How to Close $1.5 Million Budget Gap is TESD’s $1.5 Million Question!

With channel 6 ABC news cameras rolling and with a standing room crowd, Tredyffrin-Eastttown School Board held its monthly school board meeting last night.

Passion, commitment, support, devotion … adjectives that describe the steady stream of District students who spoke on behalf of their teachers at last night’s school board meeting.  Waiting for hours for the opportunity to show their opposition to demotion of District staff, they ranged from the 13-yr. old young girl who read her college sister’s plea to save the arts and music programs to a current Harvard student who spoke about passionately about his Conestoga physics teacher who gave his life meaning and direction.  There was a young man who delivered an emotional appeal in German, than translated and re-delivered the words in English, on behalf of his special German teacher.  One after another, the students would explain the sacrifices of their families to move to this area, all because of the quality of the school district.  Interestingly, more than one of the students suggested that the School Board let go of the technology purchases, the Smart boards, the computers, etc. and save the teacher’s jobs instead.

Least someone suggest that the teachers union somehow orchestrated this show of solidarity by the students (and parents) for the District’s teachers; I don’t think that would be possible. Anyone who has raised a teenager knows they have to ‘believe’ in the cause, their passion cannot be supplanted and forced by someone else.  No, what was clear last night was these kids believe in this school district and believe in the teachers who are making a difference in their lives.  It was quite stunning to witness.

Of course, the looming budget deficit remains.  After $10 million worth of cuts over the last 3 years, the decreasing local revenue, increased contributions to the state pension fund and diminished state and federal revenue, the District is continues to face a financial crisis.  School boards across the state are faced with the same difficult challenges as TESD … how to balance the budget amidst these challenges.

The projected TESD 2012-13 budget deficit is $5.9 million. With the Act 1 allowable 1.7% tax increase plus exceptions, the District can reduce the deficit to approximately $1.5 million.  That includes the $50 sports and activities fee, approved last night for all middle and high school students who participate in one or more activities.  But how to close the $1.5 million budget gap is the $1.5 million question.

School board members spoke of their support for the teachers, many explaining that they have children in the District.  They suggested that their ‘hands were tied’ and that very few options remain on the table to close the budget deficit and again suggested that students and parents send letters to the state legislature demanding relief.  With few options remaining, the school board is being forced to look at the possibility of increasing class size and demotion of senior members of the staff.

Some have suggested that the school board should have pushed for a taxpayer referendum for an earned income tax on the ballot.  Although too late for November’s election, it was reiterated that these types of tax increase referendums historically have not passed in Pennsylvania.  In addition, the results from the tax study group indicated that there was no support for an EIT in TESD.  Hindsight being 20/20, I would have to ask what was the downside for the school board to take the question to the voters.  We have to remember that only 20 percent of the taxpayers in TESD also have children in the District.  So, it’s complete speculation if there would have been enough interest to get the EIT passed.

Unfortunately, for TEEA, it looks like it is going to be up to the teachers to help save the school district through their contract negotiations.  How much are they willing to sacrifice?  How much of their benefit package and salary increase are they willing to forego?  I don’t think any of us (and that includes the School Board) wants to see the quality of the education diminished through increased class size and he demotion of some of the District’s best teachers.  We know that the District cannot afford the teachers’ health care plan at its current level, but is a benefits change enough to make up the $1.5 million District deficit?  I have no answers.

61 Comments

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  1. I am empathetic to the students. However, the logic doesn’t change one bit. The suggestions they gave won’t cover much in the way of the shortfall.

    The math has to work. That is the bottom line. We aren’t even dealing with the pensions yet.

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  2. Pattye – contrary to popular opinion, the entire district is not uber wealthy. The EIT would have been so soundly defeated at this time (bad economy, rising HC costs for everyone, college tuition exploding, everyone worried about SS and Medicare and so on) that it would never have made it to the light of day again. More taxes are simply not the answer anymore (although we are doing that anyway with the prop tax increase).

    Structural change is needed across the board. It isn’t just the teachers. The Super’s contract is beyond absurd. Healthcare, maintenance costs , unfunded mandates and so on……

    Then, there is the pensions. That is why we better keep that fund balance high. We really might have to fire teachers in the future to pay for them.

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  3. I’ve been a reporter and I’ve never seen anything like what happened at the very end of the meeting. http://patch.com/A-sFJQ
    If something like this was going to happen, I’m not at all surprised it was in TE where people literally put their money (and their time and their talents) where their mouths are.
    While many passionate people spoke passionately it seemed clear to me by the end of the meeting that the school board and the community they represent are for the most part on the same side of the issue.
    While most of the students who got up were very well spoken, they also have something else in common with many of the parents who flooded Monday’s meeting. They are not well-versed in the complexities of school funding and budget issues. Who can blame the public? It’s enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over.
    For their own sakes and for the overall good of the community I hope that the people who came out to the meeting will remain engaged, energized and as cordial as most were Monday night. That is how solutions for these problems, as difficult as they are, will be found.

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    Township Reader Reply:

    TE has a foundation that solicits everyone — FLITE. The check would have been tax-deductible too. A fabulous gesture and one more people can and should consider. It’s kind of like raising money for the fire department — and we know how people felt about that.

