The teachers union in T/E School District, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) held a members meeting today. I am assuming that the press released that I just received (below) was a result of their meeting. The teachers union is coming out strong in opposition to school board using demotion of professional staff as a budget strategy for the $1.5 million budget deficit.
According to this press release, TEEA is suggesting that the 2012-13 budget deficit could be reduced by nearly $1.5 million due to the retirement of 17 teachers. According to the teachers union, these retirements were not factored into the budget. If this is true, problem solved and no need for further discussion of demotion. Surely, it cannot be that simple. Or, can it?
Looks like another showdown may be coming at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting. I have received a number of phone calls and emails from concerned residents since the School Board meeting. Many of the conversations have been in support of my call for greater transparency in the teacher contract negotiation process. Comments have continued to be posted on Community Matters suggesting that the school board is fully aware of the negotiations, etc. etc.. and that it is perfectly OK that elected school board members are not sitting at the negotiating table. Sorry, I am still standing on the fact that the taxpayer needs to be represented in the room, sitting at the table, not hearing the conversation secondhand. I want someone with ‘skin in the game’ representing me — the taxpayer. And unless someone can tell me otherwise, I do not think any of the 4 people negotiating on behalf of the school district lives in either Tredyffrin or Easttown Townships.
All four school district representatives are paid by the taxpayers – one is professional negotiator Jeff Sultanik and the other three are school district administrators — Superintendent Dan Waters, Human Resource Director Sue Tiede and Business Manager Art McDonnell. Where is the Tredyffrin or Easttown taxpayer? Again, unless some tells me differently, these four individuals are not personally affected by the outcome of next year’s budget or the contract negotiations because they do not live here. The District negotiating team (Sultanik, Waters, Tiede and McDonnell) will not be affected by the increase of property taxes or the possible diminishing quality of the TESD educational program — certainly not like the taxpayers, parents and students!
I know that I sound like a broken record, but where is ‘our voice’? I think that is why I am stuck on the transparency issue; I can’t helping thinking that the taxpayers are the ‘third wheel’. We have the teachers union and the school board appointed negotiators but the parents and the taxpayers are not represented but left with a lot of questions.
Here’s the latest TEEA press release:
T/E Teachers: Demotions Unnecessary, Destructive; Existing Resources Sufficient to Preserve Program
The T/E community recently spoke out against teacher demotions at the April 23rd School Board meeting. The central concern: should the Board use existing resources to protect our best and brightest teachers – the core of an exceptional T/E school system – or cut these dedicated educators from our program?
One truth remains clear: no parties involved have created the financial challenges affecting T/E. Rather, these challenges result from a confluence of economic and legislative factors beyond the control of our local officials, residents, and teachers.
The manner in which these challenges are resolved, however, still remain in the Board’s control.
While the School Board has recently proposed the demotion of our most successful teachers as a viable cost reduction strategy, T/E teachers believe strongly that this proposal will be extremely destructive to the T/E educational program and that more reasonable solutions exist.
The recent Board meeting and a TEEA review of District finances reveal several important factors related to demotion alternatives:
- The Board revised downward its projected deficit to 1.5M based upon allowable Act I tax increases not included in its original assumptions, revised instructional expenditures and newly accepted budget strategies.
- 17 retiring teachers, also excluded from the Board’s initial assumptions, will reduce the projected deficit further. TEEA estimates savings of nearly $1M from teacher retirements.
- The Board has designated much of its substantial 31M fund balance – one of the largest in the state – to rising PSERS obligations, a major external legislative challenge causing this year’s deficit. But it has not considered the use of these funds to offset next year’s increased obligation. The projected deficit is larger as a result.
- The Board regularly uses the general fund balance to resolve budget deficits.
- The Board’s own internal policy is the only measure preventing the use of the $31M general fund balance as a bridge that would protect the excellence of our program. The Board regularly changes its own policies, and has the authority to use these funds. The Board is not prevented by PA School Code.
If the decision to be made is between the core of our educational program or a small fraction of the fund balance, then the decision should be clear.
The Board should table the demotion measure and, instead, fully participate in comprehensive, two-way, productive contract negotiations – one of several important paths to sustainability. Why destroy our award-winning program when the resources to protect it exist?