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FREE LANCE

JULY 12, 2019

OPINION GUEST VIEW DAN WALTERS

CA offers bonus for many unions

SHAWN TENNENBAUM

A strong Baler year

W

ith the 2018-19 school year just completed at San Benito High School, it’s a good time to reflect on the many people and programs that make our school and district Baler Strong. All of our success is rooted in a support system for our students that includes faculty, staff, the administration, the board of trustees, parents and guardians, and our community.

Academic Excellence SBHS was recognized for excellence in various ways this year, from being named for the second straight year to the Educational Results Partnership Honor Roll for high achievement in student success to recognition on the U.S. News Best High Schools list. The school was awarded a full six-year accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and it is recognized by the Special Olympics as a Unified Champion School. We also want to thank our community for voting us as the Best Public High School in San Benito County in the recent “Best Of ” poll sponsored by the Hollister Free Lance. This year 650 Baler seniors earned diplomas, 103 of whom earned more than a combined $275,000 in scholarships. As noted in the school’s mission statement, which pledges to educate all students to their highest potential, members of the Class of 2019 are setting off on various paths, from the military to trade and technical schools to junior colleges and four-year universities or straight to the workforce. Our co-valedictorians are headed to MIT and UCLA, and our salutatorian will be attending Stanford. The senior class featured 197 Golden State Seal Merit Diploma qualifiers, a three-year high. These students demonstrated mastery of the high school curriculum in at least six subject areas, including English language arts, mathematics, science and US history. The October 2018 release of Advanced Placement data showed that SBHS students outperformed both the state and global passing rate averages for the second consecutive year in AP courses including English literature, European

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history, US history, psychology, Spanish literature, studio art and French. More than a quarter of the approximately 3,000-student population was enrolled in at least one AP course in the 2018-19 school year, continuing a five-year trend in which enrollment in the 19 courses offered on campus has increased by 351 students. San Benito High School’s studentathletes, representing a quarter of the student body, performed well inside and outside the classroom, earning at or near a 3.0 grade point average in the fall, winter and spring seasons. More than 500 varsity student-athletes were named to an all-academic team this year.

New Facilities Thanks to the support of bond measures from voters in our community, campus construction and refurbishment continues this summer, with the stadium/aquatics center/softball field project nearing completion ahead of the Aug. 24 grand opening and alumni event at Andy Hardin Stadium. This past year, we were proud to open the 177,000-square-foot multi-use field, made possible through Measure U funding. The facility provides a safe surface that multiple sports and physical education classes can use throughout the year. The field also served as the site of this year’s graduation ceremony, which was attended by thousands. Work continues on the state-of-the-art Science and Robotics Building, which will feature 12 next-gen classrooms and a robotics facility. The building is scheduled to open by the second semester of this upcoming school year. Studio 205, the new on-campus game design and video production studio that will be used by students and staff to create videos, broadcasts, games and more, debuted in the spring, and the old campus pools were demolished and filled in to make way for a student pathway that will provide safe, convenient access across campus for students, faculty and staff each day. Shawn Tennenbaum is superintendent of the San Benito High School District.

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The state budget package that Democratic legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom just enacted is sprinkled with billions of dollars in extra goodies for their most important political constituency, labor unions. Take, for example, Senate Bill 90, the budget’s omnibus education measure. It would allocate $3.1 billion to reduce mandatory payments that local school districts would otherwise have to make to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). CalPERS has been ramping up mandatory contributions from school districts and local governments to deal with tens of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities. Former Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature rescued STRS from a similar situation by requiring that the state, teachers and school districts contribute more. By reducing those payments, the appropriations would put that much additional money on the table for school salary negotiations. It bails out districts, such as Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified and Sacramento Unified, that have dug deep financial holes by overspending and underwrites salary negotiations in other districts. Another budget trailer bill, Senate Bill 75, provides $36 million to help pay non-teaching school employees during summer vacations—in effect, extra pay for the unionized workers. SB 75 also allocates $10 million to create records on childcare workers, with the stated goal of making it easier for the Service Employees International Union or some other labor organization to organize them in the future. The state is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into expanding early childhood education, and unions see the child care industry as ripe for unionization. It’s similar to what happened a couple of decades ago when workers who care for the elderly and disabled under the federal-state In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program were designated as employees who could be unionized. Speaking of which, still another budget trailer bill, Senate Bill 80, would impose financial penalties on counties that don’t reach a contract agreement with IHSS worker unions, thus giving them leverage in negotiations. The biggest labor bill of the year, however, is not attached to the budget. Assembly Bill 5 would lock into law a ruling by the state Supreme Court that several million workers who have been treated as contractors must become payroll employees with the attendant benefits and, of course, the potential to be unionized. Unions sought the ruling, saying that workers misclassified as contractors were being exploited, citing drivers for on-call transportation services such as Uber and Lyft as examples. The measure has touched off furious efforts by affected employers, and sometimes their contract workers, for exemptions but the author of AB 5, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, has agreed to only a few. Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego and a former union official, moved the bill through the Assembly easily, but its fate in the state Senate is uncertain. That said, she has a powerful lever because if the Legislature doesn’t act, the Supreme Court’s threefactor test for who’s an employee and who’s not remains in effect. While a Legislature dominated by Democrats makes its bias for union organization quite obvious, there is one notable exception. Assembly Bill 969, also carried by Gonzalez, would allow the Legislature’s own workers to become union members. It didn’t even receive an initial hearing in the Assembly’s labor committee. It’s a stark example, not the first, of the Legislature’s penchant for imposing obligations on others while exempting itself. Dan Walters writes for CalMatters, a non-profit journalism project in Sacramento.

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