T/E Teachers Union Offers Salary Freeze . . . TESD Rejects Offer, Wants Pay Increase Waiver

Tredyffrin Easttown School District is struggling with the budget crisis much as other school districts across the state and the country.  Serious budget issues escalated last month with Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget, which contained massive cuts to public education funding. 

School districts nationwide are looking for ways to balance their budgets in the face of looming deficits. Often budget discussions focus on teacher unions, which quickly turn into a debate about whether they have given too much or not enough at a time when school dollars are scarce.  There are those that vilify teacher unions as the cause of escalating school district budgets, claiming that their pensions, health care coverage and guaranteed salary raises have increased the property taxes of those who pay the teacher salaries.  Counter to this attitude are public school teachers and their supporters who claim that politicians are looking to balance budgets on their backs.

School districts and the teachers unions are vying to make their individual cases to the public.  As budget discussions become more heated, often times the divide increases between the two sides. School district officials are looking to balance their budgets and teacher union leaders struggle to protect the rights of their workers. There are always two sides to a story but there is a very important third party, whose rights are often overlooked in the debate . . . the taxpayer.

“ . . . It is well understood that this school district [TESD] like so many in this country is facing a financial crisis.  It would appear that this is the time for all of us to work together instead of against each other.  As a good first step, I would propose that the information disseminated be supported.  Unfortunately, when situations reach a crisis level within an organization (whether it is the school district, local government, corporations, etc) rumor mills explode and before you know it, things are out of control.”  Community Matters, January 18, 2010

I wrote these words 15 months ago in the post, ‘Is the Teacher Union aiding in the Fact vs. Fiction Component of the TESD Budget Crisis” and they are just as important today.

I believe in the value of transparency and availability of information from government to the public.  To understand a situation and to make an informed decision requires knowing the truth.  As I said in January 2010, “. . . when situations reach a crisis level . . . rumor mills explode and before you know it, things are out of control.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth. 

Residents in the T/E School District were told by the T/E School Board that letters (dated April 6, 2011) had gone to the two district unions, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association, TEEA the teachers union and Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group, TENIG.  According to the school board, the letters could not be made public for legal reasons. It is my understanding that the school board letters contained a request to both unions for a pay increase waiver for next year.  If you recall, Gov. Corbett had suggested that teachers unions in Pennsylvania encourage their members to take a salary ‘freeze’ for next year to help their budget shortfalls. Several residents have contacted me and some have spoken up at the school board meetings to ask about the TESD letters, and if there has been a response from either union.  With hands apparently tied legally, our school board was not able to provide much detail.  I was told last week that members of TENIG were considering some kind of ‘give-back’ offer to the district and were to vote yesterday on their offer.

Until earlier this week, I assumed that the teachers union was not considering any type of ‘give-back’ offer or concession. My impression from attending district budget, finance and school board meetings was certainly that no response (or offer) had been received by the district.  During the course of this week however, I have had phone calls and emails from numerous sources suggesting that a salary freeze offer was made to the T/E School Board but that the offer was rejected.  To clarify, these sources of information were not TEEA union leadership. 

Clearly confused but believing in the publics ‘right to know’, yesterday I contacted via email the members of the TESD school board and Pete DePiano, TEEA union president. The following email was sent to the School Board and DePiano asking for clarification:

Dear __________

I am in receipt of information that indicates, among other things, that there was an offer made from Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association teachers union for salary freezes for next year, in advance of the negotiations for the next contract.  According to several sources, the TESD school board rejected the teacher union’s salary freeze offer, citing that such an offer would only be acceptable if the current teacher’s contract were opened and renegotiated. 

I am working on an article on this topic and I am affording you the opportunity to comment on this matter.  If you wish to comment, I will need the information within 24 hours, by 10 AM Friday, April 29, 2011. 

Kind regards,
Pattye Benson

From the President of TEEA, I received the following email response:

On April 15, 2011, TEEA formally offered a salary schedule pay freeze to the T/E Board of School Directors.  The Board formally has responded to TEEA that they cannot accept the offer.  As the T/E School District prepares to finalize its budget for 2011-12, TEEA will continue to work diligently with its members behind the scenes to attempt to reach another cost savings offer.

Pete DePiano
TEEA President

In response to my request, I received the following response from T/E School Board President Karen Cruickshank:

Dear Pattye:

Many thanks for contacting the T/E School Board about a teacher offer in T/E.  As you know we are in a significant budget crisis, and have asked both of our unions in a sense of shared sacrifice to participate in a pay waiver.  At our Monday night Finance meeting we will provide a detailed presentation about why we can not accept a pay freeze but would welcome a pay waiver.  I would encourage you to attend the meeting so that you can see the entire presentation and ask any questions that you have of the board.

Many thanks for your commitment to providing information to our community. 

Most sincerely,
Karen Cruickshank
T/E School Board President

Karen Cruickshank sent a follow-up email:

Dear Pattye:

In regards to your request for information about union offers in the T/E School District, the TESD School Board does not negotiate in public.  We continue to remain in close communications with both of our unions.  

As I did say in my earlier e-mail there is confusion over the difference between a pay waiver and a pay freeze, and we will clearly point out the financial differences between them at our Monday night Finance Committee meeting.  The Board as always will be most happy to take questions from the community at the meeting.

Most sincerely,
Karen Cruickshank
T/E School Board President

Although we learn from these responses that there was an ‘offer’ from the teachers union and a ‘rejection’ from the school district, what did the offer letter and the rejection letter actually say . . . ? It is obvious there is confusion between a salary ‘freeze’ and a salary ‘waiver’ and it is noted from both of Cruikshank’s responses, that the school board intends to clarify those distinctions at TESD’s upcoming Finance Committee meeting on Monday night.

I did not receive copies of either the TEEA letter to T/E School Board or the letter from the T/E School Board to TEEA.  However, with a bit of research online I was able to track down both letters.  The letters are available online (and therefore public) and can be found at www.teeacher.org .

In addition to the TEEA and TESD letters, there is a note to the teachers from DePiano:

To all TEEA members:

Below are two letters. The first, dated April 15, 2011, is TEEA’s response to the TE School Board’s request that we waive the fourth year of our contract. It consists of a refusal to waive the contract and an offer to freeze the contract for one year and extend it.

The second, dated April 27, 2011, is the District’s response, a refusal to consider any agreement that involves extending our contract.

To clarify: A waiver would cancel the fourth year of our collectively bargained contract and put us into immediate negotiations for a new agreement. A freeze is essentially a one-year pause. We would work in 2011-2012 under the same provisions we have this year. We would then realize the negotiated final year of our contract in 2012-2013.