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    Not so fast Reply:

    What was the goal of writing the check in the meeting like that?? I do not understand why the theater was necessary or what value it added. A noble gesture for sure, but why not just do it in private? I feel like the only thing missing was another big cardboard check…

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  4. Nice post, Bob. Pattye, I respectfully disagree that the TEEA was not behind the outpouring last night. Rumor has it that there are informal campaigns set up all over the internet and Facebook that were initiated by the TEEA and PSEA and are targeting alumni and current students. It was even mentioned on this blog that the PSEA was encouraging other school district’s teachers unions to show up at the meeting. Although they certainly have the right to express their opinions, I feel a little uncomfortable seeing current students used as agents during negotiations. And I have heard some parents say they are starting to get tired of all of the information being sent out, formally or informally, by TEEA. However, you are right in that it was nice to see the passion and support from everyone involved.

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    Township Reader Reply:

    Teachers are in a position of authority and leadership. It would be a shame if the kids did not admire and support them. The board supports them too. It’s what we can AFFORD, not what we want, that is at the heart of this issue. We cannot afford the program now on the table. Kids don’t care about that. THough I hope the board and the admins listened to their view of continually upgrading technology in the building…it’s props, not purpose.

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    I feel like I am going to explode here, and right now I don’t care if I am releasing information that is supposed to be kept private…

    A month or so ago, the district had a link right on its home page with the headline along the lines of something like “TEEA refuses to change healthcare” or something similar. The TEEA had no way to counter this misleading article. The TEEA was going to create its own distributiion list to send out a rebuttal the the public, but was informed by Dr. Waters that we could not use our parents emails in that way. So instead, the union developed a new webpage and newsletter to send out to the community. The newsletter is just like many others you can in your email, and if you don’t want to receive it anymore, you can just click unsubscribe. its the same information that is made available on their webpage.

    I actually got an email from my homeroom parent which was started by a few parents at my school encourage the parents to go and to ask questions about certain things. My homeroom parent had sent this to everyone on her list, and a lot of other homeroom parents did as well. That was completly organized by them.

    Back to the “TEEA refuses to change healthcare”. From what was reported to the teachers in my building, the board refused to discuss our initial proposal at all, then came back at the next meeting with a list of demands. Those include healthcare coverage only for the indvidual, no spousal or family coverage at all, and about a 6% decrease in pay. Dr. Waters basically said that unless these things happen, many programs will be cut and teachers demoted. When the TEEA tried to continue negotating and discuss these issues, they were denied. It was then reported that we refused to change our healthcare…not the case. The initial proposal did address a change in healthcare.

    I have said it before and I will say it again…we know that in order to help the district get back on budget that changes in the salary matrix and the healthcare plan are going to have to happen. Every teacher I talk to on a regular basis knows and accepts that. The district is drawing a hard line and refusing to actually negotiate anything. They are saying make ALL these changes or losing programs and teacher demotions are your fault.

    I am doing addressing that, and have something else to add, so rather than just starting another post, I will add it here.

    I came in to this district not too long before the last contract was negotiated, and the general feeling I got from everyone I spoke to is that that contract was basically catching TE teachers up to the other districts in the area because for years the TE contract did not even come close to comparing to similar performing districts in the area. Many felt that the board agreed to so much at the time because times were good and they were basically acknowledging that the TE teachers were not being compensated equally to their peers. Now four years later, things have gone bad, and that contract can no longer cut it in TE. WE UNDERSTAND THAT…and are willing to make fair changes to help the district this year and in the future. In the end, I know we will. But the district has to negotiate…they can’t just make a set of demands and say take or leave it…

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    I just reread my post, and I noticed the numerous spelling and grammatical errors. I apologize, I was just a tad bit fired up!

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    TE Teacher, First off THANK YOU for your openness and honesty. For the record, I have heard this exact same information on the health care issue from 3 different teachers. Further as explained to me, TEEA was willing to pay the additional supplement between individual and spouse and/or family but that this was refused. This part made no sense to me — it’s the way it works in every company that I know of, the company covers the employee and then gives the employee the option of adding their spouse and/or family (if they have one) at the employees cost. It shouldn’t cost the school district any additional money! Further, there are cases where the teacher is the only one in the family with healthcare and if the District takes away the option of covering their families, they cannot afford to find additional private health care which will be $$$. Plus, if a spouse or child of the teacher has an existing health issue, I am told that until 2014, legally an insurance company does not have to take them. So … this is the 4th separate teacher to tell me the exact same story, I ask is it possible that all 4 have given me wrong information?

    Back to the “TEEA refuses to change healthcare”. From what was reported to the teachers in my building, the board refused to discuss our initial proposal at all, then came back at the next meeting with a list of demands. Those include healthcare coverage only for the indvidual, no spousal or family coverage at all, and about a 6% decrease in pay. Dr. Waters basically said that unless these things happen, many programs will be cut and teachers demoted. When the TEEA tried to continue negotating and discuss these issues, they were denied. It was then reported that we refused to change our healthcare…not the case. The initial proposal did address a change in healthcare.

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    Teacher #5 Reply:

    Well, I am teacher number 5 to validate that story….all sad and true. From what I was told about the Board’s offer, it would not even allow a teacher to BUY into the family plan…in other words a teacher who was the sole bread winner would only get coverage for him/herself through the district and would be forced to look elsewhere to cover the rest of the family…is denial of any family plan…even if paid for by the employee even legal??

