Angie Sutherland, Angel Garcia
Coalition for Students with Disabilities
Although we were not allowed a time to speak, copies of our letter were distributed at the meeting.
Coalition for Students with Disabilities
October 10, 2019
Democratic Party of Sacramento members (SacDems),
The Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CSWD) is writing this letter to express their dismay and shock at the proposed resolution against Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) school board member Jessie Ryan to “admonish” her for “for misleading the public and failing to operate in an open and transparent manner.”
The CSWD is a grassroots, parent-led advocacy group focused on the educational rights of students with disabilities. The Coalition formed in April of 2018 with the goal of increasing the accountability and transparency in how Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) serves its students with disabilities. Since then our goal has expanded to reach additional districts and the state level.
We are astounded that the SacDems would entertain this opinion-based resolution sponsored by the SCTA Vice President Nikki Milevsky against Ms. Ryan; but also wonder why, since there is an interest in SCUSD student rights, would the SacDems over the past 20 years have not come to be a voice to admonish the SCUSD SCTA contract that included from the year 1992 to December 2017, and Appendix, entitled “Appendix D, Special Education Student Inclusion” containing illegal language that discriminated against students with disabilities and violated three federal laws including the: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the American’s with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The SCTA fought to keep Appendix D in their contract until its final removal in December of 2017. This removal was due to the pressure that former members of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education put on the district and the SCUSD school board. We encourage the SacDems to read this document and other documents linked at the end of this letter)*.
The SacDems resolution begins by saying that Ms. Ryan’s behavior has been “harmful to the democratic functioning of the District, and is profoundly contrary to the interests of the students” which is surprising since Ms. Ryan, was a key leader in the SCUSD who stayed committed to advocating to take the illegal clause referenced above (which was used as a bargaining tool) out of the SCTA contract to stop the discrimination that was allowed by the SCTA contract. The clause was one of the primary causes of creating a hostile climate for students with disabilities which the data tells us is ridden with segregation and bullying.
The resolution also accuses Ms. Ryan of “blatantly misleading the public” which is interesting considering that the SCTA continues to blame others, including Ms. Ryan as to why various initiatives have not been implemented although the 2017 SCUSD Special Education audit’ auditors explicitly call out the SCTA stating that they “know of no other major urban school district where union concerns explicitly and significantly delayed development and implementation of MTSS (p.16).”* There are many other instances that are documented of the SCTA blocking other student initiatives such as the SPARK Initiative (which encompassed social and emotional learning, PBIS, and restorative practices initiatives). We encourage the SacDems to read the SCUSD special education audit (also linked below). We also encourage the SacDems since they are interested in student rights to ask for documentation of communication between the SCUSD and SCTA which clearly will outline the blocking of students initiatives by SCTA. The problems in SCUSD have been longstanding prior to Ms. Ryan’s tenure as a board member and Mr. Aguilar’s time as Superintendent.
Another statement that struck the CSWD the most was that Ms. Ryan’s behavior had lead “to the first strike in 30 years at SCUSD” calling out the district’s “bad-faith, unlawful conduct.” This is shocking since the illegal clause in the SCTA contract was used by teachers and advocated for by the SCTA for over a 24 year period resulting in a culture and climate of othering students with disabilities which are clear according to the data re: Outcomes of SCUSD students with disabilities. SCUSD has the highest rates in the state of suspensions, expulsions, and segregation of its student with disabilities as called out in the SCUSD Special Education audit.
The CSWD asks that the SacDems DO NOT pass this resolution that is simply a waste of time and energy that can be used to doing actual work that improves the outcomes of students with disabilities and all students in the SCUSD. Right now is not the time to further stir the dysfunctional pot that is in the SCUSD. Families and students are the ones who are suffering in response the political tactics happening between SCTA and SCUSD. Please to not encourage this behavior or join in on tactics that equate to bullying and are not based in fact. The CSWD depends on allies of students of disabilities including many democrats in Sacramento and beyond that continue to fight for our students, their needs, and their dignity. Please do not join in to use our children as a political tool and pawn. We need community leaders to keep fighting the good fight passing resolutions that actually are meaningful to the community who is suffering and adhere to democratic values.
