Join a delegation on Sept. 26th-30th, Amnesty International
From September 26th - 30th, Amnesty International USA will join forces with other organizations to sponsor a special week of lobbying Congressional district offices. Our message will be simple and clear: Congress should immediately establish a fully independent commission to publicly investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in U.S. detention centers around the world. Join a delegation TODAY!
I'm hosting a screening of a new TV program, "Beyond the Patriot Act," and I'm asking friends who care about the preservation of our democracy to stop by, watch and participate. I'll provide snacks, drinks, and information about how we can get involved today, as Congress prepares for a vote on expansions and revisions to the Patriot Act.The program is the first episode of a new series "The ACLU Freedom Files," which premieres on TV September 8th. Created by the ACLU and producer Robert Greenwald, the director of films including "Unconstitutional" and "Outfoxed," the series tells the stories behind the headlines and reveals how the law threatens the civil liberties of everyday people.Please join me on Thursday September 8th at 8:00 p.m. to watch the show and learn how we can get involved in the fight to preserve our fundamental freedoms.
More proof both that issues of corporate influence are widespread and that mixing soda with legislators is risky business comes in a new story from Rhode Island, where Democratic party congressional leaders are facing allegations that they unlawfully accepted tickets and skybox access to a recent Boston Celtics basketball game from the Coca-Cola corporation. (From the Rhode Island Providence Journal, May 13th 2005) The story goes on to discuss the fact that the state's legislature will soon be considering bills to ban soda from schools; much like the bill originally sent to the Oregon state congress and severely "watered down" by Democrat Vicki Walker - a recipient of a substantial campaign contribution from a soda industry organization.
Voters should not simply reject the soda executive Eric Forrest (the incumbent in the contested 4J School district election) but should also prioritize electing a candidate with extensive experience and understanding of the power that special interests like the soda industry and so many others, can exercise over the political process. Nadia Sindi has extensive political experience on every level, from the local to the international. Thus she has an extensive understanding of how corporate and other forms of power can operate in the real world. Nadia lives simply and takes her dedication to political justice far beyond mere words; she is the most qualified candidate to work for children in a world filled with so many other, "sticky" political and economic interests.
The Oregon School Employees Association recently interviewed all three candidates for Position 6 on the 4J School Board. Below are Nadia's responses to the questions they asked before the interview.
Candidates Opening Statement Nadia Sindi
I. Why are you seeking a district board position? And please identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you will bring to the board if elected
I am seeking the position because I think that I have experience, skills and integrity that must be brought to the board. In a world fraught with conflict, it breaks my heart to see children who are not sufficiently supported in their efforts to grow up as healthy, happy human beings. Two huge obstacles are race and class conflict, barriers to all students trying to learn how to be whole human beings. We need some one on the board who is trained to understand the lives of immigrant, non-white, and poor children and families, as well as the white middle class. An ability to facilitate dialogue between all these groups is essential, the conflict along these lines in Eugene can no longer be ignored. Every issue has race and class dimensions to it and failure to engage with these from an informed perspective effectively supports the defacto dominant group’s dominance of the issue. I bring years of training and experience in facilitating dialogue around these very issues.
II. Role of Board Member and Superintendent:
As a board member, the amount of time you can devote to this position is often limited. Every board member relies on the information put forward by the superintendent to make good decisions on a variety of different topics. From time to time, information provided by the superintendent will be challenged, and citizens of the community and/or labor unions representing district employees will oppose recommendations made.
Q. How will you, as a board member, maintain and open mind on issues before the board when individuals or groups are opposed to or are in conflict with a superintendent's recommendation?
I will prioritize validating the experiences and interests of various parties in any discussion, making sure to never deem anyone’s perspective illegitimate because I or anyone else disagrees with it, but instead striving to understand why people believe what they do. Cultural competency is about more than just race, but also understanding how people live their lives. This includes matters of economic class, which are very important to me.
III. District Budget Priorities
The district may face budget cuts during your term of office. Unlike administrators and teachers, the job performed by classified professionals and the important role that each classified has in the education of Oregon's students are often invisible to the outside observer. Those who work in our schools, however, understand and recognize the contributions that the secretary, custodian, educational assistant, food service worker, and other classified make each day to assure a quality education for our students.
Q: As a member of the school board faced with an inadequate to maintain and provide current services, how would you prioritize services and programs?
