(Almost) Never Take the First Offer

by John Harris


The Duce offered his proposal to help fund education, and I have to say, I’m slightly impressed. Not that the offer is so outstanding, but that he gave it so quickly. That tells me one of two things. Either, he is a horrible negotiator and just gave us the absolute best offer he could, or more likely, this is his opening offer and he has WAY more on the table that he could use.

eyerollA week ago, Ducey told us we were not getting 20%. Less than a week later, he has given us our first demand as requested and didn’t bat an eye. No pushback from the legislature. No negativity with maneuvering around that much cash. No long, drawn-out board meetings with corporations demanding some incentive to allocate less to private schools. They did not take the money from the voucher program already in place. It just seems so….easy.

Proper negotiations follow a certain protocol. If you’ll recall, it is a breach of etiquette to call triple dog dare before calling a triple dare. There is definitely a way to negotiate.

raisesFirst, know your worth. How much is it worth to be a teacher? If I were to put a price tag on being a teacher, it would be like putting a price on your home. You compare it with similar homes in the area. In our field, the Southwest region of the United States would be our neighborhood. The average salary in our neighborhood is $59,800 (thanks California). The 20% increase would only put us at $51,600. That’s well short of our colleagues’ next door.

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from cbpp.org

Next, where is the money coming from? Steve Yarbrough, a huge proponent of vouchers, wants every single education dollar to go to private schools. He does not want to fund public education at all. Do you mean to tell me, there were resources available that have not already gone into our bloated voucher program and Yarbrough did not fight him? That’s very difficult to swallow. If Ducey can so easily move money from ANYWHERE and place it with teacher salary (not as a stipend), then imagine how much more he could give if he squeezed harder.

Next, most experts will tell you not to take the first offer unless it is better than you anticipated, and even then, you should hesitate. The offer he made was at least decent. He didn’t spit in our faces and give us 2% or 5%. Out of all the other demonstrations across the country that have been happening, including some individual districts bumping pay by a few percentages, this is by far the best offer any group of teachers has ever been given. It’s just not enough, and he left out a bunch of other stuff.

This does not address the need for more resources for ESPs. It would be a HUGE slap in the face to every paraprofessional, aide, secretary, custodian, cafeteria worker, bus driver, and every other person who has stood with those of us who happen to stand in front of a classroom. It also does not address healthcare. Our premiums continue to increase. If we were on the state employee health plan, our premiums would go down, our districts would save so much in insurance costs they could afford to give that money back to us, and we could attract future teachers. The pay sucks, but the healthcare is good.

Koch Brothers are Masters of Puppets

Overall, I sincerely believe that Ducey thinks he is making a good offer. He is trying to be diplomatic in an election year. He is playing politics because he is young and has political aspirations that do not end at Governor. The Koch brothers (who could single-handedly fund public education) have too much invested in him. They can’t have him lose this election. If he can pull this off, and win public approval, he’s on his way to the White House as our next VP.

This deal is a good start, but it’s not nearly enough. And we know that because it came too soon. Let’s now ask for a 30% raise for teachers, 30% to all support staff, and open-enrollment in the state employee insurance. Now that we know he can and will bend, let’s see how far we can go before he breaks.

©️2018 IH8PD.com

The Truth About Prop 301

Many in the education field praised the extension of Prop 301. Legislators lauded their own ability to funnel “more money” into K12 education. Teachers, at least reluctantly, rejoiced the passage because it helped to guarantee that the funding given back to them would continue for the next 20 years.

After speaking with several members of our Arizona legislature, I wanted to find out where the money from Prop 301 actually goes. According to the AZ Treasury Department, and numbers provided by Representative Paul Mosley, a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, here is how the money is allocated this year and every year as an autopilot budget program.

With the passage of Proposition 301 in the November 2000 general election, the Department of Revenue started collecting an additional 0.6% sales tax beginning June 1, 2001. Pursuant to Section 42-5029E the monies ($667,458,515.00 for FY2017) are to be distributed as follows:

1. If there are any outstanding School Facilities Revenue Bonds, 1/12 of the annual debt service amount ($64,142,501.00) is transferred to the bond debt service account. This helps districts who have passed bond initiatives pay for physical renovations to their campuses.

2. Twelve percent of the remaining monies ($72,397,921.71) is transferred to the Technology and Research Initiative Fund to be distributed to each of the universities. None of this money goes into K-12 education. It is purely for University technology spending.

3. Three percent of the remaining monies (18,099,480.43) is transferred to the Workforce Development Account developed by each of the Community College Districts. This helps community colleges train people in technical fields to pursue employment in a trade.

4. Any community college owned by a qualifying Indian tribe on its own reservation will receive a share equal to the amount each Community College District receives for workforce development. ($769,992.61)

5. One-twelfth of the amount ($86,280,500.00) for the increased cost of basic state aid due to added school days and associated teacher salary increases (FY 05 – $66,957,200). This is paid if there are any extra instructional days due to various circumstances (flooding, electrical outage, etc.)

6. One-twelfth of the amount ($8,000,000.00) to the Department of Education for school safety and character education (school safety $7,800,000; character education $200,000 per fiscal year). This money goes mainly to SROs on campus to ensure that schools are “safe.”

