Category Archives: childcare

LANEY CUTS BACK

  • 1. last night’s board meeting
  • 2. the district is illegal
  • 3. cycles of struggle
  • 4. cut the cops
  • 5. to those who lose it

  • 1. last night’s board meeting

    After years of mismanagement and blatantly illegal and wasteful spending, the District and the Board of Trustees want to solve their budget crisis on the backs of students and the workers who advise us, teach us, take care of us and clean up after us.

    Last week, word spread that the Board planned to eliminate the positions at Laney of 1.5 Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) workers and cut 21 other positions at Laney from 12 to 11 or 10 months per year. Management approached individual classified workers to tell them about the cuts, in violation of SEIU 1021’s contract. We hear that the reason only Laney workers are being targeted is because Laney’s President volunteered to begin cuts at our school, even though Laney is structurally underfunded by the District to begin with.

    On Monday morning, the Chancellor’s office announced that the Chancellor planned to remove the cuts from the following night’s Board agenda, the result of a deal struck with the leadership of SEIU 1021. All three unions (PFT, SEIU, IUOE) recently started negotiations with the District on their contracts that expire on June 30. Historically, the District has “negotiated” with SEIU and IUOE by laying off their members. The unions’ staff and leadership then try to stop the layoffs by filing charges as they explain to members the need for concessions, that they are doing everything they can behind closed doors and in court, there’s only so much money to go around, how we need to take the fight to Sacramento, etc. etc.


    2. the district is illegal

    As there is “little resistance” to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise community college fees from $26 to $36, it’s worth remembering how the District has wasted funds and broken the law, all while blaming “Sacramento” for its problems.

    • In 2009, the administration illegally gave itself a pay raise.  The Board refused to act, and later made the pay raise official.
    • In 2009, the Peralta Board of Trustees approved a no-bid contract with Chevron to install solar panels, “despite indications a bidding process could have saved the district $1.5 million.”
    • The District administration failed to file a federal IRS tax return in 2008-09, leading to a $228,520 fine. (Former Chief Financial Officer Tom Smith was finally fired and escorted out of a Board meeting by a Sheriff in Jan. 2010.)
    • District mismanagement and lack of Board oversight led to Peralta being placed on probation by the State Accreditation Commission. In 2010 the Board hired an audit team to put together its first budget in about 1 ½ years. The audit team has cost at least $750,000 so far, probably much more.
    • In July 2010 the Alameda County Grand Jury wrote that “The board as a whole has failed to provide the leadership for the district to which they were elected.” They also cited Board members’ repeated violation of District policies, like Trustee Marcie Hodge’s shopping sprees with a District credit card.

    Cuts are redefining the purpose of community college after previous waves of struggle by independent, militant social movements led by disabled people, single moms and Black working-class youth opened access to community colleges. They also used political demands to decide for themselves what they learn in class and how the school relates to their community.


    3. cycles of struggle

    DSPS workers say that cuts targeting their program are illegal as well. A federal mandate says that community colleges have to provide equal access for students with disabilities. This comes from the militant struggle of disabled people to force the federal government to pass Section 504, regulations that force any institution that receives federal funding to remove obstacles and provide equal access, regardless of cost, to people with disabilities:

    No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States…shall, solely by reason of her or his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

    In 1977, coordinated sit-ins across the U.S. took place to demand that the federal government create regulations to enforce the Rehabilitation Act passed in 1973. The San Francisco sit-in of as many as 200 people with disabilities lasted over a month, making it the longest sit-in at a federal building in U.S. history. Without caregivers or equipment, some risked death, but they were supported and cared for by broader circles of movements; Panthers served them meals.

    During the 1977 San Francisco sit-in for Section 504.

    This is the history that the District, Laney administration and Board of Trustees are trying to erase. When the threat of a civil rights complaint was raised at a  recent Peralta Board meeting, PFT-endorsed Trustee Linda Handy told people with disabilities and their advocates to “bring it on.”

    We need to be equally brave in our defense of movement victories, especially in a time of austerity. It’s expensive for the state to continue to expropriate surplus value as the rate of capital accumulation declines. We refuse debt, we refuse schools that exist solely to make us good workers and governable subjects, and we refuse to allow capital to “cut” the lives of single moms, disabled folks and poor people when it runs out of ways for us to produce value for our masters. And to do all this we need to recompose ourselves to defend each other, take control of our schools, win the social wage we need to take care of ourselves and ultimately to destroy the state: Laney cuts back.


    4. cut the cops

    Students and cops have nothing in common. We mourn the life of Guy Jarreau, Jr., a member of the Napa Valley College Black Student Union and childcare worker who was recently murdered by a cop while shooting a music video.

    Later in the agenda on Tuesday, the Board approved a new contract with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department to patrol our campuses. This is the same agency that arrested and beat us during the Oscar Grant protests, that surrounded Wheeler Hall in riot gear during our friends’ occupation, that patrols our neighborhoods and runs immigration status checks as part of the “Secure Communities” program. We want these armed men to stay away from us and stay off of our campus.

