SUMMER FUND FOR CLASSIFIED SCHOOL EMPLOYEES
We are bus drivers, campus safety officers, cafeteria workers, custodians, teaching assistants, and many more who make sure our children learn in a clean, safe, and healthy environment. Nearly half of us are parents of school age children. We choose to work in our public schools because we believe all children deserve access to a quality education, and we are proud of the role we play in their learning.
Yet, for the two months of summer recess, classified employees have had to struggle to make ends meet because the California Education Code doesn’t consider us seasonal workers, barring us from accessing unemployment benefits. This has put us and our families in a cruel cycle of financial hardship.
Together in our Union, classified employees made our voices heard and we’ve won a safety net that provides relief from the cruel summer.
Over six years, we wrote 100,000+ emails, made hundreds of calls and braved long bus rides to speak directly with our legislators in Sacramento about how dedicated school workers are forced to struggle in the summer. We were united. We were unwavering. And, together, we made the Summer Bridge Fund for school workers a reality. The 2018-19 state budget signed by Governor Brown includes $50 million dollars for a Summer Bridge Fund for Classified Employees.
Dedicated school workers who have had to sacrifice during the summer months when work is not available, will now have a safety net to ensure that they can support their own families. The Summer Bridge Fund will allow classified employees to contribute to the fund during the school year and the state will match their contributions 1:1. School workers will be able to access the funds during the summer.
Though the Summer Bridge fund was approved in the budget, the state still needs to work on the details of implementation. This means we’ll continue to work to hold the California Department of Education and our school districts accountable.
Together, we were able to make politics work for us! We know that as working people face attacks from billionaires and corporate interests, one of the things they’ll say is that “the union” supports political causes you don’t believe in. But we know the truth! The Summer Bridge Fund for Classified Employees was a dream made into reality by our efforts, our blood, our sweat, our tears – and our political participation. This is what political causes look like when working-class peoples’ voices are at the front.
Stay tuned as details about the Summer Fund become available. Together, we win!
Please see our Summer Fund Questions & Answers for more information. More to follow.
“I tell everyone I get paid to play. I love my work because of the kids. Sometimes, I work past my paid hours or dip into my own my pocket to help the children buy lunch because I care so much for my students.”
Kirsten is a dedicated education worker who has given 17 years of service to the Los Angeles Unified School District. But, like many of the 30,000 Classified Employees at LAUSD, she struggles to provide for her family in the summer.
“Every summer, I have to try and make ends meet when I don’t have work. I have to take little side jobs doing hair and sometimes that’s not enough. I have to max out credit cards to pay for my life necessities – rent, utilities, and my car. It’s hard for me to find a summer job because employers know I can only be there for two months and I’m also disabled.”
“I’m advocating for a Summer Fund for my 11-year-old daughter. Without work in the summer impacts her the most and it hurts me to have to tell her no when she wants to do things. There’s simply no money or I have no time when I have to go out looking for work wherever I can.”
Questions & Answers
Classified, 10-month and 11-month employees.
The District must notify the Department of Education of their intent to participate in the program by January 2019. Although the program has been approved, implementation details still need to be worked out with the DOE. We anticipate enrollment to begin in Spring of 2019.
Employees can opt to receive money in one lump sum at the beginning of summer recess or have it distributed in two payments over the recess
As the bill is currently written, yes. But, if you work for the school district during the summer, you will only be able to access the money you have banked. You will not receive matching contributions.
For every dollar you place into the fund, the state will match it $1. For example, if you place $200 in the fund you will receive $400 in the summer.
The state has budgeted $50 million dollars. If and when the fund is exhausted, we can ask the legislature for additional funding.
Over the past six years, we have introduced bills in Sacramento to change the current law so that school employees could be eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits during the summer break. Unfortunately, those bills have not become law. During the process, however, we educated legislators about the problem. Many of them agreed that dedicated school workers should not have to suffer during the summer. Their main concern has been that the state cannot afford the cost of paying benefits out of the current unemployment insurance fund. That is why we’ve come up with a different solution.
The Summer Bridge Fund creates a new fund that school workers and the state will pay into. If this bill becomes law, school workers will have the option to pay a certain amount each month into the fund. In return, the state will provide a 1-to-1 match. That means for every dollar you pay into the fund, you will get an additional $1. Employees will be able to contribute up to the equivalent of 10 days of work. These funds can be used at the end of the school year.
No, the enactment of the program will not lead to a mandatory withholding on your paycheck in the same way that taxes, like social security and medicare, are currently withheld.
Think of the Summer Bridge Fund as an employer-matched 401k retirement account where you voluntarily contribute to.
A common misconception is that classified school workers are paying into the state’s unemployment insurance fund, but are denied access to unemployment benefits.
Actually, school workers do not pay into the state’s unemployment insurance fund. No money is deducted from their paychecks for this purpose. The reason they don’t pay into the fund is because—unlike other employees that do pay into the fund—school workers are currently excluded from accessing unemployment benefits. SEIU Local 99 members have fought to change that through legislation and influencing the state budget. The Summer Bridge Fund is part of the solution to addressing the summer unemployment issue.
Why are school workers excluded from access? School workers are not considered by the state and school district to be unemployed during the summer recess. This is the reason why school workers, under normal circumstances, are denied when they try to apply for unemployment benefits.
This does not mean school workers are completely ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. There are some ways a school worker could be eligible:
- Permanent layoffs: School districts pay into the state’s School Employees Fund (SEF). This is a voluntary fund managed by the EDD that is used to cover unemployment insurance benefits to school workers in cases of permanent layoffs. Note that a school district’s participation in the SEF has no effect on the pay of school workers.
- Cancelled summer assignment: If a school worker was offered a summer school assignment and that assignment was subsequently cancelled.
- No reasonable assurance: If a school worker does not have reasonable assurance to return to the same or similar position at the end of the recess or did not receive proper notification of reasonable assurance. Learn more about EDD’s guidelines on Reasonable Assurance.