Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Over 150,000 Teachers Nationwide Without Jobs . . . Will this influence school district budgets and teacher contract negotiations?

Here’s an interesting article in the New York Times about the state of teaching and shortage of jobs. School district budget cuts nationwide have created a historic surplus of more than 150,000 teachers in the job market. Going forward, as school districts engage in teacher contract negotiations, this may create a different situation for the teacher unions. Will the supply and demand of available teachers influence TESD decisions?

Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years


Published: May 19, 2010

PELHAM, NY – In the month since Pelham Memorial High School in Westchester County advertised seven teaching jobs, it has been flooded with 3,010 applications from candidates as far away as California. The Port Washington District on Long Island is sorting through 3,620 applications for eight positions — the largest pool the superintendent has seen in his 41-year career.

Even hard-to-fill specialties are no longer so hard to fill. Jericho, N.Y., has 963 people to choose from for five spots in special education, more than twice as many as in past years. In Connecticut, chemistry and physics jobs in Hartford that normally attract no more than 5 candidates have 110 and 51, respectively.

The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which used to hire thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.

Even upscale suburban districts are preparing for huge levels of layoffs. School officials and union leaders estimate than more than 150,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs next year, far more than any other time, including the last major financial crisis of the 1970s.

At the University of Pennsylvania, most of the 90 aspiring teachers who graduated last weekend are jobless. Many had counted on offers from the Philadelphia public schools but had their interviews canceled this month after the district announced a hiring freeze.

“We’re trying to encourage everyone to hold on,” said Kathy Schultz, an education professor at Penn. “But that’s very difficult because students have taken out loans and want to be assured of a job.”

If there is an upside to the shortage of teaching jobs, it is that schools now have their pick of candidates. Teach for America, which places graduates from some of the nation’s top colleges in poor schools, has seen applications increase by nearly a third this year to 46,000 — for 4,500 slots. From Ivy League colleges alone, there are 1,688 would-be teachers.

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  1. Further data that illustrates that unions are anti-job. Fine if you’re a teacher in the middle of the T/E matrix getting 10% year over year increases, not so good if you’re a talented recent graduate or new hire with a fresh perspective to bring. It’s a travesty that the union effect on unemployment and education program cuts is not being called out.

    I believe that by far the biggest responsibility of our state representatives is to develop a fair solution to the various manifestations of the public sector union problem. Let’s see whether Kampf or Drucker can rise to the challenge. Of course, our School Board also has to follow through with the backbone implied throughout the recent budget process.

    1. Ray, thinking about unions are anti job. A great example of the chutzpah of unions is what is happening with the Tavern on the Green disaster in NYC. The unions want to have it their way, by not allowing busboys to unload produce trucks, and by them, the unions, telling the owners how many waiters they can have on any given shift. Isn’t that amazing? Sounds like the old Soviet style economy. Talk about lack of productivity. Maybe the unions should just buy the good old Tavern. But if they did that, would they really require such stupid policies to be implemented? How would they survive? I know, with public(tax) subsidies I guess. Some economic model.

      As for Tredyffrin, why not announce a tax HOLIDAY for 2 or more years for businesses that move into our township?Sort of like an enterprise zone. Do you think we would attract businesses to those empty boxes and storefronts? Would we survive these years w/o tax revenue from them, with the hope they would entrench themselves and start paying taxes in the “out years”? Maybe fine tune it so that they have to employee a certain number of employees, say 5? The devil is in the details for sure, but maybe this is a starting point for discussion and revitalizing our local economy?

      what do you think? Thanks Chet

      1. Ok,, I guess the question is, “what taxes will be given a holiday” With no tredyffrin income tax, seems like my suggestion is moot. Well, sorry. Just looking for some INCENTIVE for getting the economy rolling here again.

      2. My own preference is for our local government to redouble its overall effort to make Tredyffrin a better place to live and work.

        How can we continuously improve the efficiency with which services are delivered? What are the difficulties to doing business in the Township, and how can they be ameliorated? How do we make our revenue and expense base flexible to cope with economic ups and downs? How do we make sure that the playing field is level and fair to all constituencies (residents, parents, employees, businesses)?

        Solutions that come to my mind include: ethical and transparent government, diverse and income-sensitive tax base, correctly incented management and employees, flexible contracts and work rules, processes that engage the citizens.

  2. Will the supply and demand of available teachers influence TESD decisions? We can always wish, but it hasn’t yet: As I have repeatedly noted, TESD has for years enjoyed hundreds of qualified applicants for every union job opening. Apparently that’s not enough to dampen outrageous compensation inflation.

