Morgan Hill schools among the worst – trustees please vote for Navigator Charter School
Morgan Hill's charter school debate is about much more than an API score or the test dujour. These tests and methods will clearly continue to change and evolve, and hopefully Common Core standards will improve our testing regime. This debate is about parents and children wanting the best educational options available to them, right here and now. Why?
Morgan Hill has the worst performing schools in Santa Clara County, and California is among the worst performing states in the U.S. See pages 10, 18 and 19: http://innovateschools.org/files/IPS_Report-2013_v10-ONSCREEN.pdf
The Board of Education meeting the other night was a symbol of the fundamental shift our educational system needs to go through. Thankfully, we have a democratic process to manage these transitions, and I was proud to be a part of it with our community.
The real issue at hand, judging by the volume of teachers that attended the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board meeting, and their passionate and emotional pleas, seems to be teachers’ pensions, about $40 million worth. Assuming an average teacher in Morgan Hill earns, say $79,000 year the last year before retirement, and teachers can retire as early as age 50 with at least 30 years of service credit, and a teacher can collect their pension over 32 years, she could collect $1.3 million in pension earnings over her retirement, plus social security payments.
With an average pension payout of 53%, a MHUSD teacher is earning 42% more than the average woman in Morgan Hill, not a bad gig. With so much money on the line, no wonder the teachers came out in force to protest the charter schools at the last Board meeting. I would have a hard time voting down a $1.3 million pension too! (Sources: http://www.morganhillreview.com/2008/08/09/are-morgan-hill-teachers-actually-overpaid/, http://www.teachersalaryinfo.com/california/teacher-salary-in-morgan-hill-unified-school-district/, http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/teachers-salaries_teachsal-table-en)
If Navigator and Rocketship do absorb 600 kids, resulting in the closure of an elementary school and layoff of 30 teachers, according to President Theresa Sage of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers
("MHFT"), that would equate to about $40 million in future pension savings for the district. Yes, it would result in less current funding for an already sadly underfunded district with a rapidly growing population, but Navigator would also bring in new grant funding and re-hire most of those teachers, as they have in Gilroy and Hollister, at 20% higher pay and performance-based bonuses. Imagine if we reallocated that $40 million in pension savings across 30 of our best teachers NOW to provide performance-based pay?
That would be worth $67,000 more per teacher per year over the next 20 years that we could use for higher salaries and performance-based pay. I would pay more in taxes now to align teachers’ current interests with current school performance and student achievement.
One teacher said at the Board meeting that a favorable vote for Navigator charter is a vote of no-confidence in MHUSD teachers. I’m sincerely sorry, but that vote has already been cast with our lowest school performance ratings in Santa Clara County, combined with the hundreds of kids on the Morgan Hill Charter wait list and Navigator wait list, and the uncounted parents that want to be in our community but won't because of the poor performing schools, or those that want to leave for better performing districts but can't afford to move.
If more could vote with their feet, I’m sure they would. Conversely, I’m sure more people would love to live in Morgan Hill if we just had better performing schools.
So, who has the most to lose now? Clearly, the MHFT teachers. Who has the most to gain? The kids. Who is going to vote for them? Who represents the students’ interests? Students don’t have a union or pensions to defend, they have a future and a strong education will ensure their freedom to achieve anything they can dream. They only have our votes and the MHUSD Board to represent their interests.
Yes, Charter schools do block out kids because of the lottery system, and that is insanely annoying and unfair for the community. Charter lottery systems, regardless of how truly random they are, still by their nature exclude other kids. Let's figure out a way to partner with Navigator and other leading charter schools to improve education for everyone. I do think they have something to teach and value to add to MHUSD.
Yes, charter schools focus on performance and tests, but in a measured world its all we have to go with. Schools should produce performance first, ideally with a balance cultural and social education as well. It’s hard to have both, but I would choose performance first and try to supplement their education with extracurricular social, sport and musical activities if needed.
We're left with three choices: 1) unaffordable private schools that don't provide transparency or accountability, 2) emerging and innovative charter schools like Navigator that will partner with MHUSD, and 3) status quo and the poorly performing – MHUSD public schools. MHUSD trustees, please vote in favor of Navigator charter schools for our incredible kids and our community.
Ray Blanchard, Morgan Hill