Yours in solidarity,

Pete DePiano, President TEEA

You will note that the TEEA offer letter dated April 15, 2011 to TESD states in part,

“ . . . In an attempt to prevent more painful cuts from having to occur (including program cuts, increases in class size, or an outsourcing of the custodial staff) yet also honor the contract that was negotiated in good faith, the Representative Council of TEEA has authorized a salary freeze proposal for the Board’s consideration.  This includes a salary step freeze for 2011-12 based on the current 2010-11 salary schedule, with the final year of the originally bargained contract realized in 2012-13, including step movement and salaries.  It provides PSERs clemency to staff that will be retiring next year, and maintains status quo on all other provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. . . . I estimate this proposal will generate over $2.5 million in savings for FY 2011-12. . . “

The T/E School District response of April 27, 2011 rejected the TEEA offer stating that their letter of April 6, 2011 called upon the unions to accept a

“. . . one-year pay increase waiver as their contribution to the shared sacrifice to support T/E students.  After June 30, 2011, a waiver indicates that there will be no movement vertically or horizontally on the matrix for the 2011-12 school year.  The settlement of the new bargaining agreement effective July 1, 2012 will direct the placement of staff on the salary matrix for future years.  A one-year pay increase waiver would waive contract raises for the two unions’ employees for the 2011-12 school year and would result in a cost savings of approximately $3,000,000. . . “

Again, as I said more than a year ago, “rumor mills explode” and there is only one way to correct misinformation and that is with the facts. 

The budget crisis facing the school district and our community should not be about ‘picking sides’ . . . it should be about providing transparency, factual information and letting the public draw their own conclusions.

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  1. Pattye

    Many thanks for uncovering all this activity. It’s at least somewhat comforting to learn that the TEEA had responded to the districts’ request for a waiver, even if that response simplify deferred the compensation increase and continued the current benefits plan for another year – likely an expense increase. I’m glad that Mr DePiano states that “TEEA will continue to work diligently with its members behind the scenes to attempt to reach another cost savings offer.”

    I’m interested by all the “we don’t negotiate in public” talk from the Board, and indeed from many parties in contract negotiations across the state. OK, it would definitely not work to have a negotiation in the CHS auditorium, but that’s not at all the same as keeping the public up to date with the process status, providing facts about the points at issue and laying out the general parameters of how the parties would like to spend the taxpayers’ money. How can our views be represented if we don’t know what’s afoot?

    Having said that, the timeline of these letters (with Spring Break and two week-ends between the TEEA response and the Board reply), suggests that Monday’s meeting would have been an appropriate time to review the status – hopefully that was the plan before you broke the news.

    [Reply]

  2. Pattye,

    Thanks for the excellent work.

    First, there is no legal reason why these letters could not be released by the district. To clarify: documents dealing with labor negotiations do not have to be released according to Right to Know legislation, but they can voluntarily be released by the board. I’m hoping the district would have released these documents on Monday at the time they gave their explanation.

    It’s important to look at the next 2 to 3 years to understand the 3 scenarios.

    #1 As Is
    Teachers get their 7% pay increases next year (2011-12) as outlined in the current contract. A new contract is negotiated for the 2012-13 year and onward. Savings: $0.

    #2 Union Proposed Salary Freeze
    Teacher pay is frozen for next year (2011-12). In 2012-13 the teachers get the 7% salary increase that was scheduled for the 2011-12 year. Essentially, the teachers are guaranteed an average 3.5% pay increase each year for 2 years. A new contract is negotiated for the 2013-14 year and onward. Result: a one-time $2.5M savings.

    #3 District Proposed Pay Waiver
    Teacher pay is frozen for next year. Teachers give up all rights to the 7% pay increase currently in their contract. A new contract is negotiated for the 2012-13 year and onward. Result: a savings of approximately $2.5M each and every year into the future.

    Scenario #2 is only a one-time savings and just delays the problem for a year. I’m no TEEA fan, but they have made a significant one time sacrifice. Does the board think the union will bail them out completely for signing a “stupid” contract 4 years ago?

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    “One time savings” Not really. An expense that was to have been incurred in 2011/12 will instead be incurred in 2012/13. Savings = time value of money only (less than 1% of the postponed $3 million). Benefits that would have been renegotiated for 2012/13 will be incurred at the old higher rate.

    Monday’s meeting will be an important opportunity to make these distinctions clear.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    Ray,
    I disagree. It is a one-time $2.5M savings. Let’s suppose teacher salaries are currently $35M, the negotiated raise is 7% and the subsequent contract calls for no increase for the first two years of the contract..

    As is:
    2010-11 $35M
    2011-12 $37.45M
    2012-13 $37.45M (new contract; no increase 1st year)
    2013-14 $37.45M (new contract; no increase 2nd year)

    Wage freeze:
    2010-11 $35M
    2011-12 $35M (wage freeze)
    2012-13 $37.45M (extended contract, 7% increase)
    2013-14 (new contract; no increase 1st year)

    Savings:
    2010-11 $0
    2011-12 $2.45M
    2012-13 $0
    2013-14 $0

    A one-time 2.45M savings.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Yes, I see your point. Thanks. A one year deferral does indeed delay the run down of the fund balance (although of course it doesn’t achieve the objectives claimed by Mr DiPiano of “prevent[ing] more painful cuts”). Unfortunately the district problem is not cash balance but the income statement.

    I am hoping that there is more dialog going on beyond the letters. It would seem to be rather short-sighted of the Board to simply turn down the TEEA proposal without pointing out the issues and perhaps suggesting avenues for possible structural change rather than simple deferral.

    The district/taxpayer does have a little leverage here, deriving from the memorandum of understanding in the current contract to jointly analyze ways to control incremental costs from matrix movement. By the end of next year, compared to the year before the contract, i estimate that the median step will have increased by three and the level by one, with associated impact on aggregate compensation.

    This whole situation is so discouraging, but discord and communication delays seem to be inevitable because of the legal constraints on the process. I do think we are doing better than some others. It’s going to take an appeal to the PA Office of Open Records to dislodge details of the agreement that Radnor claimed to have reached and quantified over a month ago.

    citizenone Reply:

    Ray,

    Isn’t it interesting that TE has this huge cash balance, but it can’t solve the continuing income shortfall? The popular misconception is that TE is rich and can use the cash balance to make things better.

    When you calculate the median step have you taken into account the normal attrition process where top step employees are replaced by low step employees?

    By the way – there are no legal constraints on communicating progress or lack thereof during negotiations. Either side is free to communicate as they wish.

    I have some inside information on the Radnor situation and their silence is justified. An unexpected problem popped up that neither side anticipated.

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Interesting news about Radnor – thank you. That would explain the information black-out.

    The cash balance is of course a useful safety net, in particular where there is a surge in expenses that is expected to decline. So, there is a good argument to use it to pay for PSERS costs and benefit programs that are richer now than they will be in the future. The problem is that the PSERS bubble is a decade or two in duration.

    Yes, the distribution is based on the actuals. As a check, there was a slide from the last budget workshop that reported that the average years of service in 2010/11 is 11.4, up from 10.3 the previous year. More than a year’s increase in a year!