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    If we assume that all ‘5’ teachers are now telling the truth re healthcare (and yes, I believe you!) I cannot understand this whatsoever! It should be no ‘skin of the back’ of the District to allow teachers to pay for the additional coverage of spouse and/or children beyond the employee level. This makes absolutely NO sense! For those that wish the school district to be run like a business — well, isn’t it accurate that companies who offer their employees health care, allow the addition of their spouses and/or children to the policy.

    TE Professional Reply:

    I will also confirm this information. And I will also add this:

    As other teachers have already noted, teachers understand that because of the economic downturn that things have to change, that it will require a shared sacrifice from all parties. We understand that. And we were prepared for that.

    (And contrary to reports that PSEA and unions are unreasonable, I remember the PSEA rep telling us that hard choices were going to have to be made going into this last year of our contract and that we had to be prepared.)

    I will also confirm what TE Teacher said above about our previous contracts. We know that our current contract is a good one, but we also know that our previous contracts were not. If you go back to previous contracts, it is clear that TE teachers were simply not being paid comparable salaries as teachers in neighboring districts. For example, had I left TE five years ago and sought a job in Lower Merion, I would have had instantly made $20K more in annual salary (in fact, there are several TE teachers who did leave and got just that). I would also reached my top salary level 4-5 years earlier (I believe LM only has 11 steps on their schedule), which would mean higher lifetime earnings. As others have posted here, do the math.

    But I stayed in TE because I love my students and my colleagues. I am confident that the TE membership is among the most professional, most accomplished group of teachers in the state. In addition to the PhDs on the faculty, you have teachers who hold executive positions on the national level in several professional associations; teachers who complete prestigious professional development programs and certifications; teachers who work with the College Board and national AP program; teachers who hold patents in their field; teachers who have been published in academic journals and presented at national (and international) conferences; and so on and so on… teachers who take that expertise and use it in the service of their students every day.

    I will also confirm what TE Teacher said about things changing in the district over recent years. Are work conditions worse than they were five years ago? Of course. But I’m not going to complain about our workload and the increasing demands of our job – that is simply “the new norm” in many industries. I get that. Many teachers get that. We know that we’ll need to do more to weather this storm. I only hope that some of the more burdensome changes are only temporary, because while we are on the topic of “success and sustainability,” I will you… some of the demands on teachers… those are also unsustainable. I have heard several excellent teachers wonder aloud how much longer they could sustain this.

    But… when the district’s proposal is one that offers ZERO health insurance coverage for your family, without the option to even buy in? That was not only unreasonable, it felt like a slap in the face.

    Schools are about people – they are about the people in the building who come together as a community, day in and day out. In many ways, schools are like a family; we form friendships with our colleagues and work together in the educational and social development of our young people. That’s a huge responsibility and we take it very seriously.

    Perhaps that was my mistake: to think that the district looked at our schools in the same personal way that I and other teachers did, more like a family and a community than as a business. And perhaps that’s why so many teachers were stunned when news of the district’s initial offer was shared. We expected the usual – higher student loads, lower compensation, added duties or responsibilities. But for the district to propose to take away health insurance coverage for its members’ own families (and again, to not even allow a buy-in option)?

    That felt personal.

    (I won’t repeat the other more colorful words I heard, but you can imagine.)

    And if it is true what the Board revealed last night and they were all “very involved” in crafting that proposal? Well, I guess we see their true colors then.

    Between that and the threat of teacher demotion, it’ll only be a matter of time before teachers demote themselves and leave. But like TE Teacher said, I guess that’s what they want.

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Thank you TE Professional for your remarks. I now know what I need to write tomorrow.

    TE Parent Reply:

    I notice that the teachers all say the same thing about the District’s proposal and are quick to give details of the district’s demands. Why hasn’t anything come out about what the teacher’s proposal is that the district won’t consider? Would love to hear the details of what the teachers think is acceptable!

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    We, the teachers, are bringing out information about the districts offer and negotiating tactics because we feel the public, upon hearing it, would not approve of the way things are being handled.

    No member of the districts negotiating team or administrator is bringing up our proposals because it would not help their cause at all…saying what we proposed and then telling the public that they didn’t consider it, have a response to it, discuss it, or look into, or even negotiate…would not go over well.

    They tried one time with their article on the district site to say “that the teachers refuse to change their healthcare package”, but we quickly answered that accusation. BTW, the district never came out with a response to our reply.

    Teacher #5 Reply:

    I whole heartedly agree with you. I wish (we ALL wish) we knew what our proposal was…but we don’t. It’s very frustrating for all of us not present at the negotiations table to be unaware of the details of what we are supporting.

    Carla Williams Reply:

    We seem to have a number of teachers adding to the discussion here. Simple question – what health care coverage does the TEEA propose in the new contract?

    TE Parent Reply:

    It just seems that you want us to express outrage over the healthcare and salary options the distict are supposively promoting. (Gotta add I am certain someone gave out the wrong message about not being able to buy additional coverages for spouses and dependents). I am remaining open minded about it until I hear what the teachers asked for…. then we’ll see who is being reasonable and who is not being reasonable. You can’t expect parents or taxpayers to choose to support one side or the other until both sides are known.

