Pattye Benson

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Sen. Dinniman Speaks out re State Teacher Union, Pennsylvania State Education Assocation (PSEA). . . Where’s the Cooperation . . . Is this an Indicator of the Future?

I think that we all agree that there is a looming pension funding problem in the Commonwealth. Knowing this, I read with interest of the Harrisburg meeting yesterday calling to attention ongoing issues between the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the State Education Committee. Sen. Dinniman is the minority chair of the Education Committee and is obviously frustrated and spoke out regarding the lack of cooperation on part of the teacher union. (Article on this subject appears in today’s PA Independent, see below).

For those that are interested, here is the link for the TESD teacher’s collective bargaining agreement, 2008-2012. I am not sure exactly when contract negotiations begin for the next contract but in review of the contract, I found the following which may indicate that discussions on the next contract would start in 2011. Is this correct? Tomorrow is the scheduled date for Methacton School District teacher’s strike . . . however, in an effort to ward off the strike there is a negotiation session scheduled for 8 PM tonight between the Methacton School District and teacher union representatives. I’m guessing that the Tredyffrin-Easttown teacher local president Peter DePiano will be closely watching Methacton.

Understanding that the demographics of the District will impact the matrix, the parties agree to a joint labor-management committee which will convene in the 4th year of the agreement to discuss possible strategies to keep increment costs down.

With our own school district beginning to have serious discussions about funding next year’s school budget, the article is timely. We know that the funding deficit in the school district for 2011-12 may be as high as $8.5 million, based on this week’s Finance Committee meeting. Understanding ways to handle the school district deficit . . . increasing property taxes, cutting school district programs and staff or imposing an Earned Income Tax (EIT); the upcoming School District meeting on Monday is important. The School Board has arranged a public EIT presentation by the Pennsylvania Economy League at Conestoga HS auditorium, 7:30 – 9 PM, Monday, October 18.

Education reform debate foreshadowed in Pa. legislative meeting
October 14, 2010
By Eric Boehm PA Independent

HARRISBURG, Pa. — If Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Education Committee is any indication, education reform could be an explosive issue in Harrisburg next year.

During a day-long hearing on the potential expansion of school choice options in Pennsylvania, state Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), told representatives from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) that reforms would only be possible with cooperation from the state’s largest teachers’ union.

Apparently, such cooperation has been difficult to come by. “We can’t engage in a dialogue with you guys,” said Dinniman, minority chairman of the committee. “Either we talk or we don’t talk. Because if we all pass in the night saying we care about kids, and we never come together to talk, then the kids of this commonwealth are going to suffer.”

Dinniman told PSEA Treasurer Jerry Oleksiak committee members were very frustrated at being stonewalled by the union for several months. He said repeated attempts to set up a meeting with union leaders have been cancelled or ignored, and lobbyists hired by PSEA have publically “made nasty comments” about himself and Senate Education Committee Chair Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin), another supporter of school choice programs.

The PSEA opposes expanding school choice initiatives, including vouchers and charter schools, because the organization claims they put traditional public schools at a disadvantage for funding.

“We know what works,” said Oleksiak, who pointed to several successful public school districts in the state. “We need targeted, direct resources into what we know works. Long-term, bi-partisan commitment, put the ideology aside. We need to address public education as a key civil right for the students in our Commonwealth.”

Dinniman said it took him nine months to get a list of educational priorities from PSEA when he was working to craft legislation, which he said made him wonder if PSEA’s commitment to students was “only window dressing.”

Wednesday’s hearing was meant as a preview for what is likely to be a major policy issue next year. Both major gubernatorial candidates have signaled their intent to pursue school choice initiatives if elected. Piccola said the cost of public education has become too much for the state’s taxpayers to bear. On average, Pennsylvania taxpayers spend more than $13,000 per student in the state’s public schools, and funding has increased by 40 percent over the last eight years. Despite the increase in spending, Piccola said student achievement has been flat statewide.

“We have to figure out how to spend the money we do have more efficiently. And it is quite clear to me, and I think it is quite clear to Sen. Williams and Sen. Dinniman, that the systems we have created called public schools are not performing,” said Piccola.

Piccola, Dinniman and state Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) plan to introduce legislation in January to expand the number of charter schools in the state and create a voucher program to give more families access to alternative public schools.

Both major gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania have promised to make school choice a priority of their administrations.

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  1. Can Sen Dinniman or anyone else point to any scientific studies that compare the performance of students randomly assigned to a charter school (no different parental demographics, interest in education, etc.) with the that of students in the same district’s public schools?

    Clearly there are many intertwined factors at work here, but I do believe that siphoning off students into charter schools is not the answer unless the family variable is removed.

