9.21.15 Jeffco WNW Recall Fact Check (Part 3)

Recall The FactsIt’s time for our Jeffco Recall fact check, Part 3! As you know, there’s no shortage of topics, but this should provide a useful boost for chats with your neighbors, family, and colleagues.

 

Teacher Compensation

Why does it matter? Teacher compensation matters because our children are taught by teachers. We want to keep our great teachers here in Jeffco and be competitive to attract other great teachers. Compensation, respect and a good working environment are all essential to attract and retain great teachers, but even more importantly, because a teacher’s working environment is also our students’ working environment. Our students matter — and this issue is vital to student success.

CLAIM 1: WNW increased teacher compensation by 7 percent.

FACTS:

  • Compensation increases ≠ salary increases. Compensation refers to the entire package — health insurance, other insurance, retirement benefits and more. Salary refers to the amount of money in your paycheck.
  • This year, Jeffco teachers will receive salary increases of 0.5 percent to 1 percent, depending on whether they were rated as effective or highly effective.
  • WNW’s 7 percent is a compensation increase that includes additional costs for healthcare and retirement that make up the bulk of that number.
  • The Denver Public School Board gave their teachers a salary increase of 6 percent for 2015/16, on top of the additional costs for healthcare and retirement.
  • Boulder Valley teachers will also receive a 2.8 percent cost-of-living salary increase, plus another 3 percent salary increase on top of that for 2015/16.
  • Bottom line: A salary increase of 1 percent — or less! — doesn’t stretch very far. The average Jeffco teacher will see about $40 more each month, and we’ve already lost hundreds of teachers who’ve left for better-paying positions in neighboring districts like Boulder and Denver.

CLAIM 2: Their new compensation plan rewards great teachers.

FACTS:

  • “Board member Ken Witt, who first proposed the pay system in a hand-drawn sketch and asked the staff to present the plan for a vote one month later….” (Yesenia Robles, Denver Post, July 28, 2015, emphasis ours).
  • The plan was introduced without warning and implemented with no discussion with JCEA or the district’s teachers through other means.
  • The plan was based on evaluation scores, despite the fact that teachers had been told 2013/14 was a “hold harmless” year.
  • The plan was based on evaluation scores despite the fact that the federal mediator specifically stated the evaluation in its current state lacked interrater reliability and should not be used for determining compensation.
  • The compensation plan had not been mentioned once by Witt or other board members during previous months of contract negotiations, impasse and mediation. 
  • Many teachers agreed that they appreciated the raise, but strongly disagreed with the process that shut them completely out of a conversation about what would make them feel rewarded.
  • Bottom line: A compensation plan that rewards great teachers needs to be planned months in advance and discussed with teachers, not introduced and approved with a vague sketch after the school year had already started.

CLAIM 3: WNW raised salaries of current teachers to match the starting salary schedule for new hires that had been developed after the new compensation plan was approved.

FACTS:

  • They did—but only after JCEA took them to court because the board majority refused to address the issue in their budget process.
  • Amy Weber, the district’s personnel director, warned the board that they would need to take steps to equalize pay between new hires and current Jeffco teachers after the board voted to raise starting salaries and approved a new salary schedule for new hires.
  • Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman also raised the issue and pushed to close the gap—but were ignored by Witt, Newkirk and Williams.
  • Superintendent Dan McMinimee and district staff proposed a solution that stayed within WNW’s budget guidelines and addressed the inequity.
  • At no point did Witt, Newkirk or Williams direct staff to equalize the gap between new hires and veteran teachers.
  • When McMinimee and staff presented their proposal to equalize pay for new hires and veteran Jeffco teachers, the board majority members said they would prefer to see a raise go to substitutes rather than address this issue for teachers who are in the classrooms every day.
  • Bottom line: WNW spent months refusing to address the issue despite requests from district staff and the two other board members. Waiting months to approve a common-sense solution — and even suggesting that it couldn’t be done at the meeting when they finally did approve it — is bad policy and bad governance. Claiming this as a WNW achievement is laughable.

CLAIM #4: The board fought to raise substitute compensation.

FACTS:

  • A raise for substitutes was part of the original district proposal.
  • It was dropped after McMinimee and his staff looked for ways to equalize the gap between new hires and stay within the numbers the board had allocated.
  • When Witt suggested that the district wouldn’t be able to equalize pay because the raises should go to substitutes instead, McMinimee jumped in with a solution that provided substitutes with some raise and kept salary schedules intact.
  • Bottom line: McMinimee — not WNW — provided the momentum on this issue from start to finish. There was that minute in one meeting this spring when all three said they prioritized giving substitutes a raise and would wait on equalizing pay (see above) when they learned the increase had been dropped, but McMinimee was the one found a way to solve both issues. The fact that WNW did not look for a way to compensate both, when both have been at a pay disadvantage for years, speaks volumes about the board majority’s priorities and goals. This is not an achievement they can claim.

What seems to be missing in the minds of WNW is the recognition that when they talk about putting money “into the classroom” that means paying teachers and others who serve as resources. Our teachers have been clear that increasing salary was one of their top priorities. Already, many have left to make as much as $7,000 to $10,000 more in other districts. As parents who have bills to pay and children to feed, we can hardly blame them for finding a job that pays better.