    I think it is completely reasonable (and actually admirable) that the TESD employed a professional negotiator. The teachers are using one from the PSEA. Professional negotiators on both sides have the benefit of seeing multitudes of different contracts and knowing what creative techniques/language will bring two sides together to a successful conclusion where each side benefits. Our school board members are VOLUNTEERS and give freely of their time and energy, but let’s give them some slack – they have day jobs and families and can not be at all the negotiation meetings like a paid employee (Art McDonald, Sue Tiede, Dr. Waters) or the paid negotiators. Plus I think it removes some of the personal issues that become involved. We are all neighbors, parents, etc and you want to retain that familiarity. But as taxpayers, you want transparency and not to feel that someone agreed to something because they are friendly or neighbors. A professional negotiator provides that distance and neutrality for both sides.

    TE Teacher Reply:

    Carla

    To provide insight into your question…

    Before the negotiating process started, all teachers filled out an extensive survey with questions focusing on all aspects of the contract. The negotiating team then analyzes the surveys and constructs the initital proposal from that.

    The teachers are then given general information about what is going to be proposed initially, obviously understanding that it will change through negotiations.

    Once the process gets started and moving, we have a membership meeting (which is next week) where we find out more specifics about the proposals of both sides.

    As Pattye stated above, the initial offer of healthcare was:

    TEEA was willing to pay the additional supplement between individual and spouse and/or family. Coverage for the employee and then giving the employee the option of adding their spouse and/or family (if they have one) at the employees cost.

    PS….if anyone was wondering why I was reading and posting during the school day, this is not my instruction or planning time, but my lunch time. Back to work!

    TE Professional Reply:

    Did TEEA encourage community members to attend the board meeting last night? Of course they did. I see nothing wrong with this. Why wouldn’t they? Should the community be encouraged to find out what is going in their own district?

    As far as students being used as “agents” during negotiations… I take issue with this. As a teacher in the district, I have gone out of my way to NOT mention anything going on with the association or the school board. When students ask me, I reply that I cannot comment and that if they would like to find out more, the information is out there. Period. These students are smart and resourceful. What you saw last night was a genuine, student-driven outpouring of support for their teachers. Frankly, I was stunned to see so many students, as were many other teachers I spoke to at the meeting. We were truly touched by the sentiments expressed, as Pattye observed above, you simply cannot “orchestrate” that kind of support.

    I think when the suggestion is made that teachers somehow manipulated our students to show up last night, not only do you offend teachers, but you also offend the students. They have minds of their own and deserve to be applauded for their desire to express themselves in this process, even if you disagree with their opinions.

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    TE Pro:
    I appreciate all your candor, but PLEASE do not presume what other teachers are saying/doing. I said it elsewhere — good teachers are like good parents. They think everyone has good motives. I agree that you cannot manipulate kids into this directly, but of course they support their teachers. And many teachers DO talk directly about this with kids. Many. And for the kids to support theri teachers: It costs them nothing to do so. And since even the teachers don’t know what the union is offering, it’s easy to support people in the hypothetical conflict.
    So please don’t be offended. THIS is why negotiations are so destructive, and why labor peace has always been the goal. It’s just that the district can no longer buy that peace. No resources to do so.

    [Reply]

    another t/e teacher Reply:

    I would like to add something for everyone to think about: I have spoken to no less than 50 teachers since the meeting and EVERYONE said they would be willing to take a pay freeze next year and, quite possibly, the following. Especially if it meant no demotions. Asking us to take a 6-8% paycut is ridiculous. Denying us benefits for ourselves and our familes is unconscionable. Many of us have worked for years in T/E School District and do not take well to the possibility of being tossed aside like garbage. Not one district in the state has demanded a salary cut. And the pension fund? WE have to pay into it every pay check. The district has known for 10 years that this day would come – and they would have to kick in what they haven’t paid in a decade…just like a balloon mortgage. Let me add something else…the superintendent in my school district makes roughly $150k. The principals in my district make considerably less. Perhaps, if the administration took that 8% paycut, that would bridge the gap. Do the math: that would be roughly 500k. If they did that, and the teachers took a payfreeze, the problem would be solved. I would bet my next paycheck that the union would pass a vote for a payfreeze. And, by the way, there were at least 10 teachers who left T/E for Lower Merion. Not a couple. Most got at least a $20k pay increase. We decided to stay. We love our district, community and students. We also love our families None of us wants to face the possibility of losing our house and our livelihood. Nor do we appreciate being bullied. It has to stop here – the District needs to begin to negotiate, not make unreasonable demands through a VERY expensive attorney… that the school board is willing to pay for. We have been ready and willing to listen for months. I urge the District to ask us to consider a payfreeze. I bet the teachers would agree.

    [Reply]

  5. The budget workshop gave us some numbers to gauge how to save $1.5M. http://www.tesd.net/cms/lib/PA01001259/Centricity/Domain/56/REVISED%20DRAFT%20April%2016%20budget%20workshop%20slides.pdf
    .
    This year (2011-12) there are about 435 teachers earning an average salary of $82,176. Last year (2010-11) the average salary was $78,568. That’s an increase of $3,608. It would have been about twice that figure, but the teachers agreed to a salary deferral for half the year. Next year (2012-13), without the salary deferral, those same teachers will have a salary increase of about $3,608.
    .
    Q: How can the district save $1.5M to avoid demotions and furloughs?
    A: Ask the teachers to accept the same salary next year that they are getting this year. 435 X $3,608 = $1.6M

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  6. Keith: They are paid 26 times a year. Their salary right now is based on an annualized number that is full salary. THe “average salary” comes because they made the full salary only half the year. Their paycheck now is based on the full amount of the contract.

