Letter to the Editor | The Piedmont Highlander: Measure H is NOT superfluous

Our teachers need to be adequately compensated — and this is not just a problem in Piedmont issue — but throughout the state.

Our school district lost 22 teachers in two years due to cost-of-living issues. These teachers are no longer in front of the whiteboard or sitting at their desks. Their red pen marks are absent from our assignments; their voices no longer ring out through the hallways. Yesterday, their inspirational posters lined the halls; today, some of us face blank walls and moving boxes. 

We believe that the East Bay Times editorial [view HERE] regarding Measures G and H is misguided and obscures the problematic situation that we are currently in.

As Piedmont High School students, we have seen more and more teachers pack their bags and leave each year. Measure H gives us the opportunity to hold onto our teachers and fill the empty desks that many have left behind.

When it comes to funding in our district, something is not adding up. Yes, Piedmont spends about 33 percent more per student on teacher salaries. Yes, Piedmont spends about 26 percent more per student than the statewide average, a discrepancy that does not account for the Bay Area’s high cost of living. But we are still in a crisis. Physics classes were taught by computers last year, we have struggled to fill vacant positions, and our teachers still have not agreed to a contract for the upcoming school year. One class did not even have a permanent math teacher until last week, relying on substitute teachers for months.

Measure H is not superfluous; it is long overdue.

We have consistently denied our teachers sufficient compensation for their tireless work in and out of the classroom. While we agree with the East Bay Times that the district needs to clarify how funds from the two measures will be managed and allocated, the underlying need to provide basic wages for our teachers is crystal clear.   

The issue of teacher compensation and adequate funding is not just a Piedmont issue. It is a state issue. There is a severe lack of funding for public schools throughout the state, and Piedmont does its best to make up the difference through taxes and fundraisers. In larger cities like Oakland and San Francisco, families fight tooth and nail to get their kids into the best public schools, pursuing the few that are well-funded. If that does not happen, their children get sent to private schools that can cost over forty-thousand dollars a year, a price that far surpasses any Piedmont parcel tax. They leave the school district in fear that the other public options will not have the resources and teachers necessary for a good education.

A lack of teachers and resources is unacceptable when it comes to public education, but this problem is the consequence of broader state and federal issues that stretch far beyond Piedmont.

Measure H is an attempt to address this larger problem within our own community. Just because we cannot solve an institutional issue does not mean that we should be complacent with our immediate situation.

In our view, Measure H is what our teachers need and deserve. They are the ones who bring energy and encouragement at 8 a.m. and leave past sunset, after they have helped every last student achieve their personal best. Even though their own workdays stretch longer and longer, they are the ones who continue to care for our mental and physical well-being. And as the teacher shortage worsens, they are the ones who tirelessly fill in the cracks to keep us from falling through. But our teachers cannot perpetually hold our schools together on their own. Contrary to what the East Bay Times editorial said, Measure H is not an act to “siphon off the best teachers” from other schools; it is an effort to provide for those we have now. Our teachers need all of our support and respect, and, at the end of the day, they also need our funding.

This letter was also sent to the East Bay Times.

SEE RELATED:https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2019/10/12/editorial-piedmont-voters-should-reject-increase-to-record-tax/

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