7. An amount of $7,000,000 for increased accountability in the Department of Education (ED). This amount is not to exceed $7,000,000 per fiscal year. This is to ensure the ED has our compliance with federal law and the IDEA act and FAPE.

8. One-twelfth of the remaining amount ($1,500,000.00) to the Department of Education to fund the failing schools tutoring program. This was a tutoring program designed to help schools who were not meeting AYP under NCLB (now repealed).

9. One-twelfth of the amount ($25,000,000) goes back to the State General Fund to offset the cost of the income tax credits allowed by section 43-1072.01. This amount is used to replace money in the general fund that was taken out to give tax credits.

Combined, numbers one through nine total $283,190,395.75. None of this money goes to the classroom for teachers or for resources used to drive instruction.

10. The remaining monies ($384,268,119.45) will be used for instruction in the following way:
–40% ($153,707,247.78) goes to classroom site fund to be used as performance pay.
–40% ($153,707,247.78) goes to maintenance and operational purposes
–20% ($76,853,623.89) goes to teachers’ base salary

In total, teachers have access to 34.5% of the entire amount of the 301 money. 65.5% goes other places like universities, bond payouts, community colleges, the Department of Education, and a tutoring program designed under a set of laws not in place anymore.

A good place to start with improving teacher pay is to use more of the money that the legislature says is being used for K12 public instruction and use less of it on universities, bond repayments, ED oversight, and tutoring programs that are either non-effective or have been dismantled. Prop301 needs to be redesigned, restructured, and sent back to the floor for passage; however, increasing teacher salaries is not the only way for teachers to have the ability to bring home more money.

In my meetings yesterday, I asked both representatives how many obstacles there would be to adding all teachers and Educational Support Personnel (ESPs) to the state insurance plan. Both indicated that it was an elegant solution that would give a majority of teachers an increase in monthly take-home pay without having to raise taxes.

For me, I would bring home an additional $580 a month if I were to choose the lowest-deductible state plan. That would increase my take-home pay by 26% (higher than the ask of AEU’s top demand). It would also give teachers better insurance, lower premiums, lower deductibles, and the ability to have a health savings plan that we can use for any health emergency.

At the end of the day, the goal is to increase the amount of money a teacher brings home per paycheck. How we go about doing it is going to be the sticking point. We cannot just attempt to bullrush the legislature. Many of our elected officials have been put in office by making promises to their constituents who believe they will follow through on those promises.

Like it or not, Arizona is a predominately Republican state (and I don’t mean the legislation; I mean the citizens) who do not want to increase their taxes. Property taxes in Arizona are twice what the taxes are in Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Those who live in rural parts of the state are not willing to increase their taxes to help fund teachers or any other social service. Our number one goal should be to funnel more money into public education using the budget that has already been approved. There really is no other way around it.

©2018 IH8PD.com

Creating and Publishing SMART goals

It’s 2018 and we are about to embark on the most exciting year yet. How do I know this? I don’t, but I am making it my New Years resolution to be more positive this year. While we are on the subject, what is YOUR New Years resolution? Is it to lose weight? To give up smoking? To go to the gym? Those resolutions are among the most popular given when people asked.

It is also a very well-known idea that resolutions don’t last. By February, the gyms are back to being empty, McDonalds are packed, and I know first hand just how tough it is to give up nicotine. Maybe the problem is that our resolutions are not specific enough. Perhaps they are not realistic, or even attainable. We may not even know if we’ve achieved the goal because we have not set a timetable to it. In other words, our resolutions are not SMART goals.

Let’s take a simple, yet popular resolution and turn it into a SMART goal.

My New Years resolution is to lose weight. During 2017, I lost a total of 80 pounds, and I’d like to be at my goal weight this year.

First, I need to be specific. How much weight do you want to lose? For me, I want to lose 50 pounds. That’s pretty specific. It is also measurable. I will know when I have accomplished my goal. I will reach my goal when I weigh 275 pounds.

The next question is: is the goal achievable? Can I lose 50 pounds? That depends on how much time I have. If I want to lose 50 pounds by January 31, 2018, that goal, although attainable, may not be very realistic. In the past, I lost 54 pounds in 21 days, but I had to fast in order to do it. On the other hand, if I say ‘by December 31, 2018,’ that puts me at roughly one pound a week. That is definitely attainable. In fact, I could do it standing on one leg. I would not be pushing myself to achieve a goal. In order to make a goal attainable and realistic while still providing motivation, the goal must be time-bound.

You must set a time for your goal. Without an end date, you are perpetually trying to achieve your goal and you never end. This is the part where people often go off the rails. If you have set a weight-loss goal but have not made it time-bound, there are a plethora of excuses you can use to derail yourself. My timetable must motivate me to work hard, but it must give me enough time to realistically attain it. With that said, I know I could lose 20 pounds a month. I think I could realistically reach my 50 pound mark by March 31, 2018.

Excellent. I have the basic elements of a SMART goal:

I will lose 50 pounds by March 31.

This SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. But how will it be accomplished? Do I expect someone to motivate me into doing it? Will I take responsibility for it and motivate myself? Will I employ the genie that lives in the magic lamp? What can I do, or what MUST I do in order to achieve this goal? Will I commit to a gym? Will I hire a personal trainer? A certified nutritionist? Sadly, I can’t afford any of these.

There are two ways I can meet my weight loss goal: diet and exercise.

I follow a two-pronged diet. I eat low-carb and I skip some meals. I plan to skip 12 meals a week. Five of the remaining nine meals that week will be low carb, and four meals will be open but calorically restricted.

I will also need to exercise. For Christmas, I received a FitBit. I am excited to see how many steps I can take just walking around in my classroom. In addition, the middle school for which I teach is beginning a Fitness Club. I’m excited to help facilitate that. I think I can accomplish the goal of hitting 10000 steps 6 days a week. I don’t know my limits since I have not really exercised regularly before. I may have to increase this number if I realize that 10,000 steps is too easy or too difficult. I have a feeling it will be too easy.

Now, I have the structure for my goal and the means to achieve it. It is time to decide which verbs I am going to use. Wording is everything. How something is worded can mean the difference between guilty and innocent. Lives hang in the balance over simple words like “can” and “should” and “might.” I want to make a strong statement. I will accomplish this goal. I have no doubt. So, I’m going to avoid using “maybe” and “try.”

Every week, I will fast 12 meals, eat 5 keto meals and 4 CR meals and will walk 10,000 steps six days a week to lose 50 pounds by March 31, 2018.

This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. It also provides the means to the end. You can write other longer goals or shorter goals for yourself. See if you can create a different SMART goal every day. Let’s make 2018 the most productive year ever.

If I can convince my students that they have the power to set a goal and attain it, it may help motivate them in other areas. This will be my first lesson when I get back to school. The following day, we will write out our SMART goals using fancy/shmancy paper and put them on display in the hall. They can be reminded everyday that they have a personal SMART goal they are working for. The whole project should take about two days and is a nice gentle way to bring the kids (and myself) back into teaching…er…learning mode.

Luckily, this quarter is narratives, and is my favorite genre to teach. I’m looking forward to making them cry both in the audience and as speakers for their speeches. It’s always fun but sometimes heartbreaking to watch them talk about their own lives.

The Third Quarter Blues

166c1da7-bafb-414c-82d0-93ca5af81212-4645-0000043aefbf4aad_tmpWhat do you do when it’s February and the kids are tired of school? Senioritis has definitely reared its ugly head and the younger kids are squirmy and won’t shut their adorable little mouths! This dilemma is common amongst many teachers.

When I have reached the point in the school year when I have lost what little control I have, I resort to Shock & Awe.

1. Rearrange furniture.

The Friday before, I will rearrange the tables and chairs. They usually sit at large hexagonal tables of six. I will break the tables apart and make rows of trapezoids. If you have desks, you can face the seats a different way. I will pull down bulletin boards and get rid of clutter. This year started with a Pokémon theme and has now devolved into minimum security prison off-White. Memes depicting Armageddon are strewn about.

2. Seating Chart

If it’s the third quarter, I will put them back in Alpha seating with the exception of the two I know can’t sit next to anyone. I have six hextables and two individual desks. Most students sit in groups while two sit in Siberia and Antarctica. Students in Siberia and Antarctica are not allowed human contact. Students who talk to them are sent to lunch detention. Siberia and Antarctica are not a permanent placement, although, interestingly, those students I put in usually ask to remain in because “it helps me to concentrate.”

3. Change topic.

We are about to end Narrative and begin Expository. This is good for me. Now I can get their attention with a lot more lectures and note-taking. This also cuts down on the talking. They can’t talk if you’re walking around talking to them or at them. They should be taking notes.

4. Think…Teacher from The Wall.

A colleague told me the other day that her homeroom was scared because they had not finished their peer review and wondered what I was going to do. I laughed so hard. Good! Maybe they’ll stop talking and get Back To Work. They may get more accomplished if they’d stop playing Agar.io when they should be writing their narrative.

5. Create a Class Constitution.

This usually happens at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t do it this year. I definitely will next year. First, explain what a constitution is. Tell them about ours if they don’t already know. Then have them brainstorm rules they think they should have to follow. They will usually pick: Respect. Work hard. You may have to guide them to the rules you want. Be patient. Don’t touch. Turn in assignments. Don’t lie. Etc. You may also guide them toward rules YOU should follow. Grading and returning quickly, no yelling, no pointing. Once the whole class agrees, sign it. Then, have the kids sign it. Hold anyone who comes into your room accountable. Talk to your principle. Give her a heads up that when she comes in the room, she will be greeted by a student who will ask her to read the constitution and ask her to sign it. Parents who come in for conferences sign it. Anyone who steps into the room must sign it. This will show the students that their rules matter. They take ownership of those rules. Those rules of respect and tolerance and patience follow them for many more years.

Usually doing all 5 of these things at the same time will confuse them to the breaking point. They won’t know what hit them. They won’t even know where to find you. You’ll be everywhere and nowhere.

If you have any other suggestions, I’d  love to hear about them. Just leave me a message.

Check out more helpful tips at iH8PD.com.