  3. Ray
    Totally agree. A letter to the editor this and last week shames the community for job cuts in the Radnor school district since the community is so well off….and uses that old lament “care about the children.” This is a profession. This is not a charity. Teachers in jobs often care little about teachers without jobs regardless of their comments. I think TE teachers care very much about each other and the quality of the schools — but the leadership in Harrisburg cares about winning — they have negotiation goals and they want to get them. An article in WSJ this week talked about General Motors and the wage concessions they were able to achieve in negotiations — but pointed out that they have not been able to hire anyone at those lower wages because they must hire furloughed workers first — and those people come back at the old higher structure. YOu can get to the number of teachers you pay with 3 numbers: 1 -Budget divided by 2 – Cost per teacher = 3 Number of teachers. OR you can Divide Budget by Number of teachers to get cost per teacher….The cost per teacher HAS to go down to increase the number of teachers….the flexible part can not always be the budget. So this year — the budget holds fast, the cost per teacher holds fast, and the number of teachers goes down. So yes — teacher unions HAVE to accept responsibility for not helping more with the problem.

  4. If you want to laugh/or cry, read “Public Schools Need a Bailout” in today’s Wall St. Journal, by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (I appreciate that she disclosed her affiliation ;) ). No mention of teacher salaries or benefits.

    1. OMG! Just what we need: a “$23 billion infusion to avert educational and economic disaster”. Nothing at all about the role of unions in getting us to this point or how they can help to get us past it. If Obama is really supporting this, then he’s lost me completely.

      What planet is she living on? In fact, such a move would just compound the deficit and contribute to the real economic disaster we are facing.

      While we’re reading today’s WSJ, check out Alan Blinder: “the amount of deficit reduction needed to stop this incipient explosion (in deficit and debt) is so large that no serious person should believe that we can do it without spending cuts and higher taxes”.

      What’s it going to take for our politicians to own up to this?

  5. I posted this earlier on another topic — but see that based on the direction this is taking, it belongs here.

    All this talk about budget for the township — please. The school millage is going to be almost 20 — and that made noise for about one news cycle….the 2.9% the district capped with dwarfs anything the township can or would do….And you can stop saying the GOP run school board — it’s union driven– we all know that. And parent run. Board members send their kids into the lions’ den every day. If the taxpayers cared as much about school issues as you want them to care abou these petty township fights — just lazy rhetoric. The school budget is BORROWING $5M or more — to pay current bills (borrowing from Fund Balance — because they won’t raise the revenues). We can argue about semantics about whether it is borrowing to use fund balance, but there is no debate on the fact that taxes are far short of expenditures, which means we are officially deficit spending. And the school board posed for pictures with Mr. Kampf (and will do so with Mr. Drucker no doubt from the D side) because people like them — so their “endorsements” mean good kharma. When are we actually going to SoLVE a problem??? Stop with the 157th politics and start to reflect on what it costs to live here — and what we are willing to pay for that.

    Ray — I add to your question about politicians owning up to things: when are homeowners and residents going to own up to the costs associated with excellence, and thus whether or not we really want/need to pay them….because what is the incremental cost of “less excellence…”? More and Less just aren’t measurable enough to frame the debate — and having to listen to the board say 2.0% increase was not enough — needed to be 2.9% increase when we are talking about people employed by the district they choose. If they wanted to make more money, there are countless jobs out there paying more. They want to work here.

  6. It seems that you equate excellence with paying more. That isn’t always true, but I agree costs are union driven, at least until someone stands up to them and gives them a dose of economic reality. More more more. Who is defending the taxpayer? I guess we have to be intimidated that if we hold the line all teachers are going to quit? Go elsewhere? Hey, maybe we can be leaders and if we have the courage to hold the line, other boards will too. Just a wistful thought. Where will they go? Philly? let’em,. Afterall there are others waiting to step in to teach and live in our district. Maybe some new blood can be good. Just my thoughts. thanks

    1. Thanks Chet. I do not equate excellence with paying more — but since we have excellence right now — what are the implications of paying less? Our taxes are relatively low — far lower than many much less successful districts. So how do you balance the influences of maintaining excellence with declining revenue. The EIT Ray references is just another revenue source — once the township would jump on were the district to implement one….so isn’t the ultimate goal to manage spending to a level that we WILL support…and just what is that?