    To get the savings, they would have to go backwards….for half a year at the old salary. There is no reduction in cost available without a concurrent reduction in salary based on their paycheck. The “average salary” is a number taken from the fiscal year accounting, not payroll.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I think we are saying the same thing.

    This school year the average teacher has received 13 paychecks of $3,022 and will receive 13 paychecks of $3,299 for a total of $82,176.
    .
    I’m suggesting the $1.5M savings could be accomplished if the average teacher agreed to receive 26 paychecks of $3,161 next year for a total of $82,176.
    .
    Are they going “backward” if they accept 26 paychecks or $3,299? No, if you compare the total salary – it’s the same at $82,176. Yes, if you compare the next year’s paychecks of $3,161 to the $3,299 they have been receiving since January.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Mistake –

    This sentence should read –
    Are they going backward if they accept 26 paychecks of $3,161?

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    You are using the average salary to configure the paycheck. They aren’t paid an average salary. They are now at the second number of THEIR salary. And the fiscal year does not line up with the calendar year. As of Jan, they moved to a new number. They would have to take a reduction back to the first number to get to your outcome, and that means a reduction in salary.

    So — it works. But basedo n what the teachers are saying above, Dr. Waters is suggesting a 6% cut in salary. Can they stand behind the state constititional provision against loss of compensation ? I’m asking. I don’t know. I know other states have reductions in contracts, but I didn’t believe PA could. Prospectively or otherwise.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    TR,
    .
    There is nothing that prevents the teachers from voluntarily accepting a contract with a salary reduction be it 6%, less or more. They might want to do that to prevent some of their fellow teachers from being demoted or furloughed. However, they have the option of refusing a contract with a salary reduction and work under the terms of the old contract (status quo).

  7. I was encouraged by my son’s teacher to attend the school board meeting in order to protect the quality of education in TE. I also got several Facebook messages from friends– sharing a Tredyffrin Democratic Party Facebook status update– asking us to attend the meeting to protest the demotions. So I do think the protests were at least partially organized. The Facebook status update from the Democratic Party said that “TE teachers are asking the public to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.”

    If Keith’s math is correct, the district could close the $1.5M shortfall if the teachers did not ask for a raise next year. If this is the case, I completely support the school board proposal of demoting teachers as a negotiating tactic. I don’t think the school board actually wants to demote teachers, but it’s also not reasonable for the teachers union to ask for raises in this economy. Maybe this is the only way to bring the teachers back to the bargaining table?

    Do you think it’s reasonable to ask taxpayers to pay an EIT in order to afford salary increases? My kids are in TE schools, and I would gladly pay an EIT to keep their art, music and sports. But I would not vote for an EIT in order to fund the current TEEA benefit package, PSERS and yearly salary increases. Reform the union contracts first if you want taxpayers to support the EIT.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Mom
    This is exactly where there can and should be more significant student activity fees. You could individually help fund the programs on the chopping block, but an EIT goes into everyone’s pocket and the TEEA would end up with the money.
    Like the donor last night, we all benefit from TE…but taxpayers who have no kids in schools have a limit to how much tax support they can continue to offer.
    I encourage everyone to make a donation to FLITE: http://flite-pa.org/. That is one way to directly funnel your money to resources for the district programs.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    TE Mom

    What a great post! You hit the nail on the head with the last para.

    Of course the event was orchestrated – I got an email with the TEEA talking points and an encouragement to attend. Also, it’s very disappointing to read that the Dems felt the need to Just Say No, as well. What’s their solution?

    Unfortunately, as TR noted, the teachers paycheck just moved up the last 4-5%, so Keith’s plan would require an especially radical departure from previous behavior.

    Pattye asks of the teachers: “How much are they willing to sacrifice?” Here’s a good answer: “As much as those that have funded their last contract did over the same four years”.

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    Pattye asks of the teachers: “How much are they willing to sacrifice?” Here’s a good answer: “As much as those that have funded their last contract did over the same four years”…..

    Well I also live in the district….as many of its teachers do….so I guess I am getting it either way right….

    Last year’s freeze = voluntary. We didn’t have to take the freeze. We could have said no, we were under contract, and by right, if we wanted to, we could have said pay us what our contract says…but we didn’t.

    Contract is up, now it’s not voluntary, but it’s negotiated–we realize that it’s going to have to change and we are willing to change, so why Ray do you keep blasting us (although I am not surprised because it’s been this way for the last 2 years), we are not saying these words, we aren’t saying we are sacrificing anything. All we have said is that we understand the tough times and we are willing to do our part to balance the budget.