    Perhaps there are no specific constraints, but it seems to me that the whole state employment contract process is very structured and it’s difficult to just sit down over a cup of tea and chat about solutions.

  3. Question: if the board didn’t want to negotiate in public, why did they ask for shared sacrifice on their website, at the board meeting, and at the finance committee meetings, then pretend like the teachers had never made an offer?????? Thank goodness that Pattye did some digging and found out the true story. I wonder if the board will address this at the Finance Committee meeting?
    Also, I have seen that many other school boards have taken freeze offers from teachers, but no other board has gotten this waiver thing. What makes our situation so different? Wouldn’t it be better to get $2.5 million than get nothing?
    I will be upset if custodians get laid off because of lack of money when we could have gotten a significant amount of cash through this freeze.

    [Reply]

  4. Karen’s letter said the board would explain why a pay freeze isn’t acceptable. I know that John thinks every board member is an idiot, but do the rational people in this district really think the board would have rejected the pay freeze if they thought it would save the district money even as they are looking at small cost savings involving copier expenses and water coolers?

    As Ray pointed out, the pay freeze would extend the existing contract’s benefits an additional year, increasing costs for the district. Before accusing the board of “not acting in our best interest” as John did, perhaps we should listen to what the board has to say at Monday’s meeting?

    There is a valid point regarding “negotiating in public.” The board needs to do better since the public should be kept informed of the contract negotiations. In past contract negotiations, both the union and the board have agreed to negotiate privately. If the board violated that agreement, it could be accused of an unfair labor practice. On the other hand, unions apparently can leak information about negotiations with impunity. And the public loses because we don’t get all the facts. Surely, we can find a better solution, right?

    [Reply]

    mainlinetaxpayer Reply:

    OK. I have a question for you. I looked it up and there are 20 other districts who took pay freezes and extended their union contracts. Are they all idiots? Why did they agree to freezes? Don’t they face the same benefits increases and pay increases?

    [Reply]

    Interested Resident Reply:

    Thank you — I’d would like to know this answer too. If it is so foolish for TESD to accept TEEA offer of a salary freeze, why in the world did so many other districts agree?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Grewell Reply:

    I’m only speculating, but it may have to do with the fact that T/E has a much stronger financial situation (relatively speaking) than many other districts. As bad as it is (and it is bad, even for T/E) our distirct is able to cope a little better than some other distircts. That may influence the board’s thinking on this. Even though all school districts are struggling right now, they each have their own unique circumstances, such as fund balances, debt ratio, and so on.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    There is no accepted definition of “pay freeze” and “pay waiver”. Other boards may be accepting (what TE calls) a pay waiver, but calling it a pay freeze. Other boards may be satisfied with the one time savings of a pay freeze. Other boards may not understand that the savings are one time only. Some districts may be in status quo where there is no distinction between pay freeze and pay waiver.

    Give it a rest Reply:

    Not accurate John. If the benefits remain the same, the costs will in all likelihood go up 20%. The waiver is the only thing that lets them get a do-over. Even if they took a strike, the benefits — at whatever cost they come to the district — are defined benefits. They won’t take pay freeze because they need to wipe the slate clean. In fact, ultimately unless this community puts pressure on the teachers TO take the waiver, we CANNOT fix things. Status quo is not worth anything, even i the short run.
    And it’s interesting that the TEEA — which had not used their website for any reason since the offer a budget cycle ago to “give 3 days” ….they are clearly communicating without the public website, so the decision to post these letters there is PR — not communications. They want the parents and taxpayers to pressure the board.

    And no — they cannot recapture what they did in the previous contract — unless they can wipe it away. As to the sharing of information — I am aware of Unfair Labor Practice suits filed when boards disclose terms without mutual agreement. They don’t always succeed, but they do get a hearing…..playing field == NOT LEVEL.

    Likewise, we can bemoan the terms of the current contract and suggest regime change, but new board members are no less qualified to take it on without some serious strategic planning. And I’ll say again — count the kids in the board member homes…those are the weak links.

    [Reply]

  5. John,

    There is no reason not to ask twice or 3 times for the pay waiver. It’s unlikely, but they may get it. I don’t think the TEEA would withdraw their salary freeze offer.

    [Reply]

  6. John,

    There is a sound reason why the board would turn this down. The “logic bust” as you put it is quite simple. Agreement with the union proposal extends the “frozen” contract benefits out another year. This delays by an extra year the chance to get more favorable terms in the next contract due to the economic conditions which now exist. The board counter-proposal, if I understand it correctly, would essentially do away with the contract – this would open the way to begin negotiations now for the next contract. Smart, but not something the union is likely to accept.

    Also, the short-term savings, as Ray pointed out above, are illusory.

    [Reply]

  7. A FEW CONCERNS ABOUT THE TE SCHOOL BOARD

    At the April board meeting, a resident asked a question about the difference between a pay waiver and a freeze. Kevin M. answered. In a follow-up, it was asked if the board had heard back from either union group. Both Kevin M. and Karen C.said NO. The response letter from TEEA president, Pete DePiano, is dated April 15th! I would think the full board would be aware of the letter. Certainly Karen was since it was addressed to her. Anyone else concerned about the lack of truthfulness?

    Ray says he is glad to hear that Mr. DePiano and the TEEA are committed to finding ways to help the district. I think it is clear from the rejection of 2.5 million dollars that the district is unwilling to compromise. They want a pay waiver or nothing. I suggest the teachers give the district what they want – nothing.

    The district has a fund balance close to 30 million dollars, yet none of this money is on the table when estimating the remaining deficit. I did some research comparing local districts – none come anywhere close to having that much money in the bank. I think Lower Merion, Radnor, and Great Valley would be green with envy. Is there any district in the state with that much money in the bank?

    Karen C. says the board does not negotiate in public. Yet, they put a letter to the public on their website in March that calls for shared sacrifice and conveniently uses the terms “waiver” and “freeze” interchangeably even though they are clearly not the same thing. The board also shows a budget slide where they put a TEEA and TENIG pay waiver out there as if to assume it will happen.

    TE also has a board policy not to respond to blogs. Really.

    Prediction: The reason that no fund balance contribution is included in the most recent deficit projection is that the board has no intention of going over the 1.4 Act 1 index amount. You might ask – Why then did they include the approved exception amount of 2.37% in their current revenue numbers? Because they plan on pulling a bait and switch – Get TENIG and TEEA to give big dollars to close the remaining deficit. Then, the amount that represents the 2.37% will be pulled from the fund balance! What is so disappointing about this is that Karen C.’s response to parents asking to be taxed more for quality schools was that they couldn’t even if they wanted to. This in a district that has one of the lowest millage rates locally and in the state of PA. If my prediction comes to pass, I hope other parents and community members will join me in calling the board on it.

    TE is a great district with, for the most part, great teachers, administrations, and support staff. It’s time for the school board to stop playing games and come clean to the community.

