T/E School District and Teacher’s Union … ‘Status Quo’

The June 30, 2012 contract deadline for the T/E teachers came and went with no new contract signed.  Therefore, as of July 1, the School District and the teachers union, TEEA are now in status quo.  This means that the T/E teachers’ salaries will be frozen at their salary level based on their 2011-12 salary until a new contract is signed.

According to the School District website, “… the teachers will continue to receive their salary at the current rate until the earlier of (1) a strike or lockout within the terms of Act 88 of 1992; or (2) the entry into a new contract.”

Also during the status quo period, the teachers health care benefit plan remains intact based on the expired contract, until a new contract is signed between the School Board and TEEA.

The School Board passed the 2012-13 TESD budget in June, which includes a property tax increase of 3.3%, or .6154 mills – equating to approx. $3 million revenue.  The 3% tax increase will translate to an annual increase to homeowners in T/E of about $155.

Former T/E School Board member Andrea Felkins created the following graphs with descriptions below each graph for Community Matters readers.  When we discuss the benefits, salary and pension costs of the District, it is difficult for some (myself included) to fully grasp the magnitude of the situation.  Through the use of the graphs, the data is more organized and easier to understand.  When you view the data through Andrea’s graphs, it is much clearer the role that each of the three components play in the budget, especially as the School District moves forward.  It should be noted that these graphs assume no salary increases.

Based on the final budget presentation, this is just a depiction of the PSERS and the BENEFITS numbers for the next few years.  It’s why I advocate a major change in the benefit plan – knocking $5M off the expenditures annually. 

 

Based on holding salaries constant, while PSERS is climbing, benefits stay well ahead of the PSERS contribution.

 

Each piece of the budget deserves scrutiny.  This graph shows that PSERS takes a bigger piece each year, but the other components dwarf the PSERS costs.

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  1. A few comments:
    .
    John describes Mr. Sultanik as a “rank amateur”. Maybe John hasn’t taken the time to do some basic research. Sultanik has negotiated over 200 teacher contracts over 2 decades. I’d be interested to know what John saw in the “first press release” that gave him the certainty that Sultanik was an amateur.
    .
    John offers us many paragraphs offering vague generalities on TE’s negotiations punctuated with some sharp criticism. Perhaps he might spend some time to read the specifics of the Board’s offer and the union’s offer and tell us what he thinks is a fair settlement, how he would fund that settlement and whether it would require a referendum.
    .
    TE’s negotiations are following the exact same path of Unionville’s negotiations. Negotiations were difficult and Unionville was in status quo for over 15 months. In the end, both parties in TE will get ” together to work things out” just as they did in Unionville. By the way, the Board used the same Fox Rothschild law firm and the union used the same Uniserv representative (Waldie).

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    John, wow… angry.. I appreciate Keiths imput and don’t care if he does carry water for the school board. ITs starting again…….