Angel Garcia & Angela Sutherland
Coalition for Students with Disabilities
SCTA has created barriers to implementing supportive systems that students need and these issues have been treated as personnel/bargaining issues when they are in fact learning issues.
1. Appendix D: This was a clause included in the SCTA Collective Bargaining Agreement for over 20 years: The right for students with disabilities to be “included” was treated as a bargaining issue. Appendix D, entitled “Special Education Student Inclusion” – was part of the teachers’ contract dating back to 1993, despite containing illegal and discriminatory language violating federal and state laws. Finally, in 2017 the appendix was removed after CAC parents advocated for years and our school board and district staff started keeping this issue at the forefront. Despite, this, the district is healing from decades of bias towards special education students. (More info: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-KgfS4OaY_SrF-TCnaCiahPrO_F0LJS6/view?usp=sharing)
Special Education placement is not a teacher’s choice (which is illegal), it is the decision of an entire IEP team). A teacher by law, anywhere in the United States cannot choose if they want certain students in their class due to their race, class, disability, etc. This is a given.
Teachers are required by federal law to attend IEP meetings of their student with a disability.
SCUSD Special Education audit: https://www.scusd.edu/sites/main/files/file-attachments/sacramento_special_education_report_edited–_final050117.pdf
2. Inclusive Practices: As a result of a grievance being filed related to Appendix D, an initiative that the district was trying to expand called “Inclusive Practices”, was suddenly halted. Inclusive Practices is a special and general education co-teaching partnership that was designed to include more students in general education. This initiative started in approx. 2010 but has not been able to expand as it had been promised to the community. Sadly, instead of adding more inclusive classes, the district continues to add special day classes. The district now spends over 12 million dollars busing students to these classes. The district also spends tens of millions on sending students to segregated, special nonpublic schools. Page 60 of the Special Education Audit says, related to Inclusive Practices, “The district understands that the Tentative Agreement with SCTA precludes inclusive- practice schools initiative from being expanded until the SCTA’s concerns are addressed. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a clear path for identifying issues and how they could be resolved to SCTA’s satisfaction.” (More info: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED588388.pdf)
3. Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS): When special education was audited, the Council of the Great City Schools auditors were perplexed by the power that the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) had in delaying development of the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). They had said they have never seen in a large urban district, teachers union delay the implementation of MTSS. In our years as parents and as CAC members advocating in SCUSD, we have watched as SCTA used their power to block other several critical initiatives from moving forward. They have insisted through the years that these student learning initiatives are bargaining issues.
4. Assessment MOU: This is a MOU with SCTA and the district that prevents the district from establishing district-wide assessment process to monitor student progress outside of the negotiation process. To our knowledge, nothing has been resolved. When academic process is not monitored regularly, students slip through the cracks. With a district that has very low academic achievement, this is hampering students from receiving interventions in a timely manner. (More info: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UWGdYir74Y0WEaTrCldFoTrTmNtSejWC/view?usp=sharing).
5. SPARK MOU: The district had attempted to start a new social justice framework called SPARK which encompassed social and emotional learning, PBIS, and restorative practices initiatives… However, an agreement between SCTA and the District was signed in Sept. 2016 to halt SPARK, stating: “… no aspect of the initiative will be implemented and unless mutually agreed by both parties or until the negotiation process has exhausted and legal impasse is reached.” (To our knowledge there has been no movement on this since then) (More info: https://drive.google.com/file/d/16oIXuHVAuepM5Cf8zEFdc_de8tPlKu1O/view?usp=sharing)
Conclusion: Our kids should not be used as bargaining chips. These are not HR issues; they are student issues. This is vital because these issues make SCUSD a breeding ground for bullying, segregation and disciplinary problems.