Millions Locked Away from Students
On April 11, the Santa Barbara community saw its teachers out in force to ask the Santa Barbara Unified School Board to do the right thing for students. Make no mistake: We were out in the street because the district bargaining team and Superintendent Hilda Maldonado are not listening when we ask for reasonable changes that will benefit Santa Barbara students.
When we asked to make our class size limits permanent, the district said no. Ultimately, we agreed to a temporary continuation for 2023-2024 because it was the best we could get for our students, but our students deserve more.
When we asked for hard caps for Special Education caseloads, to ensure that our most vulnerable students get the support they need, the district said no. The district said they need the flexibility to place even more high-needs students in our classrooms when they see fit.
When we asked to revisit our three-year-old agreement on salary for 2023-2024 to keep Santa Barbara from falling further behind other area districts when it comes to attracting and retaining high quality educators, the district said no.
Of the roughly 800 certificated educators in Santa Barbara, more than 100 were hired this year – educators are leaving Santa Barbara because they can’t afford to live here on what the district pays. Of course this disrupts the lives of educators, but it most severely impacts the lives of students who lose the experience and energy of educators who must flee the district to support their families.
I recently spoke with a colleague who told me her student teacher is going to Los Angeles where it is more affordable to live and their district just agreed to a 21 percent increase in salary over the next three years.
And it does not have to be this way.
At the end of the 2018-19 school year, the District Unrestricted Ending Fund Balance was $25.8 million – already a tremendous amount of resources sitting in an account instead of supporting the needs of students. By the end of 2021-22, the most recent Unaudited Actuals, that total was $39.9 million – another $14 million locked away from students.
Rather than committing to spend that additional revenue in the classroom, the superintendent and the school board has continued its commitment to spending in the District Office. While saying no to students, the school board, at the April 11 meeting, said yes to a new district office position – Director of Community Partnerships, a position that will cost more than $200,000 and will answer to the Chief Operating Officer, yet another recently added District Office position.
It does not have to be this way, if you speak up to your school board members and superintendent.