      1. I think we have to re train ourselves so that every speed bump or large pothole in our budget isn’t always fixed on the backs of the taxpayer. Hey, just raise taxes. I wonder why this is so hard to digest. ENOUGH! At a time when most of us are reigning in our own spending, cutting our own budgets, and trying to stay the course until a new government is elected with pro business, pro private sector ideas, I resent paying more taxes so public/private union employees can get their raises. I believe I am in a growing majority of Americans who feel this way, and the results will be interesting. Let’s share the carteresque malaise, until the tide changes. That’s how I think

  7. Whenever things get slow on this blog, an article gets posted on teacher cutbacks, teacher performance or school taxes, and all the same tired arguments come pouring out so that we can gang up on the teachers over and over and over again. Why not have a public lynching and you can get it over with?

    Look at the proposed taxes for next year. With a 2.5% increase and the gaming money you are getting back, you will actually pay less money next year than you paid this year.

    On another note, good young teachers should be saved…but the assumption that because teachers have been in the District for years they don’t have a “fresh new perspective” is insulting. TE has many excellent older teachers.

    Finally, my last comment, how much ARE you willing to pay for schools? Or do you think schools should be free? Most economists think that the most important investment a community can make is in its schools. Schools benefit not only the parents of the children in them, but the community at large. When we improve the human capital of the nation we increase the worth of the nation.

    1. Tax increase is tax increase — no paying “less” than last year….??? The gaming money is simply another revenue source — which we obviously absorbed rather quickly into our budgetting programs….it is saving property taxes because they are rising more slowly…certianly not decreasing.
      And why is questioning ways to preserve the quality of the district considered an attack on teachers?

  8. Mainline, please stop the histrionics. No one wants to lynch teachers; we just want them to understand market realities. Over 70% of the school budget is tied to employee compensation. This statement is false – “you will actually pay less money next year than you paid this year”. We’ll receive less gaming money this year ($178) than last ($179) and taxes are going up 2.5%. I like this unsubstantiated statement, “Most economists think that the most important investment a community can make is in its schools.” Did you get this from a the union website? Here’s a quote from the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, “The monopoly supplier—the education system—has done just what monopolists do: Create too little and charge too much. “

    1. Citizen One, you certainly don’t rate that moniker. Such attitude! You reduce Mainlinetaxpayer’s passion about the fate of our schools to “histrionics”. You cynically suggest that a quote supporting the value of investing in our schools must have originated with the teachers’ union.

      How about respecting others’ opinions? Also Mainlinetaxpayer simply equated the average school tax increase ($128) against the additional gaming revenue ($178) when he/she suggested T/E taxpayers will “actually pay less.”

      BTW, your hero Milton Friedman’s promotion of free markets and very limited government intervention would have steered this country right into a deeper ditch over the last few years. Applying his theories to our public schools, “freeing” them to operate like free market entities – profit-driven and subject to all the fluctuations in the market, would cause irreparable harm to what most Americans consider a public good, not a market-driven business.

      Union-bashing is one of the favorite pastimes of the self-righteous Right, whose real obsession is their own tax bite and little else. I’m glad your kind of thinking is in the minority around here.

      And to your belief in the private sector, where presumably more is created for less, and the market takes care of quality, I say simply – HALLIBURTON.

      And to Township Reader, check the TESD website for updated budget info. The amount to be used from the Fund Balance is $1.48 million NOT $5 million, as you stated. The School Board set an upper limit of $ 2million right at the beginning of negotiations and managed to keep the amount more than $500k under that amount. I think they are to be commended. the fund balance is in place to serve exactly the purpose it will serve in the 2010-11 budget.

      1. Ooh, ooh, are we playing dueling anecdotes? Well I’ll see your Halliburton and raise you a Rubber Room.

        Union-adulation is one of the favorite pastimes of the self-righteous Left, whose real obsession is accumulating political power by pandering to special interests at the expense of anyone and everyone else.

        BTW, education is not a public good. It is a private good that our government has declared to be an entitlement. And like all private goods it can be provided most effectively
        (i.e., the greatest possible quality at the lowest possible price) in a free market. Granted, free markets aren’t perfect, but they are far better than any of the alternatives.

    2. ^CitizenOne — yes, best comment yet!

      Mainline”taxpayer”: Most economists maintain that in the typical monopoly public education system there is no significant correlation between teacher compensation and education quality. So (if you really were just a taxpayer, and not a beneficiary of the public education cartel) you would rather pay as little as possible to provide the state-mandated services since paying more doesn’t actually buy you a better product for the community.