    [Reply]

    mimiM Reply:

    I too noticed some inconsistencies on the “freeze” subject. During the budget workshop on March 28, 2011, members of the TESB voiced their comments in regards to calling on the unions to join in on the “shared sacrifice” by agreeing to a salary/pay freeze. I believe that someone on the board even referred to this as a pay waiver freeze. I felt that at this meeting, the misinformation on this “freeze” subject began. Throughout the meeting there were so many verbal variations in regards to the “freeze” that I began to get confused. Which is it? A waiver or a freeze?

    Sometime in the days following that meeting, I came across the TESD press release of the March 25th meeting. Eagerly hoping for clarification on the “freeze” issue, one particular sentence clarified my confusion—so I thought. Taken from the March press release . . . “The Board joins the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) in calling on T/E’s instructional and non-instructional collective bargaining units to accept a one-year pay waiver as their shared sacrifice to support T/E students.”

    I thought, if the board is joining PSEA, maybe I’ll visit their website and see what they have to say on the subject. According to the PSEA President’s response to the Governor’s call for a one-year pay “freeze” the President encouraged the PSEA locals to enter into discussions with their school boards about a pay freeze or other cost-savings measures to maintain class sizes and academic programs. No mention of “waiver” in any part of the PSEA President’s communication. I then wondered what the Pennsylvania School Board Association has to say on the subject? I checked. The Pennsylvania School Board commends the teacher’s union for their response to the governor’s call for a one-year pay freeze.

    I sure hope that the TE school board can provide some clarification as to why they engaged in misrepresenting the PSEA statement regarding a ONE-YEAR PAY FREEZE in their TE March press release.

    [Reply]

    Concerned Taxpayer Reply:

    Appreciate your comments and timeline. Going forward, I am certainly going to watch the school board more closely. So much for transparency from our elected officials.

    [Reply]

    Give it a rest Reply:

    This analysis is exactly what the PSEA (note – I didn’t say TEEA) is hoping for. Give them this viewpoint, and their decison to post these letters on the website is paying off. So do you really think they posted them there for their own communication? They didn’t distribute them technically….they put them on a website used for internal communication…wink…wink.

    [Reply]

  8. I think the school board has every intention of taxing above the Act 1 index to the maximum amount. They have to – they agreed to a very expensive teacher’s contract and now they are stuck trying to pay for it. Other employees, who are not in a union or under a contract, aren’t getting raises and aren’t promised raises in the future either. Why can’t the unions understand that if they don’t help monetarily, then some of their members may be out of a job or at best “demoted.” Their offer of a “pay freeze” and extending their very expensive contract only postpones the high price tag for a year.

    And someone asked why other school districts were able to accept a pay freeze as opposed to a pay waiver. Maybe because their school boards didn’t agree to the most expensive teacher’s contract in the state, as T/E did. As Ray Clarke pointed out in a prior post, there are teachers who will receive thousands of dollars in raises next year though the normal percentage raise plus steps on the salary matrix. Not to mention top of the line health care benefits with a minimal employee contribution. Why is it right for this to happen when the taxpayers who pay for these raises are getting laid off, salary decreases or, at best, no raises at all.

    [Reply]

    Give it a rest Reply:

    “Most expensive contract in the state”…..not even close. With Lower Merion and Radnor sitting out there (and Radnor in a news blackout), this statement is the hyperbole that the Union is hoping for. Where was the scrutiny and concern when this contract was ratified??? We need to look forward, not scrutinize the past. That’s the only thing we can influence.

    [Reply]

  9. Abington SD (Montgomery Co.)
    Catasauqua Area SD (Lehigh Co.)
    Central Dauphin SD (Dauphin Co.)
    East Penn (Lehigh Co.)
    Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center
    Harrisburg SD (Dauphin Co.) *Pending final approval
    Hempfield SD (Lancaster Co.)
    Hollidaysburg Area SD (Blair Co.)
    Penn Manor SD (Lancaster Co.)
    Selinsgrove Area SD (Snyder Co.)
    South Williamsport Area SD (Lycoming Co.)
    Southern York SD (York Co.)
    Susquehanna Community SD (Susquehanna Co.)
    Towanda SD (Bradford Co.)
    Troy Area SD (Bradford Co.)
    Upper Adams SD (Adams Co.)
    Warwick SD (Lancaster Co.)
    West Chester SD (Chester Co.)

    According to everything I can find, a pay freeze automatically means that the contract is extended. All of the districts listed above took a pay freeze and were given an extended contract. You can find this list on the psba website under the news section. I say again, if these districts found it fiscally responsible to accept a freeze, why isn’t fiscally responsible for us. Also, if Governor Corbett wanted teachers to take a waiver, why didn’t he ask for that? Why did he ask for a freeze?

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I don’t have the time to look at all these, so I just picked the closest. In West Chester the contract was up.

    From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
    “The contracts for each group will expire June 30. The teachers have approved a one-year extension, with no increases, including no extra pay for those who get advanced degrees or additional graduate credit. The teachers got a 4.3 percent salary increase this year; administrators and support staff got increases of 2.9 percent.”

    So there’s nothing here that gives the union a 7% increase the next year. That’s the difference.

    Maybe that’s the kind of situation that Corbett was thinking of. But maybe he’s now also thinking we might start drilling for something underneath the CHS campus. We’d probably only find that leaking sewer line from Easttown, though.

    [Reply]

    Give it a rest Reply:

    POLITICS……this is an election year for school boards. Don’t bash TE until you understand the underlying issues. Hopefully the meeting tonight clarified some information. Accepting the freeze may be a last ditch effort, but righ tnow, the TEEA is reveling for sure in the responses on this board. It’s not a lot different than their hollow offer of last year — if they don’t open the contract, they are just toying with us.
    Fair doesn’t matter. The board can say screw it and raise taxes too. And they will for the 3.9 or whatever exceptions they can get. Let’s at least PRETEND we are behind the decision to try to manage costs going forward instead of lamenting the contract done 3 years ago?

    [Reply]

  10. TE Parent,

    Why can’t the unions understand? I don’t know. Maybe with the way things have been handled by the school board so far, they have no confidence (let alone a guarantee) that conceding money will save anyone’s job or prevent their demotion.

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    Why should it “guarantee” anything? There are no guarantees for every employee in the private sector who pays the taxes that fund their salaries.

    I would say leave the contract as it is and then be hard-nosed at renegotiation time – reduce salaries, eliminate steps, etc., etc. – if only that could happen. Sadly, it can’t. The way the state is set-up (and the required contract language) so much of the teachers’ contract is already tilted in their favor that the SB’s can only do so much. And “arbitration” is a joke.

    The fact is, the teachers’ union holds 85% of the power in the process, which means taxpayers and the SB aren’t exactly in a position of strength for negotiating. Until the public finally stands up and demands directly to the union to give up, it won’t happen.