    Instead, the cops are a typically wasteful arm of the District. The Sheriffs are one of the few areas of the budget that come from the discretionary unrestricted general fund, meaning that the Board has the freedom to replace the pigs or remove them altogether. Instead, the Sheriffs went $1 million over-budget in 2008, a fact that was only discovered when outside auditors dug through the District’s records over a year later.

    On Tuesday, the Board approved $2.67 million for Alameda County Sheriffs, $415,920 for Securitas thugs and $354,000 for student safety aides. Here’s a breakdown of where the Sheriffs budget is going:

    Position Number of Employees Salary Benefits Total
    Lieutenant 1 $139,035 $82,617 $221,652
    Sergeant 1 $114,562 $69,053 $183,615
    Deputy 7 $671,880 $426,319 $1,098,199
    Sheriff’s Technicians 5 $279,869 $29,349 $309,218
    Secretary 1 $50,004 $154,319 $204,323
    Total 15 $1,225,350 $761,657 $2,017,007

    Other costs:

    Overtime $158,077
    Indirect costs $284,579
    Insurance $83,481
    Supplies $124,374

    One man, this Lieutenant, makes more than any worker at Peralta, including faculty, classified staff and custodians. And while the Sheriffs’ secretary may need therapy to cope with taking orders from uniformed men with clubs, over $150,000 in benefits for a single person seems excessive as the District demands health care givebacks from classified workers at the bargaining table.

    Kids from the Laney Child Care Center walk out on Oct. 7, 2010.


    5. to those who lose it

    District-wide, there were 1,992 fewer students on January 23, 2011 than there were on January 20, 2010. Every semester, we watch Laney deteriorate: fewer class sections, fewer students, overworked custodians struggle to pick up all the discarded plates, papers, cigarette butts. And it’s sad to watch the organizations that are supposed to represent our interests manage their own decline. But we fight for ourselves, our friends who have already been pushed out, and the single moms, disabled students and custodians in struggle.

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    “Off with our heads!” Recuperation and the politics of childcare

    Abel Guillen, incumbent Chair of the Peralta District Board of Trustees, is re-writing history. Guillen is running unopposed for his seat, and few people would bother to look at his campaign web site even if his name appeared on the ballot. But we took a look.

    Like virtually everything written by the District and the Board of Trustees about the College of Alameda Children’s Center’s “budget crisis,” Guillen’s “issue” statement on the center (below) is filled with half-truths and misinformation.

    Guillen says earlier this year, the District “was considering consolidating the College of Alameda Children’s Center…to reduce operational costs.” On January 26, then-Vice Chancellor for Educational Services Wise Allen read from a memo dated Jan. 19 to announce that as of July 1, the District would close the COA Children’s Center but “serve the same number of children (120) at the two” remaining sites and eliminate eight of the 26.5 full-time equivalent positions of childcare workers.

     

    Maybe because the item was listed as an “informational item” under “Enrollment, Website, Financial Aid, and Childcare Updates” on the agenda, only reporter Reginald James immediately took notice and understood the impact of Allen’s announcement as “another obstacle in the path towards education” for parents. Most COA parents with kids enrolled at the center discovered they were losing their child care when the Oakland Tribune published an article announcing the closure on March 11.

    The parents had no formal organization or means of meeting together beyond brief greetings when dropping off or picking up their kids. But within a day or two the Tribune article was photocopied and left at the front desk for parents to read and discuss. On March 19, the agenda for the March 23 Board of Trustees meeting was released, including layoff notices for 7.75 full-time equivalent positions: five child care assistants, a clerical assistant, a cook and a coordinator. Unlike Allen’s previous announcement, it was the responsibility of Guillen’s Board to hold a public hearing and approve the layoffs.

    This began a series of combative Peralta Board meetings led by self-organized, multi-ethnic, working-class mothers, rank-and-file childcare workers and a lot of angry students. When we showed up on March 23 to plead with Guillen and his Board not to lay off the 8 childcare positions, he responded with the usual laments over how difficult his position is – and then voted to lay off the workers. We told him there were more options than shutting down the center and firing the childcare workers, but he didn’t act.

    At the next Board meeting on April 13, dozens of us packed the meeting to demand that the Board keep the COA Children’s Center open and at least put the childcare issue on the Board agenda to allow people most affected by the cuts to determine for themselves how their section of Peralta should work. Many of us were angry at a memo dated April 12 which said the closure would have “no impact,” and wrongly stated that the COA center was under-used and doesn’t have a wait-list. When the Board tried to move on with the rest of their agenda, we shut their meeting down, arranged the chairs into a circle and held our own meeting until the Sheriffs forced us to leave the building and locked the door behind us. This is the real face of Guillen’s democracy: “Behind every fee increase, a line of riot police.”