  9. CitizenTwo,

    You are confusing the funding and delivery of education. No one disputes that education should be publicly funded. However, why should the government be the monopoly supplier of education? Maybe you’d like to go back to the good old days where the US postal service had a monopoly on delivering packages. Goodbye to UPS and FedEx. Or maybe you’d like to go back and have AT&T be the monopoly supplier of voice and data services. Goodbye to Verizon, Comcast, Yahoo, Google, etc.

    Inflation adjusted educational spending has doubled over the last 3 decades yet NAEP test scores have remained flat. I repeat again, The monopoly supplier—the education system—has done just what monopolists do: Create too little and charge too much. “

    1. CitizenOne,

      The day is too beautiful and the ideological divide too wide to invest in a lengthy response. 1) I’m not confused about funding vs. delivery. 2) I don’t want to see taxpayer dollars diverted from public school classrooms. I want to see every dollar used to provide the greatest benefit to students.

      I think there is ample evidence that by and large, individual schools managed by private, for-profit educational service providers are not achieving superior results, but it is certain that the per child spending is lower (not just accounted for by lower teacher salaries and benefits) The difference is going into managers’/investors’ pockets..

      Your hope (?) of breaking the union hold on the classroom by contracting out some educational services, would damage the quality and integrity of our schools. That is my opinion, but I guarantee it is shared by most in T/E.

      Cute and condescending to suggest I’d like to return to what you imagine I view as the good old days. I’m being pigeon-holed as a monopoly-lover too, eh? Hardly, but I can see you were enjoying yourself….

      BTW, the incredible increase in the cost of providing an education compares to the increasing cost of providing medical services. I didn’t hear you ask if health outcomes had increased proportionately.

      The business model cannot be narrowly applied to everything.

      Best question yet:
      MainLineTaxpayer asks, “How much are you willing to pay for schools?” The answer to this needs to come from our entire community – not just the vocal anti-tax, anti-union residents. Nor just from those who have children in district schools. It needs to involve everyone.

      Ray, re the $2 million FB figure, I believe it was mentioned by Kevin Mahoney on the evening of the vote to limit the tax increase to the Act 1 limit. He was speaking of the sources of revenue and expenditure cuts that would be needed to address the $9.25 million deficit.

      1. C2,

        I, too, “want to see every dollar used to provide the greatest benefit to students”. The jury is out on whether private, for profit schools deliver “superior results”. Let’s say they are just equal. However, you admit the per pupil cost is lower with the difference going to the entrepreneurs who risk their capital to start a business. Wouldn’t the taxpayer be better served with an equivalent product at a lower cost?

        As for health care, we could talk at length, but I’d advocate the same solution. Limit government involvement – remove the tax advantaged status of health care.

      2. Okay — we are only deficit spending by $1.3 million..this year.. ..that’s good? The revenue projections of a $1M rise in transfer taxes better be right — or there will be another $1M from fund balance….oh yes — don’t forget we are now self-insured, and fund balance will be used if we face claims higher than the stop loss.
        They did a great job this year — I agree — but there are more raises in the budget for next year, and those will be compounded every year….MORE? It’s spending money we haven’t authorized…with $6M projected to come from fund balance for the next budget year.

  10. Let’s get some facts straight. C1 is completely right to correct MLT, who makes a statement of fact, not opinion. The School District has finally – more or less – stopped perpetuating the myth about tax increases being offset by static gaming revenue; we don’t need it continued here.

    And there is no escaping the fact that the district has shifted from pre-funding capital and liabilities with tax revenue to funding a portion by issuing debt and using reserves.

    This is good for a transition period, but the fund balance use is unsustainable long term.

    (BTW: Where did C2’s fund balance “upper limit of $2million right at the beginning of negotiations” come from? I don’t recall any Finance Committee or Board meeting where that was stated).

    There’s a risk of conflating teachers and unions, which clearly have different missions. Were the unions to open the contract to slow the rate of compensation and benefits cost increase, then the community could have both MLT’s “excellent older teachers” and the “good young teachers” that the unions have made mutually exclusive. As we go into 2011/12 we’ll see more of that trade-off, although maybe an EIT will fund more of the compensation increases than would otherwise be possible.

    1. I agree with you Ray. I don’t know what the answer is with the teachers union but I do believe that when it is contract time, we all need to come to the table with an open mind and thoughtfulness. I think that some of the benefit packages in place for teachers are over the top based on the crisis in the workplace that many others in this community and beyond are feeling. This is a sign of the times – for most of us, it isn’t that we don’t appreciate the teachers or do not want to compensate them fairly, it’s just that for some of us struggling to stay afloat, we are not in a position to handle much in the way of an increase. Living paycheck to paycheck (with one spouse out of work) I’m struggling to keep my head above water as it is!