    [Reply]

  11. Tredyffrin schools are top notch and the overall cost is one of the lowest in the state.

    This board is prepared to destroy th educational system to make a point? $30 m in the bank, take the pay freeze, then begin negotiations to reduce the 7% increase for the following year.

    We are giving up fles smaller class size. I get the feeling the board is not acting in good faith.

    If you told me the district was on the verge of bankruptcy I might agree with their tactics. A fund balance is to be used in tough times, let’s use some now and build a position of mutual respect with the unions to address the long term issues.

    I love this community and if you do not think the school district is central to your property values, you are kidding yourselves.

    I urge the TESD to take pay freeze use some of the fund balance with continued talks to negotiate down the 7% increase to a reasonable number.

    If Radnor could get it done, so can this board.

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    This board is prepared to destroy th educational system to make a point? $30 m in the bank, take the pay freeze, then begin negotiations to reduce the 7% increase for the following year.
    ___________________

    You are joking, right? Destroy the educational system?

    I went to these schools years ago, and they were better than they are today (IMO) in many ways and offered “less.”

    One big difference though was that back then the teachers’ union was represented by local teachers, not the representative of the PSEA. The board and the union met more as concerned citizens than adversarial sides. And it tended to work out pretty well.

    Todya both sides are to blame for wherever we are. Yes, the SB has brought in a tough negotiator — but only AFTER the union ceded their negotiating power from the local rep to the PSEA rep.

    Right now, nothing I have seen says the SB is wrong. If I have to support either local SB member (who I don’t always agree with) vs. a PSEA negotiator as to what is the right path to take for schools, students and taxpayers, I am going to support the SB members.

    As for “destroying the educational system” – that isn’t going to happen. It is, however, the kind of hyperbole that helps make this process harder, rather than easier (and is also one of the PSEA’s favorite talking points)

    [Reply]

  12. One thing you have to understand about the current contract with the teacher’s union is that the previous negotiation asked teachers to take their pay increases at the tail end of the contract, not the beginning. So the increases were light on the beginning. But the negotiation was put into place to get T/E teachers more in line with other district salary levels by the end of the contract.

    Certainly the timing on that with the current economic conditions are not spectacular. However, they are what’s due by the previous negotiation. To take the waiver would be asking the teachers to erase the contract. By accepting a freeze, the expected increases my come at a time when economic conditions could be better, say 1 to 2 to 3 years down the road from now. We all expect that the economy will eventually get better. I would suspect that the 2.2% of the budget we are talking about here would be significantly less of an issue with better economic conditions (transfer taxes, interest yields, etc).

    The PA state union has told local unions to accept the freeze, and no other school district to date has even asked a union for a waiver. The only real reason TE doesn’t like this is because the light at the end of the tunnel being the current contract is so close they can taste it.

    I too have a hard time understanding why it was stated at the school board meeting that the union had not yet responded. Perhaps they should have said, ‘not yet responded to our liking’ or ‘not yet agreed to terms.’ But to simply say it as though they have been ignored is rather ridiculous.

    [Reply]

  13. CJ,

    I disagree.
    – this contract does not ask teachers “to take their pay increases at the tail end of the contract.” The raises are uniform throughout the contract.
    – by accepting a one-year freeze, the expected increases will not “come at a time when economic conditions could be better.” The bill would come due in 12 months and we already know that the next Act 1 Index will be lower. Could transfer taxes be higher? Possibly, but I wouldn’t be making decisions now on something that may or may not materialize in 12 to 24 months. That’s the wishful thinking that got TE into the teacher contract it has now.
    – the current contract does not “get T/E teachers more in line with other district salary levels”. It puts them well above other districts except for one outlier – Lower Merion.

    [Reply]

    CJ of the Main Line Reply:

    The increase at the tail end of the contract has been stated numerous times in public both by administration as well as the board. I am assuming this is true, but I concede that it may not be. What are they talking about then?

    Can the freeze not happen again next year in order to push out the increase to a better time? And believe it or not, transfer taxes and the like can cover a lot of this.

    [Reply]

  14. Here are the facts:
    1. The $2.5 million offered by the teachers is real money out of their pockets. It is money that they wouldn’t be able to spend next year on their own taxes or family or clothes or food.

    2. The teachers are willing to delay the last year of their contract but not eliminate it! I am sure that the people on this blog who are conservative in nature would not expect Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or some other CEO to throw out their contract. Especially since the teachers may have had a small part in making TE schools the best in the state.

    3. The teachers would be stupid to forego the last year of their contract forever because (if you look at the Finance Committee slides) they are predicting that the teachers will get NO RAISE FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

    4. Why are teachers being celebrated in West Chester for offering a freeze? (eg. Superintendent there is “speechless at the generosity of the teachers”) while here we are vilifying them? West Chester had a big press conference etc. And by the way, they got a one year extension of their contract.

    Just some thoughts.

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    I am sure that the people on this blog who are conservative in nature would not expect Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or some other CEO to throw out their contract.

    Actually, I would..and they do.

    The problem with your analogy is that people like Gates, Buffett and, say, every small business owner in TESD, is their renumeration is directly tied to results and how much money is available: if the company succeeds, they do. If it fails, they don’t.

    If you told me we could start paying teachers that way –instead of based on seniority, steps, no differentiation b/t good and bad teachers, and other arbitrary standards — then I might accept this point as valid.

    If you told me we could have the flexibility to pay teachers more during flush times and less during down times — without constant renegotiation — then I might accept that point as valid.

    Oh wait, the union will fight any of those changes to the death, so I guess we will never know and those points aren’t really valid.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    There is absolutely no reason that the teachers should open their contract. It is obvious what the school board’s intentions are for the next contract, so why should they give up what remains in their contract. My suggestion is that the teachers should just finish out their contract and be prepared for what the future holds. TEEA tried to offer a pay freeze and you see where they got them – no where. The board rejects the offer and isn’t honest with the public, claiming that they will not ‘negotiate in public’. But what do you call their constant appeal in public meetings for the union to sacrifice – sounds like negotiating in public to me.

    [Reply]

    Give it a rest Reply:

    New Superintendent ===and election year. Read the contracts — not just the numbers.

    [Reply]

  15. This has to do with future contracts and the costs they will eventually cause rather than the short term savings that could be realized is if the SB accepted a freeze.

    The big difference between TE and other districts is timing.

    TE is on the cusp of a new contract. A pay waiver would void the last year of the contract and put them into negotiations now instead of in a year. That’s good for the district / bad for unions.

    A lot of the other districts who took the pay freeze were not at renegotiation point for contracts, so the savings they get from a pay freeze are the only savings they will realize. TESD could save much more in the long-term with a waiver/renegotiate.