    Guillen supposes that it is his leadership that listened to the parents’ “concerns” and oversaw “successful negotiations with our labor partners.” For months, COA parents loudly and clearly demanded that their center stay open at full capacity and that the District value childcare as central to the mission of any community college. But they also demanded that their ideas be given an opportunity to be heard by the men in the District office who had unilaterally closed their center without their knowledge or participation.

     

    And yet Guillen directed the District to find the money to keep the COA center open. There are three reasons.

    One: It’s an election year, and it’s not good publicity to surprise a group of parents with the closure of their kids’ daycare center.

    Two: SEIU 1021 agreed to a fairly significant concession in order to keep the childcare budget solvent. For the Summer session, childcare workers would be paid at the hourly, not salary, pay schedule; in return, the District rescinded the layoff notices to eight childcare workers. The agreement only holds until the end of the Fall 2010 semester, but the District wants to make it permanent.

    Three:  The self-activity of COA parents changed history. No one, least of all Guillen, planned for the strength of their unity and determination to fight for their own interests.

    The childcare program now looks to be safe because Head Start is planning on leasing half of the COA facility from Peralta. But if the planned Head Start deal falls through (or the District grabs the revenue for their own use) and funding again runs out in a few months, the election season will be over and SEIU 1021 may be less willing or able to keep the center open through more concessions on wages and working conditions. It will again fall upon the same coalition of working-class moms, rank-and-file childcare workers and angry students to keep childcare either through a cooperatively-run model or by finding more funding somewhere. We’re excited by the parents’ discussions about the self-management of their childcare program, and we think the District itself should be self-managed by the students, staff and faculty who make Peralta run despite the notorious mismanagement at the top. As one recent Chronicle of Higher Education article put it, “Off with our heads!”

    Guillen ran for his seat in 2006 by calling for the “elimination of poverty,” and proudly says he “grew up in a working-class neighborhood.” He should appreciate, then, that the end of poverty and work will only happen at the hands of poor and working-class people – not our “representatives.”

    http://www.abelforperalta.com/content/college-alameda-childrens-center

    College of Alameda Children’s Center
    Preschool to Remain Open Through Fall Semester
    The College of Alameda Children’s Center program provides a friendly and responsive environment for children of students, staff and community members to grow and learn. The District was considering consolidating the College of Alameda Children’s Center with the Children’s Center at Laney College to reduce operational costs.

    I called for a meeting with the parents of COA Children’s Center in April to listen to parent’s concerns. It was a positive meeting, and the parents agreed to: – Volunteer their time at the center to decrease costs. – Assist in grant-writing efforts to secure additional funding. – Advocate to County and Sate Officials for more funding. I am happy to report that, after successful negotiations with our labor partners, the District was able to commit to keep the Children’s Center open at COA through the fall term. It is my hope that the State budget, which has not been finalized, will continue to provide funding for this program for the fall so that a long-term solution can be found. Thank you to all the parents and students for your constructive feedback to give us a reprieve at least through the end of the year. If you have any additional ideas, please email me at aguillen@peralta.edu

    What’s up with the COA child care center?

    I.

    The Peralta board of trustees–the body responsible for the administration of Laney College, Berkeley City College, Merritt College and College of Alameda–has been engaged in an ugly attack on students, teachers, and workers on our campuses. They have cut over 500 classes, laid off teachers and slashed funding for programs which provide critical assistance to low-income students. Now, they plan to go forward with $8 million more in cuts (equivalent to 2500 students) and close the childcare center at College of Alameda.

    We have pleaded and reasoned time and again with the board. In the March 23rd board meeting a group of 40 mothers served by the College of Alameda childcare center pleaded the board to keep the center open, all testifying to the fact that the closure of the childcare center would severely disrupt their education. How did the board respond? All nine board members voted unanimously to shut down the center. Despite our persistence, the board has refused to listen to our appeals.

    Instead they continue unilaterally with the cuts, claiming the money isn’t there. We know this is not true. Just last semester district administrators received raises up to 16% (totaling over $500,000) while teachers were being laid off. Our corrupt chancellor, Elihu Harris, has given massive sums of district money to former business partners including a $940,000 no-bid contract awarded to Harris’ friend, Mark Lindquist, in a real estate deal. Several trustees have been caught using district money to pay for flight upgrades and expensive hotel stays, personal trips–even clothes shopping. Now, the board is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a lawsuit so it does not have to release a report entailing financial corruption in the district. At any point these funds could have been used to preserve classes, to keep teachers, or to save the childcare center. Instead, this money was grossly mismanaged.

    Though they are elected to represent us the board has proven it is incapable of performing its most essential function. The crisis we are experiencing at Laney is not just an economic crisis—it is a crisis of democracy. Decisions are made at our school by an outside governing body that does not represent us. We have made our case privately and publicly to the board and it has refused to meet our needs.

    Though they might try to sign away our lives, it is not a politician or a bureaucrat who holds the greatest power over our schools. Students and workers have the most power over this system because we are what makes it run every day. We are Peralta. What if we refuse to allow this illegitimate board to dismantle our education? We do not need an administration once we take control of our college, our community, our future; our lives. Continue reading