinated much of the opposition to Northgate CAPS after the former president promised at a school board meeting to “kill” NUSD.
Some things remain the same:
– MDUSD continues to manipulate the reporting of the periodic Interim budgets, which revise budget figures that are reported each June in the district’s annual budget. Mr. McAlister, Principal of Northgate High School, sent out a newsletter to parents on March 26 painting a grim picture of the state of the MDUSD budget. In the context of losing the Sports Medicine program, he writes:
“This situation is made even more problematic by the fact that we are being given less money per student by the State, while at the same time, we are dealing with an incremental decline in student enrollment. Put simply, fewer dollars following fewer kids means that cuts need to be made.”
Mr. McAlister offers a misleading picture of MDUSD finances. The chart below shows the main source of State funding (the LCFF per student funding formula), the total district revenue, and the ADA (Avg Daily Attendance, or adjusted enrollment) for MDUSD’s adopted budgets in 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2nd interim budget in 2019. Each budget report covers three years (the current school year and the following two years). Please note that between July of 2018, when the 2018 budget was adopted, and March of 2019, when the 2nd interim budget revision was released; revenues were projected higher for all three years. Those projections match what we heard in January 2019, when the Governor’s office outlined the State’s 2019-20 K-12 budget, announcing “Funding per student grows steadily, reaches historic high.”
In other words, MDUSD’s own budgets show that the total district revenue for the three budgets is increasing, and enrollment, or ADA, is relatively flat. These may be surprises for Mr. McAlister, but there should be no major negative surprises in the current budget for anyone who is familiar with the past three years of projections.
So why all the talk about cuts to programs and teaching positions and the pleas to parents to give more money? Is it posturing in advance of upcoming contract negotiations with teachers? Or is it a prelude to a request for voters to approve a parcel tax? Since Mr. McAlister’s comments do not align with the district’s own budget, or the State’s well-publicized plans to increase per-student funding, do they reflect some other purpose? The Northgate community has historically been very generous and has raised money to supplement bond measure dollars for athletic, performing arts, and academic facilities at Northgate, including the multi-million dollar Sports Medicine building, whose purpose, according to Mr. McAlister, is now in jeopardy.
NOTE: The summary below outlines only the revenue portion of the budget, since that is being given as the reason for cutting programs. We have other concerns regarding the district’s on-going liabilities and the use of one-time reserves for re-occurring expenses, which are not reflected in these figures.
The numbers outlined in yellow are the most recent projections for each given school year.
While we wait for the State to review our proposal for a smaller school district that is more transparent and responsive to the needs of our community, we must continue to grapple with the problems of MDUSD, a 29,000-student district that has long struggled to serve the needs of 10 different communities spread over 150 square miles. Our motto for the NUSD campaign was “Better Schools for Students and Teachers”, because we believe a more responsive, well-run district is key to having a better learning environment for everyone involved. The inclusion of “teachers” in our motto was bitterly resented by the MDEA leadership, which sees the union as the key factor in all district processes and decision-making. But now, the district and union are at odds over a new contract, and “Proud” has disappeared from the “MDUSD Proud” buttons. Perhaps we are about to encounter new opportunities for district stakeholders to see how a new, smaller district could serve everyone better.