    Simply:

    – there was not enough planning ahead in past negotiations/budgets which helped get us where we are (that’s the fault of the SB – Dem and GOP members alike)

    – the use of a pay waiver is, finally, a good way for longer term planning during a time when everyone (the public, especially) is focused on the idea of cost-cutting and efficiency and the SB can demand more from the union

    – the union stands to lose if they take a waiver, and they know it, so they play public relations games by offering the freeze

    If the SB members deal with this correctly — which is basically telling the truth and telling it often to the public — they can get much more of what they want. (I don’t think they will though)

    [Reply]

  16. I found it interesting that the TE Board President said, “the TESD School Board does not negotiate in public”.

    The Board’s words and actions indicate they are controlling the flow of negotiations information – to their detriment.

    If they would follow a policy of full transparency they could win over the public. Has anyone on the TE Board admitted to signing a “stupid” contract four years ago? If they don’t repeatedly say it out loud the public will remain uneasy that the same mistake might happen again during the next negotiations.

    If they would follow a policy of full transparency they could win over the rank and file teachers. I use “rank and file” to distinguish between the large, reasonable group of teachers as opposed to the small group of zealot teachers in union leadership positions. Right now the Board is talking only with the union leadership. And the leadership is controlling the flow of information to the rank and file. The Board will not move the union leadership; only the rank and file can. Has the Board made it crystal clear to the rank and file that, “If the union doesn’t agree to a pay waiver, your fellow teachers will be furloughed?”

    [Reply]

    Perplexed TE Resident Reply:

    ***Has anyone on the TE Board admitted to signing a “stupid” contract four years ago?***

    Can someone explain to me why the board agreed to this contract in the 1st place??? Did the union have a gun to their heads to make them sign?

    I think not, so I would assume (basing my assumption on years of handling salary negotiations) that in order for the board to agree to a contract with substantial raises it indicated that there had to be a discrepancy with our teacher salaries before. This just makes sense. People on this site mentioned that this contract brought our teacher salaries on par with others (also contradicted by others). This makes me think that if these substantial raises are bring our teachers on par or even if allowing them to make more now than others , but still less than Lower Merion, than they had to be UNDERPAID before in comparison to their counterparts in other districts.

    I’ve lived here my whole life and can not imagine a board representing a community who has historically held the line on costs just suddenly be so willing to give the teachers anything they asked (raises for 4 years in excess of 20%) for without a fight unless there was a legitimate reason. Maybe Mr. Clarke can clarify given he seems to be an expert on this contract and salaries? Where were our teacher salaries before this contract in comparison to districts like ours?

    [Reply]

  17. The crisis T/E is facing is not due to choices made by teachers, custodians or students, and yet that is where cuts are being made. The financial choices were made largely by the board, who was elected by the residents of T/E. I’m still trying to figure out how the new TEAO building (decision made in the wake of the impending economic crisis) is helping our children learn better; instead, cuts are being made that include increased class size and increase in teacher workload.

    The average T/E resident is incurring an $200 increase in taxes (with still no EIT); in comparison, with the salary freeze some teachers would contribute 100 times that much in a single year. Doesn’t seem like the sacrifice is being shared evenly.

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    , with the salary freeze some teachers would contribute 100 times that much in a single year. Doesn’t seem like the sacrifice is being shared evenly.
    __________________________

    100 x 200 = 20,000.

    If they can have a salary high enough to be cut $20,000, they have been sharing unevenly in the spoils long enough to give it up for a year or two.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    Sally,

    An apt comparison might be:

    – Nationally, wages and salaries increased 1.6 percent for the current 12-month period, but the TE teachers are getting 7%.
    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/eci.nr0.htm

    – the average teacher will be getting a $5,000 raise next year (7% of $75,000) while all social security recipients will be experiencing their 2nd year of no increase.

    – the average teacher will be getting a $5,000 raise next year (7% of $75,000) while all county employees will be experiencing their 3rd year of no increase.

    – the unemployment rate stand at 9.2% while teachers have guaranteed job security through tenure and the inability of districts to reduce staffing in the face of income shortfalls.

    Both of us agree that – It doesn’t see like the sacrifice is being shared evenly.

    [Reply]

    Ted d Reply:

    The economy collapsed in 2008. Teachers have been underpaid for decades. Still even, you think?

    [Reply]

    give it a rest Reply:

    That is such a myth, perpetuated by people who don’t have any contact with people in the private sector….Average salary at TESD now is 75,000, which will be matched by a pension after 30 years (mid-50s) of about the same amount (75% of final 3 years average salary). Just contemplate how much you would need to save to produce $75K a year tax free for life….with as close to 100% job security as exists….at least to those who have reached the mid-point of the salary schedule.

  18. Citizenone,

    The unemployment rate in Chester County is now down to 6%. Quite a difference from your 9.2%. The issue is local and just like the low millage rate, extraordinary fund balance, lack of EIT, and low tax effort, along with having one of the best public school systems in the state and country, TESD and the community have quite a bargain when you do any sort of cost/benefit analysis with districts of like means.

    [Reply]

  19. Maybe my brain is fogged from the fumes of the deck stain I’m working with, but I was thinking about the map on the front page of the Business section of today’s Inquirer. The article is focused on the increased penetration of cut rate grocers, but it draws on the change in average household income from 1999 to 2005-9 (?). If I read the map right, T/E average household income DECLINED over that period.

    Is it totally unreasonable to expect that those who hit the jackpot by the sheer good fortune of the contract cycle, should recognize the difficulties of those who now have to come up with the money to pay that jackpot, and whose income has declined? I think the Board was totally right in its original request for a waiver.

    As for the timing of the increases, the first year of the contract had the highest straight average increase in the matrix (7%); the coming year is next highest (6%). Of course the distribution of both staff and increases sets the overall impact on the district. Next year’s increases are focused in the middle of the matrix where T/E has many teachers. Levels 8 and 9, Step M+15 are set to increase by 20.6% and 22.6%. Also, a big incentive for the many more on just the M step to get those credits!

    OK, back to the chemicals known to the State of California …… etc. etc.

    [Reply]

  20. Blah blah blah

    I did some research and actually looked at the teacher’s contract. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about what the board GOT in return from the teachers?

    It looks to me like teachers are working three more days AND they are contributing to their health care.

    Mr. Clarke says “is it totally unreasonable to expect that those who hit the jackpot by the sheer good fortune of the contract cycle, should recognize the difficulties of those who now have to come up with the money to pay that jackpot, and whose income has declined?”

    The TEACHERS JUST OFFERED $2.5 MILLION TO THE BOARD!!!!!!!!! Isn’t that stepping up to the plate? Just because it isn’t what the Board wants does not mean it is not a reasonable offer.

    It is apparent that the Board is in the “starve the beast” mode of Grover Norquist. Simply say “we will not raise taxes” and “we will not take money from the rainy day fund” and expect the teachers to make up the deficit. Now THAT is unreasonable.

    If I were the teachers I would take my apple and go home. Let the Board make the next offer.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    AMEN brother!