  11. I apologize for the reference to $5M from fund balance as if it were this year — it is not. It is the deferral of expenses from this year to next that results in a $5M increase in projected use of fund balance for next year -because this year’s efforts achieve one time savings and deferrals- all other things being equal. Local revenue from real estate taxes this year projects to rise by 3.5%, and projected revenue from transfer taxes increases by almost a million over last year. You can play with the revenue projections all you want — and manage expenditures all you need — but the future expectations from fund balance go from 1.2 this year to $6.9 next year to $17.1M in the 3rd year. While some of this will be offset by future tax increases, clearly further expenditure increases are in the future — and you cannot achieve them easily without a plan to drastically reduce your personnel costs. Is that union bashing? I started this by suggesting that this community (and not just the vocal 25=30% with kids in schools whose taxes pale in comparison to tuition) needs to come to terms with what our willingness to pay means….because we cannot have township leaders touting zero tax increases on a tiny budget (by comparison) and expect the overall costs of living here to maintain a similar outcome.
    So — upper limit of $2M for fund balance — you can achieve that lofty goal by deferring expenses and accelerating revenue. The board has done a phenomenal job working with the admins to get to these numbers, but we have barely put a finger in the dike…with Katrina (PSERS) on the other side….
    Market conditions will affect the amount the district is able — not just willing — to pay teachers…and the shift to distance learning is a beginning step to what every union-dominated industry in this country has done — outsourcing.

  12. We must remember that the T/E teacher has nothing to say about any changes in PSERS.. That is controlled and dictated by the folks in Harrisburg – and while the state wide union may be using it 7 paid lobbyists to wine & dine the legislators, as well as promising voter support for re-election campaigns, we out number the union members – so we need to contact our representatives and mandate a change from the defined benefit program to a defined contribution program for all new teachers.
    Locally we need the T/E teachers to bite the bullet and agree to pay some portion of their health care premiums.
    It is not the salary levels that are causing the dilemma so let’s be specific here.
    With all of the state mandates for integrating special needs students into the regular classrooms – and the reduction in the number of aides – a day in the life of teacher is not a pleasant experience. Going to a private school where the kids and their parents want their children to behave and learn is certainly a better experience. However — when the district is mandated to take all comers – and having the successes that T/E has had in education – stressing salary levels may be an exercise that does not get the desired results.
    I also find it interesting that the salary levels paid to the professionals on West Valley Road – currently at at least twice the level of an average teacher or above.. are not questioned..
    And now to the revenue stream. I would propose that property taxes be capped at the current levels for all families having one child in the district. If the family has more than one student in the district then their tax levels should be multiplied by the number of students in the district. That is – a family having having one student in the district and paying 5,000. a year in school taxes will remain the same but if there are 2 students in the district then the tax level should be 10,000.
    Now – if a property owner ha no children in the district then the tax levels should be reduced by 50%. So a family paying 5,000 in taxes with no children in the district would have their taxes reduced to 2,500.
    I would suggest that this would also extend to families that “rent” and have kids in school. Theoretically the property owner has factored the school taxes into the rental amounts – but if there are multiple kids in the school system – then pay more.
    Now let’s here the crowds roar.

  13. Papadick says, “It is not the salary levels that are causing the dilemma so let’s be specific here.” In fact, the salary levels are a major cause of the budget dilemma in TE. Not only do teacher salaries largely drive the current expense side, they also are the key variable in the pension formula – a teacher’s annual pension is calculated as 2.5% x years of service x average salary over the past 3(?) years.

    BTW, not sure teaching at a private school is a panacea for teachers – private school teachers are often paid 20-30% less than TE’s and while “the kids and their parents want their children to behave and learn”, they also often expect the school to get their kid into Harvard or wherever.

  14. Papa –
    Love your thinking out of the box, but sadly Pennsylvania has a very complicated constitution that prevents any differentiation in tax rates — it’s why there is no senior rate (and the homestead efforts are so convoluted).

    Your ideas about taxing more for multiple kids is a bit too much like tuition. Activity fees were voted down by this board for now.

    The administration payroll is market-driven — supply and demand. I am very disappointed that the board didn’t stick with the plan to freeze those salaries — deciding to recognize “goal attainment” — but base salaries really are competitive. And unlike teachers, whose contracts make changing districts almost impossible (their own choice to negotiate that way), admins can come and go…so there is a premium to keep the ones you have. See previous comments about Great Valley’s new superintendent…

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