Openness about the so-called Rainy Day Funds is one thing that is very important to me, to recognize the vital work that schools are doing today for children and not making the funding situation worse by quietly stashing a larger amount than is recommended by the State of Oregon in case the funding crisis gets even worse somewhere in the future.
I also recognize the importance of demonstrating to children that we care about them by adequately supporting all their needs in the school experience; clean facilities and satisfied support staff are essential to showing children that they are important. An inhospitable learning environment only encourages the growth of inequalities as it does not encourage those student’s who are marginalized to achieve and transform their lives. Elite students are far more likely to achieve despite undersupportive school surroundings because of the support they receive from other institutions in their lives.
Q: Given an option between reducing the number of school days or cutting staff and programs, which one would you choose? Do you have ideas or a strategy on how to deal with Oregon's education funding crisis?
It is better to have children well supported when they are in school than to keep them in a less supportive environment for a maximum amount of time. It is also possible that cutting school days would lead to greater parental agitation for increased school funding than would the erosion of services in school, which could feel more like a frog in a pot of water slowly brought to a boil. Also, the Rainy Day fund situation needs to be closely monitored so that 4J does not, as many districts around the state have, make the funding situation worse by over-insuring for a hypothetical Rainy Day. Rainy days are here and today’s students need to be educated well while a responsible amount of money is maintained for the future. Other solutions to the funding crisis will only come from having people in positions like the school board who can act as compelling voices for change.
IV. Contracting out
Contracting out of public sector work and jobs to the private sector has gained popularity within districts as a means to balance budgets. Private contractors claim to provide savings to public employers through better management or economies of scale. However, contractors actually achieve savings for school districts and profits for themselves by paying their employees lower wages and minimal or no health retirement or benefits. A recent study funded by OSEA shows that private contractors also make additional money by taking advantage of districts that fail to include work or other factors that should have been included in the request for bids. After the premium rate. The study also identifies the fact that contractors wins the bid, those items become add-ons to be provided by the contractor at a contract and, over time, when the district is dependent on the contracted services, the contractor or will substantially increase the costs.
OSEA believe that public employers have a responsibility to taxpayers to use their dollars prudently and to act as responsible employers in their communities. Our district's classified (and/or certified) professionals are community members, pay local and state taxes, and work in and support our schools every day. They are dedicated and committed to our students and schools. However, when budgets are cut, it is these employees who are singled out for privatization.
Q: Do you support or oppose the contracting out of jobs and work normally performed by district employees to private contractors? Please explain your position
It is inconsistent with a school district’s mandate to act in the public good to participate in exploitive labor practices. This sort of step ought to be last on the list of ways to save money.
V. Part-Time and No Benefits
Districts throughout the state have responded to budget cuts by splitting full-time classified positions (more that 4 hours) in half (example: a 6-hour position split into tow 3-hour positions). This action lowers wages and makes employees in these 3-hour position ineligible for employer-provided health benefits and participation in the Public-Employees Retirement System (PERS)
This type of response to budget restraints makes classified in districts second-class employees,. This same approach is not used to lower payroll costs of administrative positions.
Q: Would you support a district policy that directs the superintendent to: make full-time status (9-month to 12-month positions working more than 4 hours) a priority when creating new positions; and review current positions for the purpose of creating full-time positions by combining current low-hour, non-benefit position into benefit-eligible positions?
Any institution that does not treat those who maintain its basic functions with essential human dignity is ill equipped to participate in the raising of future generations. It is unacceptable for children to be socialized within the context of an institution reliant on class exploitation. Obviously it happens in many institutions children experience, but schools have a uniquely paradigm-shaping impact on children and I will work hard to ensure that they are characterized by internal justice.
VI. School Breakfast and Lunch Program
Good child nutrition is a critical component to a student's ability to learn. This fact is gaining national attention. In Oregon, which is recognized as having a high rate of hunger especially among our children, the need for a school breakfast and lunch program is absolutely critical. Currently, throughout the state, districts have adopted positions that school breakfast and lunch programs should be self-sufficient and district general fund dollars should not be used for these programs.
Q: Do you support using, if needed, district general fund revenue to improve and/or maintain a district in-house breakfast and school lunch program?
Quality food is an essential human entitlement, especially for children. It is wholly unacceptable to expect children to change their life circumstances through education…but only after they somehow pay for their own food. It’s typical of the right wing, corporate mindset to ask them to, though.