    While we’re on education research, how about a study comparing performance of similarly randomly selected students under teachers from the top quartile of college graduates (as in Finland) vs those from the bottom quartile (as in the US)?

  2. All this will be quite interesting. Sen. Dinn background from West Chester, which produces teachers, clearly gives him a major heads up on the general attitude of the PSEA and teachers preparing college students to teach.
    Politics and religion are tough topics — but salaries are even tougher. Fair Share makes being a union member essential — and the union leadership locally has to make a decision about what they believe is best for TESD and TEEA vs. what the PSEA says is good for “all teachers.”
    Charter schools are an illusion, but since they loosen up the requirements for union representation, they represent a threat to the PSEA….and to public schools. Because they won’t randomly siphon off people. The public schools will be like the inner city model — the kids who want to learn will go one place, the kids who either cannot learn or do not have the support system (family) in place will go another. Highest correlation to success in school is family expectations.

  3. My question to Sen. Dinniman: Are you frustrated enough with the Union to craft legislation to remove their right to strike? I would think that would get their attention.

    1. He doesn’t have to “craft” the legislation. It is there. He has had the chance to sign-on to it as a sponsor since the day he got there.

  4. A few facts:
    -Teachers in PA can strike. This puts School Boards in a horrid position. Give in to unreasonable salary demands or take a strike, which harms education and really inconveniences working parents. As a result, we get contracts like our current one in TE with 5%+ raises every single year. Our teachers got over 20% in raises over 4 years. (Next contract negotiation is 2012, after the next School Board election in 2011.)
    -TE cannot lay off teachers for economic reasons- by state law.

    Our legislators have done nothing to fix either problem. Nor have they been willing to tackle real pension reform.

    Unless we get the unions under control we have two choices:
    -Big Tax Hikes (including an EIT!)
    -Continued Service Cuts (class size increases, possibly even busing if the economy doesn’t improve)

    1. Means plenty. Means the unions think it’s business as usual == and their power to say no triumphs as a form of blackmail. Of course, I’m presuming the offer was fair — which under state law it was because you cannot make less than you already make (Maryland teachers took a 2% pay cut in this year’s contract).

      Read and learn about it.
      My old negotiating phrase — keep a good job or lose a great one. If they won’t control their salaries, then the district will control the numbers they hire and the class sizes. It’s that simple — and yet — teachers need to understand how their 7 hour days and cadillac benefits influence the public sentiment.

    2. I suspect it means quite a lot. The Radnor teachers had the prospect of falling significantly behind T/E in the compensation leapfrog stakes.

      2009/10 was the last year of the Radnor contract. They are on a matrix that is very similar to T/E’s except that a) there is no additional column for PhD, but there is one for Bachelor’s plus 24 credits, and b) there are 15 steps rather than T/E’s 16. (Just a side note: when that 15th year is reached, the average salary goes up 19%).

      If we straight average all the relative salaries for 2009/10 with minor adjustments for the different structures, T/E’s matrix is just 1.5% higher than Radnor’s. Now, here’s the rub: T/E’s matrix is headed up 10% over the next two years on the existing contract – so then Radnor is 12% behind. Plus paying 1-2% for health insurance.

      No wonder they don’t want to accept a “6-9.7% increase over three years” (numbers from the Radnor School Board). The union is stating that “the district’s failed proposal would have detrimentally affected most teachers’ positions on that step-based matrix, causing some to be frozen in place or drop back steps”.

      One thing that I know for sure, without the details of the proposed salary matrix it is impossible to know the real story in Radnor. I really hope that this data for the next TEEA contract is made available for citizen input before it is agreed to by our representatives on the School Board.

      1. “The Radnor teachers had the prospect of falling significantly behind T/E in the compensation leapfrog stakes.”

        This isn’t accurate Ray from my understanding of the Radnor schedules. What are you basing this on?

        No schedule matches up — it’s the top to bottom number that compares. I can tell you that you need to look at who is on the bargaining team and where they are in the employee matrix to understand where they try to put the money. Small raises between two steps usually means no one is on that step. And the “negotiations” are about the aggregate costs of moving the matrix through the schedule. I don’t know who does their schedules — often the union spreads the money once they agree on the total costs.

        1. Andrea:

          I just overlaid the T/E 2009/10 matrix right on top of the Radnor 2009/10 matrix, with the exception of the BA+24 step that TE does not have, I compared Radnor’s MA+60/PhD to T/E’s PhD, and I duplicated Radnor’s step 15 into step 16 to match T/E’s steps.

          Now if the steps mean different things (1 year vs 2 years?) then this analysis is all wrong of course. Since the matrices and the numbers they contain are so similar, though, I think the analysis must be close.

          Radnor’s starting point in 2009/10 was $47,591.