    Yes our taxes (I pay them too) have gone up and it always sucks to have to pay more money, but if it is keeping up the quality of schools and community, I am okay with it. Notice, I am not saying paying more taxes to pay the teachers salaries…we are not asking for raises galore. I want to keep up the quality of our school district and cutting programs and cutting corners hasn’t helped anything. When programs are cut, positions are removed, and duties are consolidated, those duties and responsibilities don’t just go away, they get thrown on top of another person’s pile. So these cuts are affecting the teachers in ways that have nothing to do with money. We have our contracted duties, unspoken duties that come with being a quality teacher and caring for the futures of the students, plus duties added on by those consolidated and cut positions. To top it off, the district keeps adding new programs and curriculum that are ineffective and poorly implemented which creates more issues and problems. No structural or internal changes have been made by the administration. They are flying by the seat of their pants and just throw new things out all the time without putting legitimate time into the rollout process. This is the stuff that the community doesn’t see. As I posted a little bit ago, test scores are still great…the outside looks pretty and can cover up (at least for now) all the missteps, but sooner or later unless the system gets a overhaul, the deteriorating inside will begin showing itself soon.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    maybe if a teacher would have spoken up “for” online learning instead of it being shut down by the union bosses I would feel better about your post and caring about the kids BS. Your leadership borders on thuggery. I hope we have the mental toughs on the taxpayer side.

    Yep, we need our great teachers. But I’m not crying for you argentina anymore. Maybe the teachers should have a sit down with their own bosses before negotiations continue.

    Disgusted TE Resident Reply:

    Pattye asks of the teachers: “How much are they willing to sacrifice?” Here’s a good answer: “As much as those that have funded their last contract did over the same four years”.

    THAT’S THE MINDSET TO HAVE!!! GOOD FOR YOU, Ray! Question for you…you have commented greatly on this fiscal crisis and in particular reassessments; did you file a property tax reassessment?

    Also, as a executive in HR, I can not believe the district acknowledged the potential demotion of the staff to part-time and hiring another part-time staff to avoid health care costs. That’s absurd! I’ve been around business for over 35 years and have never heard such a criminal proposal. It is time for residents of this community that actually believe in the value of public education to attend meetings to drown out the cantankerous few!!!

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  8. There is concern that the district might “see the quality of the education diminished through increased class size and he demotion of some of the District’s best teachers”.
    .
    If the average teacher compensation is around $110K then the teacher workforce has to be decreased by about 14 (3% of 435 teachers) to save $1.5M. What’s the effect of losing 14 teachers? I don’t know, but one might compare it to the effect of losing 60 teachers since 2008. In the 2007-08 school year there were 496 teachers. This year 2011-12 there were 436 teachers. Was there a measurable drop in academic achievement since 2008?

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    TE Teacher Reply:

    To me…test scores don’t prove anything. And listen, I am saying that knowing full well that high test scores make us teachers look great, and are a tool that can be used in negotiations…but I am saying flat out…they don’t prove anything. I administer these tests every year, and every year our kids are going to do well because they are bright., they come from a good community, they have well educated parents, they have well educated, qualified teachers…they are going to do well. School is more than test scores, and the more standardized testing that gets introduced into school, the less that is evident. I can tell you that the quality of education has dimished greatly in the last ten years that I have been here. If you are in the building everyday and see all the little things that make a school great or special, the things that let you know that great things are going on–those things, which used to be extremely abundant in the everyday happenings in TE, are fading fast. It may be hard for the kids to see it because they don’t know any better, but the teachers can see it. Programs are not being run properly, money is being spent on technology and curriculum that is not being implemented properly. The numerous workshops, inservices, and meetings are properly structured and are never geared towards useful things that will help instruction or help the kids. The support staff, the people that really make a school a community and make a school run, are getting cut year after year. People are made responsible for other duties after a position is cut or consolidated, but are never trained or instructed on how to perform the duties. This district is falling apart. My first two years here, I thought this was the best school district ever. I would have never thought about going anywhere else. Over the last three years, as it gets worse and worse, and I feel more and more underappreciated, I am seriously thinking about leaving. Hey, at least it will save the district $64,000.

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    TE Teacher Reply:

    CORRECTION
    *The numerous workshops, inservices, and meetings are NOT properly structured and arenever geared towards useful things that will help instruction or help the kids.

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    Are you linking the decline to the departure of Dr. Slobojan? Or to the economy?
    And your offer to leave and take your $64K with you — you know other districts might hire you or not?
    Reference earlier to some teachers who left for Lower Merion to make much more in the previous contract…I only know two, and both went to LM as recruits — the music director at Harriton and the then lacrosse coach/biology teacher who lived near LM HS. Both filled spots at the other district, the same way the German PhD on the negotiating committee filled one here. To my knowledge, very little exchange between districts.
    But to the point — did any of these changes connect to Dr. Slobojan’s departure?

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    flyersfan Reply:

    ok take your 64k and go somewhere else. There are plenty of folks in line for your spot, and probably at a lower starting salary. You sound burned out, TE Teacher.

    [Reply]

  9. CORRECTION

    The numerous workshops, inservices, and meetings are NOT properly structured and arenever geared towards useful things that will help instruction or help the kids.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    so have you gone to the workshop leaders and told them so? Wouldnt you teach your students to be proactive, respectfull but still stand up and make a difference?

    [Reply]

  10. Does that shiny new red corvette parked so conspicuously in the VFMS’s school nurse’s parking spot on election day really belong to the school nurse? Sounds more like a parking violator trying to trash the district employees’ pay & benefits negotiations during budget crunch time.