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Hi John,
    .
    You asked, “why are you here?” The TE and UCF districts are similar in many ways. As expressed a few times before – I’m here to exchange ideas and learn.
    .
    I’m not sure what you mean by carrying “water for Sultanik”. My comments with regard to Sultanik were in response to your characterization of him as a “rank amateur”. This is the complete opposite of my experience and I was asking the basis for your characterization. I’ve interacted with him on several occasions and found him professional and knowledgeable.
    .
    I’m wondering how you’ve determined that his tactics are “my way or the highway” and that they “really don’t work”. Have you spoken with anyone at the table? A union member or a school director? Had personal interaction with Sultanik? Looked at his record of settlements? Read the recent Souderton settlement.
    .
    As Mark Twain said, “Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish”.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I’m curious the District negotiations and Sultanik. Since the TEEA and School Board are at impasse necessitating fact-finding from the PA Labor Board, how is the situation made better by TESD hiring Sultanik? Looking at this from a taxpayer standpoint, we have a paid negotiator (Sultanik) yet the process breaks down and it goes to an independent third party. I recall that U-CF School District used Sultanik’s law firm, (Fox Rothschild) but different attorney. And like T/E, U-CF had an negotiation impasse, which required fact-finding and then an independent, non-binding third-party opinion from the PA Labor Board. Although U-CF School Board voted to accept the findings of the PA Labor Board, the U-CF teachers did not. Eventually, the two sides found common ground and the contract was signed. Are you of the opinion, that U-CF School Board would not have reached an agreement if not for the help from Fox Rothschild. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on the pros-cons of professional negotiator. Also, were any of the U-CF School Board members on the contract negotiating team? Thanks Keith.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    John,
    .
    I don’t need to ask around to know your tendencies – I remember viewing a web video of an angry young man before a board of supervisors about two years ago. I’m well aware of your capabilities, but that doesn’t stop me from asking questions and pointing out discrepancies. I’m well known in my district for being a “straight shooter” with a well researched position, unafraid to respectfully challenge others whether they be parents, constituents, administrators or school directors. Note the use of my full name. You are welcome to attend any of our school board meetings to ask why I am “popping off on matter in another school district when you should be muzzled”. The dates, times and locations are on our web site. However, you will be greeted with yawns – see below.
    .
    You have discovered the obvious. Yes, I am “getting my thoughts out here in the context of a situation that is like my own”. There are several readers of Community Matters from the UCF district. Notables are our superintendent, at least two board members, and the president and vice president of our teacher’s union. I’m very open with my views and believe it will help negotiations in the UCF district. I wish we had a local Community Matters. I’ve encourage the editor of our local paper to start one without success.
    .
    Now, back to the start of our conversation. You called Sultanik a “rank amateur”. You offered some suggestions to further negotiations. I disagreed. I’ve presented my viewpoint; you’ve presented yours. Have a nice day.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Pattye asked, “I’d be curious to know your thoughts on the pros-cons of professional negotiator.”

    Cons: the cost and the public [mis]perception that school directors should go it alone.
    .
    Pros:
    An experienced labor lawyer either at the table or a phone call away is essential for the following reasons:
    1. There may be no one left on the Board or in the administration that has negotiations experience.
    2. The laws governing negotiations (Act 195, Act 88, the PA Labor Relations Act, the Public Employe Relations Act) are complex. School directors can get the District into trouble; especially when dealing with a combative union. Grievances and Unfair Labor Practice filings are favorite weapons in difficult negotiations.
    3. A labor lawyer brings perspective to the situation. A list of recent settlements describing health care and salary terms is helpful. Recent Fact Finding decisions are helpful.
    4. Seemingly innocuous additions to the contract can result in big trouble. An experienced lawyer can identify unfavorable language. Here is language in the Neshaminy contract that recently caused an adverse arbitration decision.
    Whenever a committee is established by the District which includes employees, those employees shall have voice and status equal to other members….
    5. Preparation for Fact Finding is a big deal and goes easier with a lawyer. The UCF position filled two three ring binders.
    6. The status quo period requires careful attention and education of administrators lest seemingly minor changes cause be viewed as coercive. An example: a grievance in the union’s favor because of a soda machine change in the teacher’s lounge.
    7. There may be no one on the Board who has the time or energy to devote to face-to-face negotiations.
    .
    Pattye asked, “were any of the U-CF School Board members on the contract negotiating team”? Yes, there were three. One has since left the Board and the other has found the required time too demanding. I’ll be back at the table in January. As I’ve mentioned before, I see no advantage to having TE board members at the table at this point in the negotiations.
    .
    Pattye asked, “Are you of the opinion, that U-CF School Board would not have reached an agreement if not for the help from Fox Rothschild?”
    I won’t speculate on what might have happened. It’s futile.

    One related point – Many people think that the labor lawyer tells the Board what they should bargain for and how to do it. In practice the labor lawyer is just another temporary employee operating according to the wishes of the board. If blame needs to be assigned, it should be to the Board, not the lawyer.