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    The hallucinations must be getting worse, and I’m still not finished with the paint brush…. So please check the following numbers:

    The TEEA freeze offer continues the current benefit package for an additional year. From what I recall, the healthcare premium is at least $15,000 per year, of which the teachers pay $1,000. Is it unreasonable to expect that a new contract might have the copay in line with the rest of the world at 30% not 7%? That $3,450 times ~460 teachers is ~$1.6 million that would not otherwise be paid. So even the one time deferral is one third of what is being represented.

    [Reply]

  21. Ray’s comment that the teachers hit the “jackpot” with the current contract is ridiculous. Let’s get back to what Perplexed asked. Yes, TE teachers salaries were behind many school local school districts. I remember attending a presentation by the TEEA leaderhip where salaries were compared among Lower Merion, Radnor, Great Valley, Upper Merion, and Phoenixville. I don’t recollect any specific numbers but I do remember walking away shocked. I expected our teachers’ pay to be more in line with Lower Merion but they weren’t even as good as Phoenixville!

    So the teachers should reopen their “jackpot” contract and give back to the district. Well, I was a teacher in the late 90’s. Stocks were soaring, real estate was booming, and people in business seemed to be getting bonuses just for showing up. Meanwhile, in TE student enrollment was growing (meaning more teachers) and programs were being added. Yet, our taxes remained relatively low. How was the district able to do that? They did it on the backs of the teachers who were locked into a six-year contract which extended steps and reduced salaries. There was no cry back then to open the contract and give teachers more. Why? becase the district had a “jackpot” of a contract.

    Unless you inherited a house that you couldn’t have afforded when working, the taxes in TE are quite reasonable for what you get. I laugh when I read people on this blog state they are going to move once their last child gets out of school. Where exactly are you going to move with the same community amenities and low taxes? Unless you move out of state, I suggest you move to a smaller house in TE where you can continue to reap the benefits of an outstanding community and school district!

    And, if the school board decides to outsource the custodial staff, I think the residents should storm the district offices (the nicest building in the district, by the way – so much for the kids). Surely, they can find $800,000 to keep these hard working people and I’m willing to help. Please take some of the tax money I’ve been paying and the district has been storing for the last 10 years from the 30 million fund balance!

    [Reply]

    Perplexed TE Resident Reply:

    Very interesting info… its nice now to know a little bit of the truth versus the spin.

    It’s now apparent to me that the pervasive argument used by so many that our “excessively greedy” teachers are reaping so much of a “stupid” contract when others suffer so harshly is flawed and frankly, a lie. A more accurate argument would be that since our district was sadly underpaying our teachers in years past we can NOW not afford to pay them what that should have already been making because of the economy. Sadly, I don’t see many changing their argument to this since it detracts from making one entity the villain and therefore, if they did this, they would need to concede that there should be more shared sacrifice on their behalf too since the other side has ALREADY sacrificed!!!

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    Going On stated, “I expected our teachers’ pay to be more in line with Lower Merion.” This is standard union rhetoric – pick the district with the highest salaries in the state and do a comparison. This might be a good comparison if there were any correlation between academic achievement and salary, but there is none. Higher teacher pay doesn’t result in better academic achievement; it only causes higher taxes. Why not do a comparison with Unionville where the salaries are lower and the educational results are the same?

    Let’s remember TE teachers have told us with their feet that they are over paid. There are hoards of applicants for any open position and no teacher ever leaves for a higher paying teaching job.

    [Reply]

    Perplexed TE Resident Reply:

    Interesting analysis, but your viewpoint only makes it apparent that Unionville must also be compensated inaccurately. We all know the basic tenet used against unions/teachers is that they do not operate like the “real world/business world”… In the “real world” compensation is dictated by performance/results (at least that is what we all pretend its based off of) so you’re statement that there is no correlation between academic achievement and salary is irrelevant because that thinking is contradictory to the way the world works. If TE produces the better product than their competitors, they should be compensated for such. This logic is used every day in the business world…I know since I deal with it everyday!

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    Perplexed said, “In the “real world” compensation is dictated by performance/results” and “If TE produces the better product than their competitors, they should be compensated for such”.

    We all agree.

    Why is it then that the PSEA and TEEA are strongly against pay for performance?
    Why is it then that the PSEA and TEEA cling to a compensation scheme that pays the best teacher and the worst teacher the same amount?

  22. What’s going on has it right. This an arguement to vilify and score political points. No one was complaining a few years ago when things were rolling. Now times are fough, go after the teachers and custodians.

    I think we can all be reasonable and share a little bit to get us through a few years.

    I disagree with some assertions that this district isn’t one of the best. Clearly national rankings says otherwise.

    $30 million fund balance shows the board has been doing something’s righ. Now times are tough use some of the savings. The taxpayers contributed to that for the schools, now is the time.

    [Reply]

  23. BALONY MAHONEY!!!

    We are getting away from the main issue here…it’s apparent that Kevin Mahoney and the SB President Karen Cruickshank kept the truth from us residents of T/E, all of their Teachers, Maintenance, Cafeteria, Custodial and Secretarial staff. And, by keeping their silence and failing to set the record straight, at the last meeting, the entire SB, by association, is guilty of mistrust also. The “…have yet to receive a response…” is outrageous. You had the TEEA answer for days!

    Thank you Pattye Benson for digging up the truth and letting the sun shine brightly.

    The Michael Jordan-like “Fund Balance” had to have been a result of repeated over-budgeting. Hence misleading us Taxpayers, again and again, as to how much $$$ was needed to balance the Budget. Speaking of that 30 Million, why isn’t the Board releasing some of it to get us over this Economic downturn? Upper Merion District will be working with a measly $1 Million “rainy day” fund and yet their Bond Rating will not go down the tube as this Board has propagated if our $30 Million “rainy day” Fund is reduced. We Americans have survived many Economic skirmishes including the big one of the late 1920 & ‘30’s; we will survive this one too. I won’t listen anymore to the doom & gloom of this Board.

    The Education Services Center (ESC) building was purportedly contaminated with asbestos. Thus the Center was moved to a “better” facility, yet the Print Shop and Maintenance was left to operate on the premises long after the administration abandoned the facility. Why did you not offer Haz-Mat suits to your “left behind” workers? Never saw a dollar amount for asbestos removal. How much is the ground worth and why is it not on the plus side of the Budget? Sell the property!! Are we not in need of $$$?

    While on the subject of ESC, was it truly torn down to make room for a possible new School? Or, is it a misconception put forth by your Architects who are salivating to first build us a new “storage facility complex” by Teamer Field, then a new School at the ESC site? It’s irresponsible to talk about a $2.71 Million “garage” expenditure when in the same breath you claim Economic hardship and then you want to, pardon the expression, be “Indian Givers” to the Unions. First you promise them a pay increase by a Contractual “NEGOTIATED” Agreement, and then you want to take it away? What is the value of the properties next to T/E Middle School? Sell them!!