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    TE Teacher Reply:

    I am having trouble determining whether this post is meant to be serious or humorous…

    Either way, FYI, the nurses are not part of the teacher’s union and do not have the same contract. I believe they are part of TENIG. And, whose to say the nurse’s husband or wife doesn’t have a well paying job or maybe they just won big in Atlantic City. Believe it or not, for some, their career isn’t just about the money and the benefits..

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Actually, the District’s school nurses are part of the TEEA union.

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    TE Teacher Reply:

    oh, so then yes…the nurse is not doing a good job of helping our cause during budget crunch time. My beat up 1975 Pinto will counteract that though…just kidding.

    TE Teacher Reply:

    After you said that, I went to look at the contract. You are correct that they are part of the TEEA. Although there are many subsections in the contract with specifics for Health Room Nurses. Also their pay is not represented in the salary matrix. They are not salaried employees, but paid hourly.

  11. How us it the such a top notch district can’t work this out? Why is the tax rate capped at 1.7% when radnor is passing a budget of over 3%? Did we look at all the act 1 exemptions or did the board decide to only stay with the inflation adjusted number from the state?

    I am not saying to just raise taxes but there comes a point where we are cutting bone. Contrary to popular belief, public education is not a business, there is not a profit motive. And yes of course the teachers are 70% of expenses, it is a people driven organization. We cant make more widgets to generate revenue. Our teachers are central to the type of education we as a community provide.

    I think there are some who really don’t want to support public education. That is your right. But realistically, if you ask people why they move to tredyffrin etc, one of the top things stated is top notch schools. Your overall property values are tied to the success of the school district.

    It is amazing we are arguing about cutting elementary music and radnor is looking at implementing full day kindergarten. But then again, some here have revealed their real views calling it just ‘day care’.

    I am not saying give the teachers everything, but we better be careful of the end result. Good teachers will leave, it may take time, but it will happen. You get what you pay for and those with the loudest voices will sell and move south for the beach and those of left will be the ones dealing with results of their actions.

    We need to stop the attacks on the teachers. If you are happy with your healthcare package, no one is preventing you in making a career change. It is amazing when you consider if have fios or comcast you pay almost 1300 a year on average, yet if you pay 4,000 to support your school district, this is out of line? How much do you spend on phillies tickets? It is sad that we want to tear down teachers and those hitting a ball are paid millions and no one stops going when they raise ticket prices each year.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Dave those same questions can be asked of the teachers.. they spend 1300 year on comcast but cant pay for a reasonable part of their healthcare? Its what people are used to having. Brainwashing that has gone on for years about “health care”. Whats happening here is a perfect example of how the system is flawed, with ingrained thoughts and prejudices about “who pays” . Hope one day to have some one else pay for my food.

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  12. My family moved to Easttown approximately 5 yrs ago. My children enrolled in the public schools. To be completely honest, in 5 yrs I have yet to encounter a teacher in the district who I would classify as outstanding. There are all kinds of excuses I suppose teachers have, and it seems to me parents have just accepted the line that TE schools are so superior. But in my experience, I fail to see this. I compare it to the school district we left in California and there is no comparison. My children have yet to be inspired by one teacher they have had in 5 years, and in fact still talk about the teachers they had in CA. I think parents in TE need to wake up. Parents in TE demand very little from their teachers and it shows. We are entertaining the idea of struggling to place our kids in private school because they are losing so much – discipline, creativity, responsibility and so much more. TE teachers do not hold kids responsible for anything! They put it on the parents and this is so destructive to kids and families. Simply put, teachers are not doing their job – they expect parents to do their job, plus demand benefit packages that are almost non-existent these days. I’ve had enough, but what are we faced with? Increasing taxes plus the cost of placing our kids in private school.

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    Easttown parent:
    That is a sad anecdotal story, and I’m sorry to say that I can find you two families that left here for California (Silicon Valley) and are now sending their kids to private schools because the public school in one of the richest suburbs in the US had books for the desk, not the student, and 30+ people in their subject classes…so stories are what they are.

    We need to step back before we forget that this is about a contract. This is not about teacher quality. The teachers hired in TE are highly qualified and well trained. Staff development resources have traditionally been exceptional. Don’t look to local independent schools to solve your problem. They may be a better fit for your children, but at $30K+ a year, they better be. You vote there with your checkbook, but most teachers are not certified and few of those programs have ANY staff development programs. And don’t screw up in that school — because unlike a public school, there is no due process. You can spend years in a private school and if your child steps over a line (clearly a major violation, but teens lack judgment), out they go. Don’t get too ADD. Don’t develop OCD. Back to the public school you go.

    Instead of people complaining about the problems, why not try to develop some solutions? These program cuts are because taxpayers have maxed out — but parents have many other options. Host a fundraiser for FLITE.

    If the postings of teachers on this topic and others are accurate, it sounds to me like we could have a deal tomorrow if people stopped posturing and started settling. I worry that the teachers are victims of the same tactics the union is historically guilty of — not telling their own members what THEY are offering — but if the stories are true, get it done folks.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    Easttown parent, there are good teachers in the district. my 3 kids have graduated from Conestoga. I would bet that each could name 2 or three that have inspired them significantly.. One would be good, I know.. Don;t know how old your kids are, but in time maybe they will click with a teacher/mentor. I bet it does.