          Again, because T/E comp keeps on growing for 2 years, but the Radnor and arbitrator proposal is to slow up the increases, the Radnor union risks falling behind.

  5. I’m not interested in paying an additional tax (an earned income tax) to help pay for raises for the teacher’s union members when many in our community aren’t getting raises but instead are getting pay cuts or laid off. It is time that everyone share in the current economic situation.

    Regarding an earned income tax – I don’t think it is fair to make working class residents pay an additional tax when those in the community whose income is primarily “unearned” will not have to pay. To me, it is an issue of equity.

  6. So, T/E parent, here’s the problem. The teachers and other staff at T/E are under contract that specifies pay increases for the next two years. The unions have shown no sign of voluntarily reworking the contract, so it would be hard and legally expensive – even if it were possible – to avoid paying the increases.

    So how do you pay? A combination of the following?
    1. There are program cut ideas, but they can only be implemented if there is staff attrition. Maybe doable over the course of a couple of years, but parents may not be too happy..
    2. You could draw down the fund balance, but that’s only good for 2-3 years, you jeopardize the borrowing capability (required for capital projects), and then the revenue gap you have to make up is huge, unless you negotiate compensation reductions in the next contract.
    3. Property tax increases. The historical choice, but the rate has gone up >50% in the past decade – double the rate of inflation. No wonder the housing market is in a slump.
    4. Implement an EIT or PIT. Advantages of an EIT: many residents are paying it anyway to other jurisdictions, low cost to collect, diversifies the tax base, directly related to cash flow. Fewer (many fewer?) jurisdictions have a PIT, it’s high cost to collect, and investment income rates have been decimated (see T/E’s own income statement for proof of that).

    The difficulty of these choices is why the community deserves a full debate and the chance to make its voice heard through the voting booth next May.

    Just a follow up on the Radnor contract: if I have the numbers right, and if Radnor eventually settles for increases close to the current offer, the TEEA may have less leverage next year, although doubtless there will be places in the matrix to cherry pick. The outcome there is very important.

  7. Want some idea of the complexity you are considering? This is way more than many if not all of you want to read — but here’s SOME of the language in the current contract for TESD.

    THIS is relating to raises based on education:

    Irrespective of reimbursement, additional educational credits will only qualify for horizontal movement on the Salary Schedule if approved in advance
    by the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Staff Development and Planning or his/ her designee. Online credits, up to six (6) credits per year, may be
    earned when the credits are part of a Master’s or Doctoral program from a nonvirtual institution, such as Penn State Great Valley Center.

    With regard to movement on the salary schedule, three (3) credits of the fifteen (15) permitted in a contract year may be online credits from a nonvirtual
    institution, such as Penn State Great Valley Center.
    No credit from virtual institutions such as the University of Phoenix will be permitted.

    Each 15 credit increment must include nine credits from a degree granting college or university. The remaining credits may be earned through Pennsylvania Intermediate Units.

    Here’s language based on other earning programs:

    The Employer shall remunerate members of the Bargaining Unit called upon to provide homebound instruction during the term of this Agreement
    at no less than $47.83 per hour as of July 1, 2008; $50.22 per hour as of July 1, 2009; $52.73 as of July 1, 2010; and $55.37 as of July 1, 2011.

    Note that this is for work after the contract day (7:35 minute contract day)….typically voluntary on the part of the teacher. Market driven based on tutoring costs, but paid for by the district.

    4.02 SCHOOL DAY
    Except on the parent conference days, the Employee scheduled work day shall be a continuous period of seven (7) hours and thirty-five (35) minutes for secondary (5-12) Employees, which is 2,275 minutes per week. For elementary Employees, the work day shall be scheduled within the parameters
    identified in Section 4.10 and will be 2,275 minutes per week. Each Professional Employee shall have a thirty (30) minute duty free lunch each day. Two (2) work days per year may be scheduled to provide for evening parent conferences. The schedule for this day will be mutually agreed to by the Employer and the Bargaining Agent.

    The Employer agrees to allow the Bargaining Agent thirty (30) paid days for union business during the contract year. The TEEA will reimburse the Employer for the cost of substitutes for the total number of days over twelve (12).

    4.091 Individual Preparation Period
    A “preparation period” is defined as the time during the work day when a member of the Bargaining Unit shall be released from instruction or student contact and be free from other responsibilities, including meetings, except for teacher initiated meetings, in order that such time may be used for teacher-directed preparation for instruction.
    Each full time Bargaining Unit member shall receive an average of two hundred twenty-five minutes per week of preparation time within a range of two hundred to two hundred fifty minutes per week in any particular week and a minimum of one preparation period per day. Each preparation period shall consist of a minimum of 30-minute blocks of time at each level. Other released time beyond two hundred twenty-five minutes per week may be used at the District’s discretion for additional preparation time and/or non-teaching assignments (NTA).