    [Reply]

  2. These graphs are not meant to offer new information…only to help us have a sense of what each component represents.

    And the point has been made here many times–the power of the union has always meant that districts bought and paid for labor peace. The reason the union must accept a change of terms is because there is no revenue to pay for that peace anymore, so the “avert a strike” is a lovely piece of advice, but it can only be avoided if the TEEA chooses not to go out. If school started tomorrow, they could do it, so it’s a bit moot to advise against it to the people without any money.

    We will only get what we pay for—and I believe the TEEA leadership will ultimately agree that 50-120K a year for a job whose pension plan is so generous they need not save for retirement is in fact worth protecting. Which is why a new approach to health insurance (a plan WITH deductibles and co-insurance) could alter the costs without damaging any program or employee group. Every administrator had exactly that when I did their contracts, and the current board allowed them to switch to the teacher plan…thereby removing the administrative incentive to change the approach.

    if there is no movement in that direction revenue limitations means we cut people, programs, and more.

    New topic| TE has taken European History out of the sequence…so world history, then american history, thengovernment. GV had done so too, but restored it. Is this budgetary or PC?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Back and angry and sure as ever John?

    The path of least resistance as you call it is called negotiating. Every labor contract requires it. Please do not assume that labor peace was at any price. There has always been give and take. The teachers have given time and terms, and the district paid for it. I had objected to the last contract at the time of its ratification and got quite a patronizing lecture from some board members suggesting that it was in control. I could be like you John and remind them that I had predicted this, but that addresses nothing.

    likewise your comment that this seems like a lot of unnecessary crap to get to the obvious outcome is true–and so what? Sultanik is playing the role that honestly we need played…because the last contract sort of verifies that this is not a strength of this particular group of elected members. Carol Aichele and I had synergies in our negotiating that served TESD well. I count on the fact that Mr. Sultanik is extremely well versed in school law. So I believe (I am not at the table, so I cannot claim to know) that this negotiation is just another scripted dance put on by the PSEA with willing but perhaps naive TEEA members who drink the koolaid about waiting for the district to get nervous and go into the fund balance. TESD already blinked on demotion but presumably got value for the decision.

    And Keith– keep on posting. We understand that you cannot speculate about UCF it can make educated observations and draw hypothetical conclusions about TESD. We can all learn from that. Thanks.

    [Reply]

    cp Reply:

    John – Get over yourself and let others post without the need to defend yourself. We heard you. And we like to hear others.

    [Reply]

    cp Reply:

    I hope the School Board will engage the community for our views during contract negotiations. They are our voted representatives and they need to be OUR voice. Yes, past boards and past economic situations have given passes to terms that may be questionable in “todays” economic climate. That does not mean reality cannot be achieved NOW.

    [Reply]

  3. as I recall, when I was in high school, even though there was less history at the time, we had World History in 10th grade and American History in 11th.. Whats the big deal about the sequence?

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    FF …in all likelihood, you took world cultures, then European history, then us history. senior year was government. That is what CHS has done…and is changing. Does anyone know why?

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    World, European, US and ending with government would seem to be the expected sequence to teach high school history. What is the new class order? Surely the District is not removing European History entirely from the curriculum! How can you you appreciate US History unless you first understand European History? Am I misunderstanding the sequence??

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Tesd.net
    Click on our schools
    Click on Conestoga
    Click on Program of Studies
    Page 4

    The change in graduation requirements for those graduating in 2015 and beyond no longer includes European History, which is still available as an elective. previously it was 3.5 credits–now just 3.0 credits. I am sure there will be a Keystone reason…

  4. I was wondering if anyone had read this editorial in the Inquirer yesterday. Basically, since 1970, the number of teachers has doubled while student enrollment has only increased 8%. I might be missing something, but it’s interesting.

    http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-has-too-many-teachers

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I did see this commentary in the WSJ. The top line data is startling, but without much more information I can’t accept Coulson’s conclusions.

