Friday, March 25, 2016

They'll Vote No. We Must Vote Yes.

That didn't take long. The coalition of "no" has decided - SURPRISE, SURPRISE - to vote "no" again this year. Let's take a look at their rationale, such as it is.

No one is against teachers and administrators getting an adequate salary; but these same professionals pay very little toward their health insurance, and have extremely profitable pensions, and when the stock market is in a decline, the taxpayers make must make up the difference. 
Pensions aren't "profitable". Profit is what you get when you run a private business and take in more money than you've spent. Schools aren't private, and they're not a business. They don't make things for private profit; they provide a public service. Schools are public entities chartered to educate children and prepare them for life and/or college. That's it, and in order to accomplish that task, school districts must follow the law and retain qualified professionals to undertake the role of educating children. In order to attract qualified, educated candidates, school districts must offer something to attract people who might otherwise go to the private sector, where profit is a thing and pay is higher. 

Public school teachers in New York State are qualified, educated, certified professionals who earn a salary, benefits, and a pension. The pension is administered and regulated by New York State, and neither the teachers nor the individual school districts have any say over how they're administered. To scapegoat public schoolteacher pensions to excuse your "no" vote is ludicrous. As for health insurance, teachers  have benefits that some - but not all - in the private sector might envy. Rather than use that as a justification to punish them - to fire them through budget rejection - ask yourself why you're not entitled to similar benefits. 

Teachers also have tenure which means that teachers, who are not up to speed, cannot lose their jobs; and to make it worse, they get yearly salary increments to boost. They also work only 9 months. Teachers claim they work hard, and most of them do, but that is also the case in most other segments of the work force.

A teacher might want to look at the punctuation in the preceding paragraph. Teachers only work 9 months? Tell that to the teachers. I'm sure they'll tell you otherwise. They prepare for their curricula, syllabi, and lesson plans months in advance. They have to now stay up-to-date on what is, for many of them, a completely new way of teaching core subjects, and they're now analyzed and graded based on how their pupils do on standardized tests. 

Tenure is built into the state Education Law. That is a statute that can only be changed by the legislature in Albany with Governor assent or a veto override. After a probationary period, tenured teachers are entitled to undergo what amounts to an arbitration process before they can be fired. To suggest that they "cannot lose their jobs" is false. They can. 

The problem is that this is not the case w/ the private sector. In the private sector, tenure is absurd. If you do not perform, you lose your job, and in most cases, employees do not get yearly increments equal to teachers. Employees also pay approximately 50% or more toward their health insurance, and work 12 months, with only a few weeks’ vacation.

This is simply untrue and completely insane. People who have employment contracts have "tenure" as set forth within the terms of that contract. At-will employees can be fired or quit at will, but employers will be required to uphold the terms set forth in an employee handbook. Private sector union workers may be entitled to "tenure" insofar as a dismissal arbitration process might have been bargained-for. 

Where is it true, as a blanket statement, that private sector employees "do not get yearly increments equal to teachers"? How much did the teachers get last year? What was the average for American workers? There are as many variables in answering that as there are employers in the United States, so what we're left with is averages and statistics. Some people get raises, others don't. Some people get raises much larger than the teachers, some don't. Some people make much more than teachers do in the first place, others don't. Many people with postgraduate degrees earn far, far more than teachers - even ones in the public sector. 

As for the "race to the bottom" for benefits and vacation time, not all employees pay that much towards their health insurance. In fact, I'd wager that very few of them do. Businesses need to attract and retain employees, and they hardly do so by treating them like garbage. The same goes for school districts, who want to attract and retain excellent teachers. 

Why am I comparing both? The private sector employee benefits depend on the profits and loss of the company. The teacher benefits are carved in stone, and taxpayers pay for these increases, many of whom are on fixed incomes.
They're not carved in stone. They're written in a binding legal contract, and tax payers pay for the teachers' salaries just like they pay for potholes to be filled, the town hall to be lit, and snow to be plowed. even people on fixed incomes. 

Administrators claim these increasing taxes are for the children; but that is not the case. A perfect example was when the Clarence music department gave a presentation of suffering children because the department was understaffed; yet within a half hour, the administration was voted a pretty sizeable raise.
3% per year is not "pretty sizeable" unless you think that the work that principals and other admin employees have to do with new, complicated state mandates and oversight are worthless. 3% per year is completely within the bounds of the nationwide average for pay increases, as School Trustee Jason Lahti made clear at that same meeting. 

Paying administrators and teachers - without whom you don't have a school district - is "for the children".  Paying them a good wage with good benefits and room to grow attracts and keeps good administrators and teachers, resulting in good students. 

What can we do about it? Unfortunately, we must keep voting “no” on the budget, until they get the picture that our taxes should “go for the children” first, and that the taxpayer cannot afford to keep paying for employee luxuries which are not in line w/ the private sector; and we must vote for impartial board members who do not rubberstamp these luxuries.
Define "luxury".  A 3% raise? A 3% raise is weak. Good health benefits? The district self-administers, saving thousands. There is a shortage of teachers, but they're attracted to New York districts because the pay and benefits are fair. We could be like Kansas, which treats its teachers like McDonald's employees and is having a very hard time attracting or keeping them in the state. 

You can't keep comparing the private sector to what teachers earn because it's like comparing apples to oranges; it's like comparing Pepsi-Cola to the US Army. They serve different purposes. The schools don't make widgets, nor do they turn a profit on any manufacturing or service they provide. They are a non-profit, government entity chartered by New York State and subject to its laws. 

If you want to vote "no" just be honest about why. You hate the teachers and their remuneration, so you don't really care about how a "no" vote might affect the children. You already know that it will - 2013 showed us. 

You can bleat on and on about how the music department needs more people, but it needs those people because of the people lost in 2013, when you succeeded in pushing a "no" vote. 

You can bleat on and on about how "employee luxuries" need to be rolled back so that the district can somehow magically hire three additional music staffers at, presumably, the low, fast-food pay and benefits you demand. Good luck with that. 

Clarence schools, as set forth in the image above, has lost almost $70 million in state aid that was owed to them thanks to the withholding of foundation aid and the added insult of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, whereby the state balanced its own budget on the backs of New York's students. Instead of targeting the real culprits - Albany politicians - the "no" coalition wants to target students and teachers and threaten palpable, genuine, irreparable harm year after year. 

Just be honest about it: no one believes that you care about the students. I've known this for a fact ever since 2013 when I and many others similarly situated went out-of-pocket to undo some of the harm you did. Stop pretending and just tell the truth: you will advocate for a no vote every year, and you'll manufacture an excuse for it around your conclusion. 

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