Dear Editor – Five Points on the ACE Controversy

Dear Editor-

The ACE ‘demand to bargain’ against the Culver City School district over parent-funded adjuncts is being discussed at length. There are serious ethical issues around this dialogue that is essentially about our children. Since the CCUSD board will soon make decisions regarding the future of the highly regarded adjunct program, it makes sense for concerned parties to try to focus on the real issues.
Many disputed facts can be resolved quickly. They are presented here as 5 assertions. If conclusions presented here might be debated, the very act of exploring them would serve to move real discussion forward.
So, it is proposed, that all involved regard the following assertions as true. Any legitimate alternate view must address the underlying logic stated here.

1 – Unionization of adjuncts will result in their in-class hours being reduced.
2 – Unionization of adjuncts will be to the detriment of students.
3 – Unionization will be to the detriment of adjuncts.
4 – Unionization will be to the detriment of teachers.
5 – Only the ‘Association of Classified Employees’ will benefit from unionizing adjuncts.

These assertions are explained below.

1 – Unionization of adjuncts will result in reduced in-class hours.

This is very simple. Adjuncts are completely parent funded. That means the pool of money that pays all the expenses of the adjunct program is painstakingly raised with bake sales and individual donations. It is limited. If each unionized adjunct costs 50% more with higher wages and labor burden, then each donated dollar only buys two thirds of what it did before.
Further, consider the laws of consumer behavior relative to price. Parent donations (demand) are elastic. As the price increases, demand decreases. It must be expected that parents will donate less as each donated dollar buys less. If you increase the price of adjuncts, many parents will simply conclude they cannot afford to support the program.
All parties like to express support for the adjunct program, however, the very real possibility that unionization will end the program must be front and center to any discussion.

2 – Unionization of adjuncts will be to the detriment of students.

Parent donations are limited. If a union employee is doing the same work, but only two thirds of it, the students receive one third less of the benefit, period. However, if the argument is that union employees are supposed to be better than the current adjuncts, is the union employee 150% as effective? Since the value of adjuncts is the time students spend listening to native speakers, it is illogical to think union employees can provide the same benefit in a third less time.

3 – Unionization will be to the detriment of adjuncts.

The adjuncts have had the option of unionizing for decades, they have never chosen to. If unionized, and if the program continues to exist at all, adjuncts will work fewer hours, but the total money received by adjuncts will unquestionably be less, probably much less. Any talk about a ‘living wage’ is a smokescreen. Currently almost all the money that parents donate goes directly to the adjuncts. Conversely, if the union is allowed to confiscate these donations, money will be siphoned off for union dues and overhead costs.
Like many facts, ACE has not even acknowledged that administration work that is currently done by parent volunteers will be done by city employees, paid for by the same parents who no longer have control over their program! This of course further reduces money available for adjuncts.
The total amount of money actually going to the adjuncts will indisputably be less and total donations to pay for all this should be expected to shrink significantly or disappear all together, leaving adjuncts without a job. (See assertion 1)

4 – Unionization will be to the detriment of teachers. If teachers benefit from adjuncts in class, having fewer hours of support will be a sad loss to overworked teachers. (See assertion 1)

5 – The one party that will benefit from unionizing adjuncts is, the ‘Association of Classified Employees’ union.

For the reasons explained above, students, adjuncts and teachers will, without question, be negatively affected by unionization. On the other hand, union power relies on its ability to suppress alternatives to the union. Increasing membership, collection of dues and the defense of turf are vital to the union. Adjuncts are not teacher’s aides and take no jobs from union workers. However, ACE stands to benefit nicely with the crippling or destruction of the volunteer adjunct program, creating more of a vacuum of in-class support to negotiate with. ACE has power to severely affect our children’s education, but it is only answerable to its members. Parents have no say or even opportunity to debate directly with them.
Debbie Hamme, representing ACE, states that there is misleading information being disseminated. Sadly, this is true. She has made a continued effort to frame this issue around a single school, El Marino. This appears to be an effort to distract and divide parents who now realize that this is a district-wide issue, potentially ruining parent funded positions at all Culver City schools. She also complains about 20 positions at El Marino, however, the truth is, there are 20 part-time positions of three hours or less per day. That equates to 7.5 full-time positions, not 20, for a program that serves over 750 children. Further, her concerns about ‘disparity’ between schools are at best overstated. Instead of encouraging the formation and growth of parent-funded positions at other schools, the union has acted to effectively suppress the emerging parent groups at Lin Howe and La Ballona schools from putting adjuncts in their classrooms.
In order to move any reasonable discussion forward, these 5 assertions must be addressed directly and with candor. Not doing so simply confirms deep mistrust fulminating in the community. Unless ACE can address these simple assertions, everything else they say rings hollow.

Bryan Tjomsland

www.culvercitysymphony.org

1 Comment

  1. Other than hearing what ACE’s manufactured grievances are, CCUSD school board should not feel compelled to compromise or give in to any of ACE’s threats since it is questionable that they have a legally defensible argument about the adjuncts and other parent-supported volunteers.

    1) No taxpayer money is being used.

    2) The district did not displace union employees with these part-time adjuncts and paid volunteers.

    3) These positions were non-existent and were created from a need and paid for from philanthropic donations through collaboration between the site school and the (501)(c)(3) organizations (aka booster clubs).

    4) The volunteers themselves have not filed a claim that they thought they were being mistreated and need the protection of the union.

    5) ACE has no legal rights to the use of donations raised by federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and have no right to tell these non-profit organizations how their donations should be spent.

    6) 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations should look to see if they have a claim against a union for coercion of paid volunteers to join the union and mandate to fund the inflated payroll, administrative costs, and benefits to the union.

    In the end, the CCUSD students will be the innocent victims if ACE gets its way because the donations won’t be going 100% into the classroom. With the state budget cuts, we need every dollar in the classroom to help our kids succeed. Benefactors and parents may stop or curb donations so in the end the schools and the kids lose.

    I implore to the CCUSD school board to take fortitude that it has a defensible position and do not compromise or cave in to pressures from ACE. The families in Culver City are depending on the CCUSD school board to look out for the best interest of the children. CCUSD board members should see the groundswell of feedback from individuals all over California and the country asking them to protect volunteers and parent supported services across CCUSD by just checking out the Culver City Parents Have Rights petition drive. Hundreds of families and caring individuals have shown up at the board meetings asking CCUSD to protect and encourage these programs to grow throughout the district without the interference of a union.

    How this claim gets resolved may have statewide or even national ramifications and the CCUSD school board has a chance to be proud or ashamed of its legacy.

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