    2 of the 3 million new hires are teachers or aides. How many of each? Have they been used to lower class sizes or teach more courses? If more courses, would the impact show up in basic reading and math test scores or rather in longer term results like college graduation rates or numbers, or some measure of early career effectiveness? What are the roles of other added staff? Has this happened everywhere or is it geographically concentrated? How much of the addition has gone to the areas where scores have improved? How much of the increase is due to special education? (It’s just not enough to say that special ed teachers make up 5% of the workforce). And so on.

    Coulson and Cato have a pro-voucher, pro-charter agenda. Instinctively I’m against splintering the education system (and the performance of the private education sector does not seem to be so great – and not anywhere as great as the profits of its owners), but the problem is that the union has forced the issue with political influence that has bought inflated (and unsustainable) compensation, lack of performance measures and – maybe – inflated hiring. This is true at all levels of government, in all places. TE is not all that different.

    One part of the solution is to reform the electoral system so that politicians can not be bought, and the electorate can not be duped with lies in ad blitzes from unidentified sources. Then, for those public goods and services that it makes sense for the government to provide, make sure that outcomes are measured and reported to the people, and that public sector workers are accountable for delivering continuous improvement. Perhaps have a venture capital-like system that funds private sector innovation designed to feed into the public sector. I’m sure that smarter minds than mine have thought hard about this.

    It seems to me that carving up the delivery of basic services just increases the opportunity for profit, not for better outcomes. Just go up the NE extension to compare the integrated Geisinger healthcare system with the disaster that is the fragmented, fee-for-service, employer funded (with the government tax subsidy not available to individuals), general US healthcare delivery system.

    Anyway, back to the TESD contract. It’s not hard. We know PSERS can be taxed for (but see another recent WSJ editorial for the dangers lurking in GASB standards for pension accounting). We know the revenue base, more or less. Can the union or some arbitration/fact-finding wizard come up with more revenue or expense cuts? How would they like to divide up the result? All for themselves or leave some for future generations? All the rest is noise.

    [PS: I’m looking forward to the reincarnation of JP contributing to the constructive dialog we’ve been enjoying here ….]

    [Reply]

  5. KK:
    I read the link JP posted where he concluded you are a piece of work. I have no idea from what he drew that conclusion. I thought your response was articulate and civil. Perhaps that’s an approach some do not recognize. Isn’t being a school board member fun? Wait 10 years or so for the hindsight experts to challenge your thinking about 15 years after the vote is taken. And then suggest it is the same thing as current events. I wonder what abolishing boards would lead to? I vote for benevolent dictatorships…or monthly referenda…

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Abolish local boards? I think the proponents of that idea have an obligation to say what they would propose as a replacement. Central control in harrisburg? Or Washington? Gee, but they have done a great job with everything entrusted to them! Local control may not be perfect, but it is far better than dealing with some state or federal bureaucracy.

    I think that a case can be made for the proposition that many of our troubles arise out of the erosion of local control and by interference from the state. This goes to the heart of john’s premise – if all 501 school districts in the state are in the same trouble, is because of lazy and incompetent boards, or should we look instead at the legislative and regulatory framework in which they operate?

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply John. I appreciate that. I am not sure what I think about a foundation, but I will give some thought. I do agree it would be nice if somehow the process could be detached from politics, but I doubt that will ever happen. It is supposed to be non- partisan now, that is why you can cross file, although it does not accomplish the intended goal of keeping partisan politics out.

