The school year is upon us. As parents we are struggling to grasp what the next few days, months, even entire school year, will look like. On top of all the unknowns this year is the quiet, yet constant, threat that our teachers may go on strike. Our teachers … who teach our children, who provide stability when it is hard to find, have done more for our students than we will ever understand when everything around our kids shut down.
We understand it is difficult to ask for a raise in this climate. Public and private employees have their wages frozen. Some are already taking pay cuts. Many more will have their pay cut over the next 12 months. The thing that makes teachers different is that they’ve been facing pay freezes and unacceptably low wages for decades, especially in CUSD.
And now teachers are being asked to radically and rapidly change how they do their job and go to work in what is arguably the most likely place to contract COVID-19. You can’t severely underpay a group of people for decades and then expect them to take more risks. It turns out we need teachers more than we ever thought; maybe it’s time we start paying them accordingly.
We continue to hear “yes, our teachers are underpaid, they deserve more, but we just don’t have the funds to pay them.” We disagree. All of us signed here are knowledgeable of our district’s budget and we all stand by the “risk” of giving our teachers a raise. We are community members who were on the Financial Advisory Committee, who led the Measure I campaign, who attend school board meetings, are involved in our PTOs, advocate for better state funding, and more. We are not supporting a raise without understanding what that means. If in fact our budget stays negative, as our Year 3 forecast shows, then we will show up, again, to help figure it out: whether it be with cuts, a supplemental parcel tax campaign, advocating for better state funding or more.
Most of us make calculated decisions today not knowing what the future holds. We purchase homes, cars, and take out school loans, without knowing if we will be secure in our job in three years, if we will be part of pay cuts, or if a catastrophe will hit us. But we make those decisions with the mindset that we need to invest in our today to ensure a brighter tomorrow. To not do so is to neglect the foundation on which that future rests. It is in that same spirit that we must invest in our teachers today. They are worth it. Our kids are worth it. Please let us move into this year able to maintain our full focus on helping students thrive despite the significant and unprecedented challenges of this pandemic.
Editor’s note: Lafontaine read the above letter at the Aug. 13 Cabrillo Unified School District board meeting on behalf of a group of Cabrillo parents and community members.