Health care costs are skyrocketing across the nation, and here in Oregon it is no different. Unfortunately for school employees, the costs are higher than they need to be. Because of the separation of employees between bargaining units and jurisdictions, employers, in most cases, purchase health insurance coverage for each group. According to research, this small-scale purchasing of health insurance for school employees costs tens of millions of dollars more each year than necessary.
During this legislative session, the governor's office has introduced Senate Bill 107, which would establish a health insurance pool for all school employees statewide for the purpose of providing high quality health insurance plans at a lower premium rate to districts and employees. It is estimated that this legislation will save between $23 million (lowest estimate) and $50 million (high estimate) per year.
Q: Do you support or oppose Senate Bill 107?
Increasing the power of workers in negotiations of any sort is a basic tenant of social justice. Unless some good reason is brought to my attention by workers themselves, it only makes sense to me to allow them to act together to lower health care costs.
VIII. Collective Bargaining
For the past years, the Oregon School Board Association has lobbied the legislature to remove or restrict the collective bargaining rights of education employees. This session, bills have been introduced to force statewide collective bargaining; take away the right of unions to negotiate fair dismissal language; prohibit bargaining and contract language to protect our members from contracting our; prohibit unions from negotiating retirement programs or plans other than PERS; and shorten the period of negotiating on an agreement in order to allow the district to implement their final offer.
Q: do you support the current collective bargaining law for public sector educational staff? Do you support any of the above-mentioned changes to PECBA?
I do not support any measures taken to alleviate any crisis by reducing the power that workers have over their own lives and work. School employees especially are in charge of helping raise the future generations of humanity, they deserve the utmost respect and support.
IX. Student Vouchers
During the last several legislative sessions, a serious effort has been made to privatize K-12 public education by diverting resources from public schools to other education providers through the use of students vouchers and other schemes..
Q: Do you oppose or support the use of public education revenue to provide student vouchers? Do you support charter schools that are privately run and publicly funded by the district?
These are complicated issues that must be considered in light of questions of equity. I am disinclined to support vouchers and am concerned that the tendency to divert public funds for personal gain is as old as the existence of public institutions. We must be vigilant and prioritize equity.
X. unemployment Insurance for Classified
Even though employers are obligated to maintain U/I coverage for classified educational employees, school employees are ineligible for U/I when it is needed most, during school closures. This ineligibility is strictly applied only to staff hired by an educational institution. Employees of private contractors doing the same work as classified in an educational institution are eligible. Each legislative session, OSEA supports legislation to allow classified employees working for public K-12, ESD, and community college employere to be eligible for unemployment conpesation insurance benefits during employeer-scheduled shutdown periods. At a recent hearing on this session's U/I eligibility bill,OSBA testified in opposition to this bill
Q: As a board member, would you support legislation granting eligibility for unempoyment insrance benefits to classified employees during scheduled shutdowns?
Working in a school should be a good job. Happy employees are going to take best care of children. Steps should definitely be taken to ensure that the quality of school employment for classified staff is not impacted by the job’s inability to support a family during substantial portions of the school year.
Newspapers around the Northwest have picked up a recent AP story about Oregon Democratic Senator Vicki Walker accepting $2000 in campaign contributions from the Oregon Soft Drink Association and now watering down bills in the Senate that would have banned soda sales from Oregon schools. The full story is here.
Walker is amongst those listed in the campaign materials of Eric Forrest as an endorser of his campaign. Though Nadia Sindi has worked closely with the Democratic party for years, Democratic Senator Walker chose to endorse the Republican and soda salesman Eric Forrest in this non-partisan race (see entry on "The Other Candidates"). It is hard to imagine what Walker and Forrest have in common other than that both have a sweet tooth and appreciate the money that comes to them from children's' love of sugary drinks.
This is the sort of mess that Nadia Sindi aims to avoid when Integrity is identified as one of her three highest values.
Nadia is excited to announce that Bahati Ansari, founder of the Racism Free Zone in Eugene's schools, has endorsed her candidacy for the School Board. The School Board needs advocates for children with extensive training in matters of cultural competency, not just for students of color, but also to help all students get the most out of an increasingly multicultural educational experience.
Also, Nadia now has lawn signs available. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address for a lawn sign delivery. Get more than one and ask a friend to post one in their yard of in front of their business too!
Please join Nadia for conversation and coffee at a fundraising party at Perugino's this Friday evening. Peraguino's is at 767 Willamette, next to White Lotus Gallery and on the same block as Misako Japanese restaurant. The event will be from 5 to 7 PM.