    I hasten to add that the political bs comes in only during elections in my experience. Once elected people try to do what they think is best and party people have no knowledge or involvement. Not sure how that will play out in the future – both parties are taking a much greater interest nowadays. As you know, I found the last election particularly troubling – particularly the conduct of the ttrc – but I don’t think their candidates were to blame for that, and I hope they will be independent in their thinking.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    The foundations I’m familiar with are financed with donated funds and an individual’s participation in the foundation’s activities is optional. Conversely, the school foundation described by John is not financed voluntarily (taxing power) and participation is not voluntary (a virtual monopoly on education). Thus, the school foundation, if I understand it correctly, has the coercive functions of government (taxation and rule making) without the community’s voice at the polls.
    .
    While we would all like to envision wise, benevolent, non-partisan foundation members (like us :)) delivering education in a thorough and efficient manner, history tells us otherwise. The second problem I see is the idea that successor foundation members are selected by sitting foundation members. The foundation will naturally skew in one political direction or another with sitting foundation members selecting successor members of the same bent. Unfortunately, without a vote, the electorate has no way to redirect the foundation.

    [Reply]

    Carla Williams Reply:

    I’m not a political gal, but thought I’d weigh in on the discussion of the evils of politics and partisanship in local school governance.

    People don’t get randomly assigned to political parties like the “Red team” and the “Blue team” at camp. Registered voters, and candidates, generally affiliate themselves with that party which most closely reflects their values and beliefs. If you are a Democrat, or a Democrat candidate, you are likely comfortable with many or most of the party’s ideas – same way if you’re a Republican. I won’t attempt to articulate the parties’ core beliefs as I’m not always sure what they are ;).

    At the ballot box, voters cast their votes for those candidates that reflect their wishes for how things should be run. Admittedly, voters have varying degrees of knowledge of the candidates and their relevant experience, key local issues, etc.
    But it’s the will of the voters – democracy, warts and all.

    To Kevin’s earlier excellent point, “Once elected people try to do what they think is best and party people have no knowledge or involvement.” – but remember, elected officials are doing what they think is best, but they often have very DIFFERENT ideas of “what is best” is and how to get there. This is not because the evil TTRC or TTDems told them what to do – if the process was political as some suggest, wouldn’t all of the Rs and all of the Ds always vote together? For example, in the recent SB budget, 2 Rs voted against and the rest of the Rs and the Ds voted in favor. Mr. Brake and Ms. Mercogliano had different ideas of resource allocation than 7 Republican AND Democrat colleagues. Happens all the time.

    To John’s Foundation idea, a “flat out prohibition on political activity” (check your values at the door), you apply (and are selected by whom? – non-partisans selected by non-partisans), “legislative fiat” by the state to tax – sure doesn’t sound like democracy to me.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    John,
    .
    I’m trying to understand who sets the tax rates (RE and or EIT) in a foundation directed school district. You’ve communicated the following –
    any matters regarding an EIT, etc – if brought up by any board member, seconded and voted on – would go to on as a ballot question. Citizens, through a petition process, could also have it placed on the ballot.
    .
    Does this mean that any tax increase goes to a referendum? If not, what taxing decisions can the foundation make and is there any limit to their taxing power?
    .
    I have lots of other questions, but let’s save those for later.

    [Reply]

    Carla Williams Reply:

    Again, who picks the Foundation Board? Who does the vetting? No political party has a majority – so 4 Rs and 4 Ds or is being party registered considered being “politically active”? Might work well if we had a monarchy! King John….. perish the thought.

    Also, under the current structure an income tax can already be on the ballot – wasn’t an EIT on the ballot a few years ago? The TESD doesn’t need a Foundation to put an EIT up for a community vote – that could be done by the current School Board and I think they considered that last year.

    [Reply]

    Carla Williams Reply:

    We can’t have a serious discussion because the plan has a fatal flaw – it would turn over the School District to an appointed Board (by whom?) rather than one elected by the residents.

    [Reply]

  6. I am a little stunned at the one sided view of John’ s “logic”.

    The union is every bit as culpable as the board. There are 2 parties in the negotiation, not 1. The fact is that the board (and board’s all over this country) are faced with a dilema that is forcing them to make hard choices. The union would rather not go along. I can’t blame them. It is their job to negotiate the best package for the teachers. The union has a very 1 sided view of things. The board has to counter numerous factors.