This highlights a serious problem. If the board majority doesn’t value our teachers, then our teachers will continue to leave in large numbers and will have a harder time attracting new great teachers to the district. Those who do come will lack mentors, as many of our experienced teachers will have gone elsewhere. Our students will experience constant churn as teacher turnover increases. Multiple studies show that high teacher turnover hurts student achievement (see here, here, here and here). It’s also expensive because more money goes into recruiting and training. Churn is not good for students, and we don’t want it in Jeffco.

So what can you do?

  • Spread the word! Please talk to your neighbors, your friends, and join us to walk Jeffco to let voters know about the recall. Some of us walked doors this weekend and it’s easy. You’ll be partnered with someone so you’re not out there on your own and the time flies past.
  • Donate! Americans for Prosperity have already sent two mailings in support of WNW at a cost of $35,000 – $45,000 each, according to our friends at Support Jeffco Kids. If you don’t have the cash to spare (we get it!), please join us to walk Jeffco and tell voters how negatively WNW is affecting our students and our schools.
    • Donate to Jeffco United Forward to support Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell who are running for the regular election seats, and to also support Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell who are running as replacement candidates.
    • Or donate to Jeffco United for Action, which supports the recall portion of this campaign.
  • Vote! The recall will be on the regular Nov. 3 general election ballot. Mark it on your calendar and tell everyone you know to be sure to vote. Elections matter!

Keep fighting, JeffCo!

It’s time for a clean slate!


 

8.20.15 Recall signatures validated!

J1picCelebrate with us: on Tuesday, the Jeffco County Clerk announced that the recall petitions have more than twice the number of necessary signatures for the ballot! Here are the numbers of validated signatures on each petition:

Ken Witt – 33,942
John Newkirk – 34,188
Julie Williams – 33,900

That’s all thanks to YOU, our dedicated Jeffco Schools supporters who value public education. More than 1200 of you volunteered and collected signatures — and what an amazing job you did!

Now we’re in the 15-day period in which any Jeffco resident can file a legal challenge to the petition. We hope they won’t so the item can be included on the November ballot and save the school district a considerable amount of money. (For details about the three-day window to submit the petitions to try to get the issue on the November general election ballot, read this post by Jeffco United for Action.)

At the moment, both Ken Witt and John Newkirk have indicated that they will not challenge the petitions, and Witt asked no one else to challenge them either. Julie Williams, meanwhile, appeared in a commercial produced by the Independence Institute’s newest creation, Kids Are First. Reports are that it’s showing both on network and cable television. They have BIG money behind them to be producing and running a commercial like that.

You might have heard the opposition shouting that thousands and thousands of these signatures were collected by paid petition carriers. Not true! More than 1200 volunteers carried petitions, volunteered at sign and drive locations, and we collected the thousands upon thousands of signatures that were turned into the County Clerk. We’ll let Jeffco United for Action explain:

Now, speaking about the truth – there have been some questions about the money raised and spent by Jeffco United for Action. JUFA has never hidden that paid organizers were hired to help us with the campaign – we can’t hide it – it’s right there in our report and we’ve talked opening about it.

We can’t do this on our own – we are doing everything we can to ensure this recall gets on the November ballot. While we knew we had support, we had no way of knowing whether on our own we could get the signatures we needed in just two weeks. So we hired Black Diamond and Strategies 360 to organize and help our over 1,200 volunteers – and it was wildly successful, bringing in more than 100,000 signatures in just over two weeks!

These expenses are not unusual for a campaign like this. What was unusual was the amazing outpouring of support we saw and the roughly 90% validity rate of the signatures we collected! Our volunteers are our life blood, but we also need professional help to navigate this very tricky process.

We still need your help. How? You can:

  • Walk door-to-door to let Jeffco voters know the facts. Remember, more than 70 percent of Jeffco voters don’t have kids in school, so they aren’t seeing the day-to-day impact this has on our kids. Go to Jeffco United for Action to sign up to walk by date and time, by articulation area, or by school area. They will train you and partner you with someone for the walks. Big walks are also planned for Oct. 3 and 10th, so keep those dates open to join us.
  • Donate! The Julie Williams commercial isn’t cheap and we need to get the word out. Anything helps!
  • Pick up a yard sign and display it somewhere prominent — in your front yard or perhaps on your back fence along one of Jeffco’s many trails. Jeffco United’s Facebook page has the latest details on where to pick up signs. They’re asking a $10 donation for signs, and quantities are limited, but that money will be used to print more signs.
  • Volunteer! We need volunteers to help staff tables at back-to-school and curriculum nights, to march in upcoming parades and more. Email Support Jeffco Kids if you can help with those efforts.
  • Show your support for the recall by purchasing a shirt, tote bag, water bottle, hat or more at the Jeffco United for Action CafePress store. There are also buttons, stickers, and even a flask (a default CafePress item, perhaps one that might be useful if you’re watching a board meeting from home, are over 21 and are not operating heavy machinery).

 

Last but not least, read this post at Support Jeffco Kids about the ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars that’s resulted since the board majority’s actions gutted the Jeffco Schools communications department. Answering board correspondence at $60 per hour? Are you kidding?

That’s right — when you, as a taxpayer write the board to make your voice heard, your tax dollars go to compose the generic form letters — at $60 an hour! — to respond to you. That’s completely unacceptable!

The Jeffco Schools contract with Novitas Communications has cost the district $84,062 already and nevertheless, the district renewed the contract for another two months.

Jeffco Schools is not currently advertising for any communications positions. Perhaps they have already chosen an individual to hire and are simply waiting for the upcoming Aug. 27 board meeting, but that agenda hasn’t been posted yet.

Remind them we are listening and watching, because we are.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!