    [Reply]

    Dave Reply:

    Flyers fan, do you had 3 children graduate from t/e schools, and now you just have had it with paying the “high” taxes for the schools right? It is a shame you have such a combative approach, but it certainly clear why.

    I am curious, were you out speaking against teacher benefit packages when your children were going through school?

    I do wonder though, having grown up in NY, why don’t they let the school budgets in PA come to a public vote? Maybe we finally settle this debate really see where the residents are in this community on the teachers and school dustrict.

  13. It seems a good part of the budget shortfall is being caused by the required payments the schools districts have to make to the teachers pension fund to bring them up to funded status. If you remember back around 10 years ago, the teachers pension benefits formula was increased , resulting in a much higher pension benefit. Part of the reason the benefit formula was increased was because the stock markets of the 90’s had done so well. Well the stock market of the 00’s hasn’t done to well, leading to an underfunded pension plan. Why are pension formulas not on the table? If they can be increased, why can’t they be decreased. (I realize this is not in TE’s control but would have to be done at the state level).

    I have no delusions that this will ever happen but it is a pension plans (begin collecting in your 50″s based on a high pay average formula) that is simply not affordable anymore.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    State Rep Warren Kampf recently held a townhall on this matter. Changing the plan for existing employees is pretty much off the table, but someone needs to step forward for the future. Defined contributions, not defined benefits, are the future. I’m sure you can do a web search and find legislative discussion on it.

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  14. Wow! I see the PSEA has the teacher’s coming out in full force. A worthy try but it is an obvious PR stunt. On the one hand they talk about openness (which the board has been – a little too much actually) and on the other hand, they can’t disclose anything because it might hurt their ability to negotiate.

    You cannot have it both ways. This is what sickens me.

    In the end, the nonsense doesn’t matter. That math doesn’t change.

    [Reply]

  15. Dave and FF
    Since 2004, school taxes have increased 28.7% (based on this year’s predicted 3.3% increase)
    Meanwhile, the CLR for this county has gone from 1.35 to 1.79.– 32%. That means if your assessment is correct, your market value in 2004 was 35% more than your assessed value. Today, your market value should be 79% over your assessed value. The reason it feels more painful is that the CLR for Chester County was as high as 1.93 in 207 and 2008 and has fallen since. So property values have declined, but taxes have continued to increase. But to ease the pain at all — in 2004, property taxes were 1.105% of market value. Using the CLR factor, property taxes next year with the 3.3% increase will be 1.076% of market value.

    The pain comes because of the decline in market values. Given this year’s 1.79 CLR (actually it’s the reciprocal of the CLR, but it’s easier to work with), the market value of your house should be 1.79 multipled by your assessed value. IF that differs dramatically from your market value, that’s why people have sought assessment appeals. And assessment appeals means that the district can predict collections based onthe millage, but cannot have any accuracy ensured until the property values are certified.

    Regardless — I think the value of our properties has exceeded the improvement in income, which is where teh real pain is coming from, and why people cannot continue to pay more taxes, even if the percent of value is the same. But it also warns us that we have supported education at about a 1% rate. Failure to do so may well damage the values. How much of your property’s value is based on the school district? Build your house in Downingtown or Upper Merion. Price?

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  16. a few things:
    1) it is not appropriate to base a discussion on a kind of car someone drives or is in a parking spot on an overall contract discussion. It is childish and there is absolutely no way to directly know who’s car it is or where their money comes from or how it is spent.
    2) There is a lot of pointing of fingers on the flaws of the negotiation, but a negotiation always has 2 sides. Like it or not, it is the responsibility of both sides to handle themselves appropriately and not air dirty laundry in the process. The information/statements put out by both sides at this point is nothing short of public negotiation and is really a shame.
    3) It is my belief that teacher’s salaries are well in line with where the economy can handle, but because of act 1, the district can not tax to a rate to support it. So what can be adjusted? Health Care. I’m not aware of the details of the offer, but the fact that teachers are putting virtually nothing towards their healthcare, that is not in line with almost any industry anymore, both public and private sector. So as much as I believe that salaries are in line, I believe health care contribution is not. Will this resolve in a net loss for the teacher, yes. But at least that loss is going towards their healthcare.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Grewell Reply:

    CJ – I agree with you on this – for me it is not the teacher salaries that are out ofline, it is the benefits – the health care contribution and pension in particular. The penison is state created and controlled, so only the legislature can do anything about that, so the pressure in the next contract negoitiation will focus on health care.

    Great teachers are one of the major reasons for the success of our school system, and they are worth a lot. I for one do not want to see them skinned to the bone, but I do think some adjustment in benefits is in order, to bring them more in line with what the taxpayers in the private sector (who are paying for all of this) have.

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  17. CJ, yep, that corvette must be driven by a RICH person. that felon! Does it surprise you though? Politics of envy. Been the mo for the haters for the last 3 years at least.

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  18. CJ and Kevin,
    .
    You have both come to the conclusion that teacher salaries are “inline with the economy” or “not.. out of line”. How do you come to that conclusion? Comparison to other salary schedules in the county? Comparison to neighboring districts? Comparison to salary schedules from neighboring states? Ability to attract qualified applicants to any open position as shown by the number of applications? Ability to retain teachers as shown by attrition to other districts?

    [Reply]

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