April 1, 2013
I periodically clip out articles in newspapers that catch my fancy. Several such articles appeared in the newspaper media since the East Williston School District (EWSD) budget election last year. Here are “excerpts” from four of them.
- Newsday, May 9, 2012.
South Huntington Deal on Teacher Contracts
Here are parts of the article:
The contract calls for a complete salary freeze for 2012-13; a 2 percent raise in 2013-14 but no step increase; and a step increase but no raise in 2014-15.
A statement by the district reiterated the Board of Education position “that savings from the teachers’ contract concessions would go toward restoring educational programs in the district.”
Comment: Anyone believe that the (EWSD) teachers and their union, along with Kamberg and his crew plus Superintendent Kanas, will follow with a similar contract?
- Newsday, July 22, 2012.
Central Islip teachers agreed to a (relatively amazing) new contract involving some modest reduction in pay increases that will result in reduced class sizes and a reduction in taxes.
Comment: Is there any chance the (EWSD) teachers and their union will agree to a similar deal? Of course not; it simply would not be in their best interests.
- Newsday, October 21, 2012.
Take a Course, Get a Raise
Here are excerpts from the article:
Long Island school administrators are allowing teachers to take professional development courses such as yoga, stress management and “The science and Romance of Wine” for credits that count toward thousands of dollars in raises – over and above the annual increases they already receive, a Newsday investigation has found.
At least 100 classes had little connection to student learning or were of questionable academic value. Districts approved more than 750 classes that were outside of the teacher’s subject areas. Just 40 of Long Island’s 125 school districts have contract language limiting the number of courses that can be taken in a year.
Oversight of professional development programs is spotty. Some districts have approved classes provided by educational institutions that other districts have completely banned because they’ve deemed the course offerings are too lax.
Comment: Anyone think the EWSD teachers and their union will address this issue? How about Kamberg and his crew? How about Superintendent Kanas?
- Sarasota Herald – Tribune, March 20, 2013.
There’s Learning . . . And Earning
Manatee County teachers’ pay was cut 2.75 percent last year; they are negotiating a contract for this year. In 2010-11, teachers had a step increase, an average of 1.36 percent rise of their annual pay, while health insurance premiums jumped an average of 19 percent.
Overall, Florida teachers’ average pay decreased nearly 1 percent – from $46,922 to $46,479 – from the 2007-08 school year to 2011-12.
It is no secret that taxpayers across the country already are revolting against school spending—especially escalating teacher salaries. This movement is taking place after decades of supporting education at almost any cost, usually by inept and unconscious School Board members and weak-kneed superintendents. But, people are beginning to say that enough is enough.
A question we engineers often ask when evaluating a scheme, proposal, contract, etc., is as follows: Is it cost-effective and is there sufficient accountability? When applied to education, most school boards, school administrators and teachers have conveniently avoided answering this question. In fact, these individuals continue to try to convince concerned and angry taxpayers that taxes need to be raised further if our children are to receive a quality education.
In terms of being cost-effective, many taxpayers are simply asking what are they getting for their money. Why are many suburban teachers’ salaries more than 50% higher than their colleagues in the New York City school system? This is particularly disconcerting since the NYC teacher has to contend with major social and behavioral problems that often overshadow normal teaching responsibilities.
Our nation’s economic system is based not only on competition but also supply and demand. Teachers also continue to contend that salaries need to further increase in order to maintain and attract quality teachers. Only an individual living in another galaxy would buy this argument. How many presently teaching in a suburban setting would quit if their salaries were reduced by 25%? For sure, there would only be a handful. If you believe this to be true—and I am certain it is—then the suburban taxpayer is being ripped off by the tandem of teachers associations and school boards, with the blessing of the aforementioned weak-kneed superintendents. Any vacant positions that might arise would be filled almost instantaneously…and for good reason.
Suburban teachers also maintain that they are dedicated professionals. What in the world is the rest of the work force? To hear the teachers, you would think they were God’s gift to society. Regarding suburban teachers, I have more respect for the NYC teacher, who I believe is as dedicated, if not more, because they are exposed to combat duty, often on a daily basis.
Although much of the above is rhetoric, one needs to examine teachers’ salaries relative to others. As with some other professions, e.g., medicine, I believe it is disproportionate relative to the rest of the work force. Present-day salaries simply cannot be justified, particularly for those teachers whose salaries are $150,000/year. When one considers the salary, perks, health benefits, abbreviated work days, extensive vacation periods, absenteeism, workplace environment, other educational opportunities, retirement plans, etc., of the suburban teacher, it is hard not to conclude that these individuals have it made. Make no mistake about it, they have it made! I ought to know, because I was part of a similar system (for over 50 years) – only at another level.
And then there is job security. Today, most taxpayers no longer have the luxury of job security. In the old days, one might receive, at any time, a DCM, as it was called during the depression era – Don’t Come Monday. Being tenured means not having to worry about losing your job. What is this worth? When I was growing up, it was worth enough that teachers who earned significantly less than the rest of the work force were grateful for their job. I know when I accepted a teaching position in 1960 for $6,000 a year, a salary substantially below what my colleagues were accepting in industry and business, I did so for two reasons: the desire to teach and the benefits mentioned above.
And then there is merit (?) pay for our teachers. Merit pay must be part of fundamental reforms to help schools hire, promote and fire teachers according to the best interests of students. This kind of arrangement is standard in the private sector, where continuous quality improvement is both expected and delivered. Ultimately, reform of teacher conduct and performance will be most successful in school systems free of the regulatory burdens imposed by union contracts, and the education bureaucracy.
Merit? There should be merit for a handful. But this District’s ranking and performance are staggering. Absenteeism is rampant. And, indifference is on the rise. There is something wrong with those who are advocating merit pay. Dr. Kanas, do you get what I’m saying?
I taught for over 50 years. I still do some training as a consultant, and this is for attendees with my background and education. It was easy then; it is easy now. Don’t believe the hype. Teaching is a breeze. Is it a racket as some of my dedicated colleagues have claimed? Let’s just say the EWSD teachers work in a collegiate environment, with dedicated and mostly willing-to-learn students, a relaxed atmosphere and unaccountable conduct and performance . . . all on top of bloated salaries and benefits. You be the judge.
I close with a comment I’ve repeated numerous times over the last dozen years. The EWSD teachers, as a group, are the most unprofessional encountered during my teaching career. They are an embarrassment to my profession.
Next Posting: The Budget Vote, May 1, 2013