    Simply put, the money doesn’t exist to satisfy the union. Major, structural changes will have to take place. There is no other option.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    John
    there is no arguing with the Devil’s advocate, and I won’t bother to try. I will state my opinion as it contradicts yours:
    The board has not given the store away for years. The district has good employees and programs that have earned their way. The district is not seeking major concessions–they are trying to balance the budget the only wy the state makes available to them while trying to maintain the quality we all expect and in most cases, demand.
    The balance has bee the teachers had time and terms to bargain with. The district had money and terms. well now, the distri t has no money on their side, and the teachers do. they get to keep good jobs in a good district….and the district gets to pay less and maintain the program.

    Please do not parse this comment to respond. I know the last word is your absolute goal, but please just restrain your impulse to diagram sentences. HOw about offering a suggestion instead of a hindsight analysis?

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    The money simply isn’t there to give the teachers anything. It really is as simple as that. Have you been watching the news on how many municipalities are filing bankruptcy to get out of having to pay the pensions as they exist?

    Everywhere and at every level, we are broke.

    [Reply]

  7. I am still waiting for an answer on the transparency issue. The union was pushing hard for that right up until they had to make a proposal. Then it was, “off the record”./

    [Reply]

  8. John– I do read what you post and I will not bother to defend your claims because finally you stopped linking me to a time you know nothing about, and you did link me to something that came well after my time. I was on the board during Dr. Foot’s tenure and helped move Dr. waters into that job. We paid Dan Waters a max of $125K. He has one son who was in junior high and high school when I was on the board. Kevin G. Is the person who told you about keeping Dan and why they paid him as they did. I clearly would not admit anything that was not true.

    You don’t know the first thing about what happened when I was on the board, because we didn’t make headlines except when we were attacked for renovating and expanding Conestoga instead of building a second high school. And it was after my departure that the then board decided to memorialize the renovation with a plaque in the vestibule which includes my name (much to my disappointment since we had renovated every other school on my watch and somehow didn’t need to honor ourselves)

    I will say one more time that your hindsight analysis is lame. I do not criticize this board for past,practice–I call them as it happens. I challenged the “PennDoctor plan” for Dan when I learned about it through an RTK on all administrative compensation, and I believe he has not taken a dime in additional salary since that time. (to my knowledge, it was at his suggestion that his pay be frozen)

    So counselor, get your facts straight. Start your EIT petition drive…it sounds like you think you could sell it. back in those “flush” times as you call them, we held a hearing on the idea because data showed only 20 percent of property owners had kids I schools, but 65+% of wage earners did. We filled Conestoga with an angry mob.

    Here’s good news: Until you are done on this topic, I most certainly am. I sent Pattye the graphs to illustrate a point, not fight a battle.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Andrea,

    As a member of the community, I highly doubt he will be able to sell the EIT. It is a perception issue. The perception is that an EIT will allow the teacher’s to maintain a Rolls Royce health ins plan and a very generous salary on average. That perception may not be reality in total but that is what I have heard.

    It is a good idea to hire a professional. At this point the community cannot afford to, even unknowingly, make mistakes that will come back to haunt us.

    John misses the bigger point entirely. This is happening almost everywhere and at multiple layers of government. People are going to feel pain. There really is no other option.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Would the teacher’s be willing to make concessions that would save student programs if a direct correlation between the concession and the program could be illustrated?

    [Reply]

  9. I agree that contracts need to be honored. The district successfully honored the contract that ran through June 30, 2012. It’s important that the district negotiate a contract that can honored going forward. General fiscal conditions establish the tone of any contract negotiation. Contracts have set term limits in recognition of ever changing fiscal conditions. Fiscal conditions have shifted dramatically. The new contract will reflect this economic shift. This dynamic is unavoidable and indiscriminate. We’ve seen it across all labor negotiations including auto, communications, public, private and education. Concessions are painful on both sides of a negotiation.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    What concessions can the school board offer specifically?

