Dear Editor- Equality and Immersion

An open letter regarding the threatened lawsuit by ACE “Association of Classified Employees” against the Culver City School District:

In a nutshell, ACE leadership (city union representing clerical and other non-instructional occupations) wants to take over a wildly successful, decades old program in Culver City where parents pool donations to provide native speaking ‘adjuncts’ (paid volunteers) into language immersion classrooms. There is no public money involved. Teachers love and need the help as kids get critical time with native speakers in the target language. The original program at El Marino is a model that other Culver City schools are beginning to emulate. Teachers win, kids win, who on earth would be unhappy about that? Well, ACE the union. And they are threatening a lawsuit. (Your tax dollars and union dues at work!)
The problem for ACE is that parent organizations like ALLEM (they administer parent donations at El Marino school) are very efficient and their adjuncts gladly accept a fraction of what union workers demand. Unfortunately the union simply wants to grab the money that parents donate and to stick union workers in those positions regardless of the effect on our kids. The union also wants to prohibit other Culver City schools from emulating El Marino’s successful arrangement. Sadly, using more expensive union workers, current donations would only pay for around half of the classroom hours that the adjuncts are providing right now. Even worse, many parents who donate money now have expressed little interest in funding an inefficient unionized program, so the predictable result is that this beautiful model of parental involvement will be gutted or killed in the name of union turf.

It is difficult to find any argument on the web supporting the union position. Understandably, it appears the union isn’t eager for public scrutiny of this shameful business. However, back in June 2011 the leader of the ACE union, Debbie Hamme, did address the issue in response to an article ‘Language Immersion Is the Solution, Not the Problem’, on the ‘Culver City Patch’ forum. In practice, defending a position like the union’s requires some logical gymnastics, and she really gives it a try:

Debbie says: With regard to the adjuncts at both El Marino and Lin Howe, the first problem is this: While schools work hard to fundraise, the amount they raise from year to year is bound to fluctuate. That being said, you are asking people to work from year to year in a state of uncertainty because their job depends on the ability of the PTA, Booster Club or ALLEM to sustain the funding for their position. This is apparently not a problem at El Marino, but the inequality of the situation comes into play when other schools with less effective fundraising groups can not provide their teachers with the same level of support.

Debbie seems concerned about “inequality”. According to her, the El Marino’s adjunct program is not experiencing a problem, (that’s good … right?) therefore it and similar programs should be unionized, because that will resolve the “inequality” with the other schools that may experience problems raising donations for their programs. Wow, this logical back flip is hard to follow, but let’s try. Unionization will indisputably reduce adjunct hours, predictably reduce parent donations and maybe kill the program. So it seems unionization brings “equality” by crippling El Marino’s program and probably preventing any other schools from developing programs of their own. Another victory for equality Debbie!

Bryan Tjomsland

www.culvercitysymphony.org

2 Comments

  1. There are many parents out there who work in the private sector, with no guaranteed job or guaranteed pension. Then they come home after work and on weekends and dedicate copious amounts of time, energy and money to provide additional classroom support so their children can get the best education possible. Now the union wants to “money grab” these funds. This is an outrage. I am growing tired of having to prop up a system that does not serve the children in the classroom. Culver City is small enough that the parents can take back full control of our school system. It belongs to the parents and the children, not the School Board, not the teachers, or the teachers union. I say we come together as parents and abolish the current system, eradicate the unions (see KIPP schools http://www.kipp.org/) and have full control over the future of education in Culver City. It’s time for parents to make a stand.

  2. I find more and more that these unions only serve our children if their needs are served first. I am all for CCUSD employees being compensated at best possible salary and benefit structure possible. As long as it is after two things occur:

    1) All of our children’s needs are met first.

    and…

    2) It is earned through performance evaluation and not tenure.

    There seems to be a battle of jargon over whether these adjuncts and/or classroom aides are performing the duties of ACE employees or not. I do not care, and neither should ACE or anyone else.

    These adjuncts and aides are helping our children receive a better education. That’s it. Period. End of story. They are parent-funded positions which are fulfilling a need that is not affordable under the current economic conditions. For the most part, they are jobs at around $9/hour for around 15 hours a week. And there are more people applying for them than there are positions available.

    There is no question about earning a living wage here. There is a market for these jobs at these wages. This topic is nothing more than a power grab by the union leadership and nothing else. Our children’s education will be irreparably damaged if the unions’ desires are met.

    All criticisms pointed at the unions and their leadership surrounding this topic are completely warranted and valid. And I would go so far as to say any sympathy or support they hope to maintain or receive from parents in their fight for labor equity will be completely destroyed if they continue on the path that they are on.

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