Piedmont Neighborhood News

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Thoughts About Teachers, Schools & Budgets

Posted by drewbendon on March 13, 2009

In their grade school careers, my boys have had 7 separate teachers.  Of them, I’d say that 2 were excellent teachers and a 3rd was very inspiring and got a good deal out of my son.  The best of them got a pink slip today.  And if I can guess at how the seniority system works out I would guess that one of the other two did as well.  Of course that doesn’t mean Piedmont will lose them, but if we do, I have to wonder why.  Do we have to lose the best ones?  Consider this …

The current budget of PUSD listed on the website is $28,370,960.00.  We are regularly told that roughly 90% of that budget ($25,533,864.00)  is salaries & benefits.  The current budget deficit we are told, is $1,500,000.00 or roughly 5.8% of the salaries/benefits the district pays.  Could we save all the teachers in the district for next year if all employees agreed to take a pay/benefit cut of 6%  (maybe slightly more depending on what percent of the $5.45 million paid in benefits is for retiree benefits) for one year?  Or might the union have conditionally agreed to a reduction pending the outcome of the parcel tax and other budget discussions as a way to spare the teachers on the bubble the impact of Pink Friday?

Unions have done great things for workers as a whole.  As they saying goes, they brought us the weekend.  But I have to wonder if they’ve become too bulky to adjust to the fast changing circumstances of our economy and if society as a whole will suffer for it.  Is it finally time to consider some revisions to the tenure system?  Or how we manage retirement systems or health benefits for such large organizations?  Or to repeal Prop. 13, at least on commercial properties?

All I know is that there has to be a better way than losing the best teacher we’ve experienced at Havens because of an arcane, unadaptable system.



2 Responses to “Thoughts About Teachers, Schools & Budgets”

  1. newnie said

    I read with interest Drew’s comments about having teachers voluntarily cut back on salary amount by 6% in Piedmont. Would he ask doctors to do the same thing? Lawyers? Does he know that teachers have mortgages to pay, children to support and give generously of their time and resources all day? Perhaps if wealthy corporations and individuals were taxed at a higher rate, perhaps if the govenment spending on the war in Irag and Afganistan ended, then no one would be asking teachers to take a significant salary cut and be “sacrificial lambs” for the state’s budget woes.

  2. drewbendon said

    Do I think that we’ve wasted a ton of money at war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes! Are teachers underpaid relative to other well educated individuals? Yes! But neither of those are significantly related to my point at this time.

    The fact is that doctors, lawyers, real estate professionals, folks in the financial industry and everyone that works in a private corporation are all making less right now. I know friends in the financial and legal industries that have lost their jobs. I know bankers whose entire branches have taken pay cuts. Houses aren’t selling, so real estate market professionals must be making less, a lot less. The UAW has agreed to negotiate concessions in its agreements with the Auto Industry as part of the Federal Bailout. The economy has contracted significantly. Unemployment is at something like a 30-year high. Home values have fallen precipitously.

    The question isn’t whether we’ve spent money wisely in the past or whether we’ve properly taxed business in the past. The question is, where are the funds coming from right now?

    Or more importantly for my son’s teacher, the question is where is she going to find a job in this economy? Yes it would be hard for all the School District employees to take a pay cut, very hard. But no where near as hard as trying to find a job in this economy.

    Are the unions doing the right thing for all their members? And if we have to lose teachers, why the best ones? Those are the questions I’m asking.

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