    Here’s a sample from the Salary Schedule for 2010-11 school year — TESD has 7 “levels” of education recognition: Bachelors, Masters, Masters plus 15 credits, Masters plus 30, M+45, M+60 and then PhD. So, each step of the salary schedule has 7 numbers — for whatever level the employee achieves prior to Feb 1 of that school year. In this contract, Step 1 is the starting salary for a new hire with no prior teaching experience. Step 16 is the 16th step on the schedule, which takes 16+ years to reach. Once you reach the last step, the “only raise” the employee gets is the amount added to the last step, which is why the gaps between steps gets bigger each year. Some employees are on the final step for 15+ years….
    For the record, the PSEA advocates a 10 step schedule — taking the employee to max in year 10. TE has had more than 16 steps, but many districts have many fewer steps.

    B / M / M+15 / M+30 / M+45 / M+60 /PhD
    1 a- 48,700 b-49,900 c- 50,700 d-53,000
    e-55,000 f -55,600 g- 60,000

    These are the numbers for the 16th step for this school year:
    16 a- 89500 b–95400 c-98400 d-99,400 e-101,500 f-103700 g-106400

    These are the numbers for the 1st and 16th step for the next school year
    remember — step 1 is people who are NOT working for us — so this is negotiated based on market driven issues — or to keep the growth from step 1 to step 2 from being too big….

    1 a-50,250 b-51,100 c- 52,100 d- 54,450
    e-56,550 f- 58,600 g- 62, 500

    16 a – 90,000 b-95,900 c-100,900 d 101,900 e- 103,000 f-106,200 g-110,900
    The raises on the a-d level on the 16th step are insignificant, but if you could see the matrix (which you can — you need to ask to see it), you would find that few if any people are on that step (so no one is advocating for raises there).

    Salary Schedule — this is the term used for the salaries spread over 16 steps with 7 horizontal levels.

    Matrix: this is the term used for the placement of employees on the schedule. The Matrix is made up of all the bargaining unit members and where they are on the current schedule.

    The total cost of the salaries for any year are the matrix FTEs multipled by the salary scheduled

    When a district says its salaries are going up 4%, that means NOTHING to any individual. It means the AVERAGE SALARY of all employees is going up by 4% as a total number. Plus, you can look at the language of a contract — the “increase” attributed to the schedule is typically stated for the same number of days from the prior year. IF a district is able to “add” a day to the work year, they typically pay for that extra day, but do not include it in the calculations. TE was very guilty of this in the 80s — though 2010-2011 went up one work day and I am not clear on whether or not their stated increase included the cost of that day or if the increase was calculated and then each employee got a 1 day raise. (On a $75,000 salary, one day would equate to about $400 raises)

    So — the starting salary in 2010 is $48,700. The starting salary for 2011 is $50,250.
    For the record, Lower Merion and Radnor do not have contracts in place right now — but the 2009 number for LM starters was $48,973….. with a $2,000 raise to the next step.

    Way more than many can digest — but a reminder that constitutionally no matter how much you adjust the salary schedule, any employee on the matrix may not make less the next year than they already do…and it is typically stated that the schedule is place is the one considered contractual, so they can and probably would grieve any reduction in their anticipated “jump.”

    Solution — freeze them on their steps.

  8. Thanks Ray for your Radnor numbers. I see where your analysis comes from. The issue we cannot contemplate is that we don’t know where their people are on the matrix — so we dont’ know how the schedules match up.

    By the way — the “schedule” refers to the salary numbers. The “matrix” is where the people fall. Just a matter of terms — but without knowing where their key people are (and that does drive the horse), it’s hard to understand. It’s one of the reasons I was so fortunate to work with the union when I did — we did 6 years on the contract, but we only produced the first 3 years of the schedule for the membership to consider. We did the final 3 years with parameters — which allowed us to “fix” the big steps. We also took the first/starting step OFF the salary schedule, based ont he notion that the TEEA doesn’t need to represent someone we have yet to hire. Allowed us to hire people off the schedule at lower costs based on their undergraduate record and performance.

    When we did the years, we included significant health care costs IN our salary costs, so the amount we put towards the schedule was less than the combination of the matrix and the schedule. One of the complications now is that the union leadership is taking much more direction from the state (according to what I heard). The PSEA is not at all concerned about TESD — only their state goals. When the locals will work with the district, it can and is fair for everyone without huge jumps. Just watch who is in the bargaining group — that is where the money often goes.
    Thanks Ray. By the way — Radnor and TE look to Lower Merion….they overpay any and every level, disregarding market forces and thereby creating market forces.

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