    [Reply]

    new post-er Reply:

    I see three parties here, two of which have offered concessions. The tax payer is bearing a tax increase and the students have suffered cut programs, increased class sizes, and assessed fees for athletic participation. It is only reasonable that the teachers and administrators now participate in the shared sacrifice.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    John seems to have forgotten about the children. I still want to know what concessions the board could make in this environment? What do they have to give exactly?

    [Reply]

    Had Enough Reply:

    New-post-er,
    Are you serious??? Only 2 out of 3 have made concessions??? The teachers and administrators have given back more financially than you! The teachers gave up half a year pay raise and the administrators haven’t had a pay raise in 3 years. What was your sacrifice? An extra $100 in your tax bill. You talk about a shared sacrifice but it seems like you think the ones who should be sharing the sacrifice are the teachers and the administrators. Most teachers and administrators live outside TE, pay higher taxes, and have an EIT. They share the sacrifice in their own communites and yours!

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I have difficulty with labeling either the board, or the union as unreasonable or unfair without a point of reference which the poster considers fair. I invite members of CM to submit terms (matrix increase, step increase, educational increase, health care plan, employee share for health care, tuition reimbursement) for their “fair” settlement and I’ll do my best to determine the compensation increase experienced by the average teacher and the tax increase necessary to fund the contract.

    [Reply]

    Township reader Reply:

    There is no provision for binding arbitration under the school code…so not sure why you conclude that is going to happen. Are you familiar with Neshaminy?

    [Reply]

    Township reader Reply:

    Keith –you know my take. defined contribution toward health care, period. Take $3-5M out of the expenses for that piece. That’s what the first graph above advocates. offer plans with deductibles and coinsurance, which are zero under the current plan. Do Not negotiate the plan—just the contribution. PSEA and TESD can work with a competent broker to put together competitively priced plans for a cafeteria plan of options. Tteachers buy what they want. No interest in family vs. any other piece. No threats to family coverage. You apply the defined contribution and create the pretax program for deductibles and copays, and each employee biys what they want/need. There would be no affect on any other piece because it would not reduce PSERS eligible earnings, not affect FICA costs, and would not be some arbitrary cost sharing decision. The administrators have a legal program in place that allows them to use their allowance or save it or take it. No reason not to implement it district wide. Healthcare is compensation. We need cost/price to be the topic, not the coverage.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    TR,
    .
    I like the idea of defined contribution health care. It limits the district’s exposure to inflationary increases, it gives the employees a say in how those dollars are spent and it treats single employees and employees with dependents as equals.
    .
    However, I foresee a problem – getting the teachers to agree to this concept. Remember, from the union viewpoint, the status quo would be far superior for three reasons. One, every teacher would have an large additional out-of-pocket expense to get the same coverage they could have for free under the status quo. Two, some teachers are winners (singles) and some teachers are losers (married with dependents) – the losers will vote hard against approving a contract containing this concept. Three, it’s a CHANGE in health care. If I could paraphrase a teacher’s viewpoint – “you can freeze my salary, modify my tuition reimbursement, tell me what to teach, but don’t short change my child’s health care coverage”,
    .
    I’ve asked the business manager for a detailed breakdown of the benefit costs (vision, medical, dental, tuition, FICA, etc.).

    [Reply]

  10. Waiting for John to apologize for blaming me for something I didn’t do — he’s not always right, but he’s always sure.
    But had to add this; John’s foundation description mirrors the way that TESD board operated through most of the 60s and up until the closing of schools in the 80s. Paoli’s closing woke up the community and brought people into the discussion who opposed the educational leadership and ran for change…
    until that time, and even beyond, the vetting was done by the TTRC in the non-ideological way John espouses. Little opposition as interested people ran for the board, not against a partisan opponent. interested people came to meetings and learned what the job took. They didn’t run to serve on a board they had barely observed or to fix broken schools. barely any primary races.