    Getting back to $$$, just for a second, what is the 2010/11 budget amount–$107+ or $103+ Million? There are so many figures and so many “Strategies” on the handouts which makes me wonder if you’re forgetting one of the first principles: KISS…Keep It Simple Stupid! It’s not brain surgery; just tell the Taxpayers “what” and “how much” you’re spending and planning to spend to run the Schools. If you run short, tap into that $30 Million Super Fund. Why are you publishing so many “strategies” then only finalizing 3 or 4 of them? Who is this scare tactic directed to? I don’t see your Anti-Bullying Policy at work here.

    Finally, a word about TEEA President Pete DePiano. He has been grouped and labeled “zealot” on this Blog and that the rank and file had little input in rejecting the Board’s futile attempt to re-negotiate “in public” the already negotiated contract. Do you truly believe that one or a small group of TEEA leadership could totally influence the free will of Teachers in the 50th ranked District in the nation? I have read Mr. DePiano’s Bio. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of Villanova. Holding a Master in Education. Working towards his PhD. Very young, but apparently very astute. He is just but one example of the quality teachers we are blessed with in this District. I think it’s time to elect equal talent on the School Board.

    [Reply]

    Domenic, of Devon Reply:

    one other thing I know…Mr. DePiano is a proud T/E graduate

    [Reply]

  24. TESD paid approximately 1.3 MILLION for 4 properties on Old Lancaster RD. they have to buy.the remaining house … listed on the Capital Plan for $400,000.( that’s where the storage building would go) ..The cost for the proposed maintenance building comes out of t bond money… “slush fund” for useless projects…3 years ago they wanted to build a parking lot on this property for 1.5 million… it .would have been the most expensive parking in the township..
    Read the “Infrastructure Report”…first couple of chapters state that the ESC site wasn’t big enough for a school… Years ago .they had plans to build an admin building in the rear of the property but went to TEAO instead …. now they pay 5 grand a month condo fee for a building that can’t hold a crowd.

    [Reply]

  25. Citizenone,

    So you don’t expect our teachers to have the brains to figure out that neighboring districts (at the time the current contract was negotiated) had higher salaries. Who cares, right. No one will leave – it’s TE. Let’s pay them on the cheap, right?

    I’m also amazed that no one ever brings up the administrators’ act 93 agreement (see TE website). Is it really necessary for them to get ANOTHER pension besides the lucrative one from the state? And, please don’t tell me how hard it is to find good administrators; just look for them in Unionville. The elitism of some in this community is amazing!

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    Going on said, “So you don’t expect our teachers to have the brains to figure out that neighboring districts (at the time the current contract was negotiated) had higher salaries. Who cares, right. No one will leave – it’s TE. Let’s pay them on the cheap, right?”
    First, teachers are smart and good negotiators. They use the arguments that best support their position. Their arguments are not always logical or supported by facts, but they are appealing.
    Second, I don’t want to pay TE teachers “on the cheap”. I want to pay just enough to attract and retain good teachers. That’s what any compensation program is designed to do. And teachers have told us with their feet that we are currently overpaying.

    [Reply]

  26. Reviewing these comments makes you realize how difficult this all is. The analysis is really complex – you have to consider the differences between capital and operations, to look five years ahead as well as one year, to understand what’s legally right as well as pragmatically right, to fathom what the salary matrix means, and so on.

    It becomes difficult for some to understand why others might feel that the union hit a jackpot in the last decade with the combination of unsustained pension multiplier increase, matrix increases and free healthcare, when house prices and incomes with which to pay for all that have declined.

    That matrix, for example, makes it hard to compare other districts. Radnor’s salary matrix is close enough, though, to me to believe that in 2009/10 it was just 0.8% above TESD’s (with TESD’s staff distribution) – before TESD’s 2010-12 10% plus increase. (We don’t know exactly what increases Radnor did claim to agree to, but it was stated to be 1.5% and 2.5% if memory serves).

    There are decades of history of School Boards and unions working in the back room to perpetuate a system adapted to a economy that was growing or – more recently – being artificially inflated. Now times have changed, and moreover the internet provides a way to switch on a light in that room. I do think that our representatives on the Board should be given credit for seeing the need for a quantum adjustment in both operations and communications.

    The result is clearly not perfect, though, and we have to keep pushing for transparent information and objective analysis. And perhaps we’ll get more civic engagement and pressure on all who represent us and work for us to find a solution in the interest of taxpayers and their children.

    [Reply]

  27. Citizenone,

    Using your logic, the administrators have told us “with theiir feet” that they too are over compensated, no? Can you tell me why it is necessary for TE taxpayers to support TWO pensions? Their salary and benefits may be the highest in the state of PA! But I guess you wouldn’t bother
    to make comparisons with other districts, right? And, they don’t even have a union!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Administrators do not have benefit plans. They have a benefit allowance — so they are free to make decisions about how much “insurance” they need. Teachers have benefits — and no one makes a decision about the insurance they need.

    There is a long and complex history to this process — and for the first time in 20 years, the public actually is interested in costs, not labor peace. And even with concern about costs, the Union is playing us all and you are suggesting the board is misguided. I will agree that the board did not negotiate a great contrract 3 years ago — I opposed it then, but we don’t see the information until after it is ratified.

    I’m not trying to defend or even explain the contracts I did, but suffice it to say that the cost of the benefits, not just the type of benefits, was part of the calculation for pay increases. I do not believe the current contract considered that at all — and was satisfied to get an employee contribution in lieu of moving towards a defined contribution.

    Someone above said that timing was part of the issue here — and I agree. If we had 3 more years in this contract, a pay freeze might be worth the money is might save, but not with only one year left, because by freezing pay, they ignore the cost of the contract, which is far more complicated than simply the salary schedule we read. Where our teachers are on the matrix as well as the mix of family benefits vs. single etc. is a major part of the mix.

    No simple answers here. But suggesting that we should take their offer is similar to suggesting Eve taste the apple Looks tempting, but the devil is in the details.

    [Reply]

  28. Going On asked, “Can you tell me why it is necessary for TE taxpayers to support TWO pensions?”

    I see the normal PSERS pension for administrators. Please tell us about this other pension.

    Do you have any evidence that TE administrators are over compensated? Do you have any comparisons at all?

    [Reply]

  29. Citizenone,

    My apologies. I was looking at the extra year of salary deposited into a 403b for working 25 years as an administrator in the district. As far as compensation, I used your “outlier” Lower Merion. Comparing the two Act 93 documents leads to my conclusion. Interestingly, TE’s includes terms like “marketplace” that speaks to comparing like districts to adjust salaries. I guess teachers shouldn’t expect to use the same “marketplace” when negotiating contracts.

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  30. FYI — the retirement bonus is in lieu of taking a sabbatical — which is legally available more than once in a career at 50% pay. The “clock” starts to run only after taking a sabbatical….and is an inducement not to. The average sabbatical costs a district 47% more than salary for various reasons. So it’s not a luxury — it’s strategic….and has reduced turnover.

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