    But that’s a story for another day.

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  11. In this environment, we’re talking about salary roll backs and job cuts. That is what is going on in the world. Many of your fellow teachers across the country have come to terms with salary roll backs by offering, with gratitude to accept reduced pay in recognition of the dreadful economic situation we all find ourselves in.

    We’re getting our taxes raised when most have lost 39% of their wealth with little prospect of relief soon.

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  12. Keith
    I’m not expecting teachers to jump for joy — but I do expect that if they were educated on the topic, they would prefer a modification of how they get benefits to any change in their pensionable salary. If you take away educational reimbursement, or lateral movement, you affect their direct compensation. The district initial offer is to only pay for single coverage. A defined contribution avoids all the debate. It also means you can write parameters to trigger an additional contribution if the variable revenues are above budget. But you can fix compensation costs and everything related to them (FICA, PSERS). It’s a matter of educating them. There are countless plans that could be purchased that are much more tailored to the employees. You could have the contribution higher for steps 1-8 then dropped some for steps 9-16, or whatever worked to reflect the employees ability to pay. Bottom line — it would be BOTTOM line. It would be a number, not a plan. It was awesome at retaining administrators — until the teacher plan got so high-end that the admin contribution didn’t cover it. The teacher plan has ZERO deductibles and ZERO co-insurance. The co-pays are reasonable. Co-insurance and deductibles are simply a way of spreading the risk instead of negotiating how much the individual teacher should contribute to a defined benefit. Just like the state pension program, we have to define contributions, not benefits. No shared risk.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    TR,
    .
    I like your idea, but I’m not sure how to implement it. Look at this issue from the teachers’ point of view. Why would they agree to a defined contribution benefits plan that is more complicated, more risky and less attractive than the plan they have now? What “carrot or stick” would you use? Remember, the teachers can retain their current benefits and their current salary in status quo (forever) by just saying no to any contract offer including a defined contribution benefits program.
    .

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    I don’t think the board can do anything about the pensions. That is Harrisburg’s issue.

    We will see what the arb says. If it is not in the union’s favor, they will ignore it. If it is, they will scream from the rooftops.

    No money left. Sorry. Change is here.

    [Reply]

    Township reader Reply:

    The carrot is not having status quo for those in the matrix who have not had their big bumps. The carrot is labor peace. The carrot is understanding the changes–and the opportunity to keep the alowance if you don’t need benefits. Once you put together your salary schedule (you cannot freeze wages forever…implement half steps to restart) or even if you stick with the current schedule, you add a step for each year of the contract with a salary increase of some small amount that is pensionable ($1k) . I also would absolutely tie this contribution to revenue benchmarks. You know my email–same one I sent you the matrix from. This is boring here, and our board is loathe to take any advice, so if you want to brainstorm, let me know. I have run this by some substantial health care brokers to pitch statewide…but my energy wanes on this.

    [Reply]

    Township reader Reply:

    One comment to add– a defined contribution is not more complicated and can be designed to be no more risky (out of pocket maximums). I’m not a health care expert, but my own experience with choosing plans for our lives and now learning about it through my kids (they all work with very different companies and I see genius in the way they are allowed to choose coverage–learning at an early age that it is insurance, not free health care). teachers absolutely want great benefits and I’m not suggesting they not have the ability to keep a high end plan as an option, but not at the expense of the rest of the union having to live under the pain–because it is UGLY and painful–of status quo and the inevitable “work to the contract” component that gets considered. educating people on health care plans–not just tweaking the pieces of a defined plan– is the key.

    [Reply]

  13. John – you never answered the question.

    Specifically, what concessions can the board make?

    Stop with the meaningless platitudes and provide an answer.

    [Reply]

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