Seemingly to show support for the severity of the state’s economic situation, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is encouraging its local teacher union members to consider Gov. Corbett’s request for a one-year pay freeze in the following press release.
Could this be the answer to school district problems? Whether it is the possibility of furlough and school voucher legislation or the current anti-union sentiment that is sweeping the country, I think we should view this as a positive message from PSEA. Do we know how much revenue would be saved by with a one-year pay freeze in TESD?
PSEA President responds to Governor’s call for a one-year pay freeze
PSEA President Jim Testerman released a March 16 statement responding to Gov. Tom Corbett’s call for school employees to consider a one-year pay freeze.
Testerman released the following statement:
“The education professionals in the Pennsylvania State Education Association have been willing to be good public partners and tackle tough issues before, and we’re willing to do it again.
“We hope to prevent a $1 billion cut in state education funding, but we also realize that tough economic times have hit many of our public school districts.
“We have serious concerns about some of Gov. Corbett’s proposals, but we want to do our part to ensure that our students’ education does not suffer as a result of the worst recession since the Depression.
“As part of his budget proposal, the governor requested that education employees accept a one-year pay freeze. The governor stated that this decision is ‘determined at a local level and arrived at by contract and collective bargaining.’ As president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, I concur.
“I encourage PSEA members to seriously consider this request.
“Today, I sent a letter to the presidents of all PSEA locals. I encouraged them to enter into discussions with their school boards about a pay freeze or other cost-saving measures to maintain class sizes and academic programs. In some communities our members have recently agreed to economic concessions to maintain class sizes and academic programs. Their contribution must also be recognized.
“Such cooperation can help to preserve the academic gains made in Pennsylvania’s public schools over the last decade.
“Our scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ‘Nation’s Report Card,’ are among the country’s best. Our students showed progress in all academic subjects and grade levels. And seven of 10 graduates are going on to higher education.
“We need public partners to join us in our effort to advocate for our public schools. PSEA calls on parents, caregivers, and community leaders to ask legislators to prevent the cuts to school funding. A pay freeze alone will not be enough to preserve the programs our students need to succeed in the future.
“Despite the difficult economy, we must remember that students only get one chance at a quality education. Pennsylvanians must not permit this recession to rob our children of the opportunity public education provides to prepare them for a better future.
“Pennsylvania’s schools are among the best in the nation. PSEA remains steadfast in its commitment to provide a quality education to the 1.8 million children who attend our public schools.”
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Good reporting, Pattye!
This could make a big dent in the projected $4.6 million deficit**, but of course the devil is always in the details. According to the Finance Committee materials, next year’s contractual salary increases for the TEEA will increase expenses by $2.915 million. There’s another $51,000 increase related to summer workshops, and, relatedly, $168,000 of increases for TENIG members.
But how would this work? Extend the contract one year and everyone jumps up two steps next year? That would not be a good deal at all. And of course, everything is left to the local level, where we know positions are hardened.
** The $2.2 million deficit figure quoted elsewhere excludes the $1.3 million of state cuts and is after $1.1 million of fund balance use.
After a day away, I expected to return to more commentary than just John and I!
I hope that the School Board has moved into high gear, though. If there is to be any good come of this, they must be out front in the political game, or else they’ll just get bad press for turning down a meaningless union offer.
Here’s hoping that something along the following lines is under way:
1. Articulating the district objectives and a strategy to achieve them
2. Appointing a board member accountable to getting that done. Possibly Kevin Buraks: a lawyer, a new face and someone who will be around next year
3. Issuing a press release
a) Applauding the PSEA for “want[ing] to do our part to ensure that our students’ education does not suffer”
b) Stating readiness to entertain any proposal that addresses the long term viability of the district’s finances
c) Supporting the right of all employees to collectively bargain for fair and reasonable working conditions and compensation
d) Quoting the student who spoke on Monday about the TE family
e) Quoting Kevin Mahoney’s tour de force Monday speech about the impossibility of the district’s position
4. Sending the above release plus transcripts and video clips of the statements to all local media: blogs, TV stations, print
5. Retaining the strategic and lawerly services of our own JP, pro bono
6. Many more things that others can doubtless suggest
So, I see that Perkiomen Valley has settled for what looks to be no change in the matrix this year (but the 2.5% steps remain!), and then the matrix resumes its upwards march thereafter. Note that the TESD budget holds teacher compensation flat. The PVSD union is required to pay an extra 3% and 5% of the healthcare premiums in the two out years. 3% of $75,000 salary = $2,250 (pre-tax); 3% of $15,000 premium = $450.
And Radnor has a tentative agreement – but its taxpayers won’t know what that is until after “the two sides vote on it, …. district spokeswoman ….. said”. WTF!!! This lack of transparency is what got School Districts into trouble in the first place. We must campaign against it here in TE.
Sorry, that’s accountable “for”, not “to” getting that done.
The PVSD settlement is another example of how school boards mortgage the future and fool the public.
The future is mortgaged because the 3rd year of the contract (the budget that will be discussed next year) at about 5.5% far exceeds the projected Act 1 Index plus exceptions. Next year’s board will either require a referendum or severe personnel cuts. But that’s next year and who worries about long term sustainability? The first year is manageable because the Index was high (2.9% + exceptions) and the salary increase was moderate (2.5%). The second year is manageable because the health care plan change offsets some of the the salary and PSERS increases.
The public is fooled because they think contracts that can be funded under the Index are reasonable. The public fails to realize that they are paying far more than is necessary to attract and retain teachers. In this economy a 0% increase would still have applicants flocking to any PV job posting. (the TE salary schedule takes this concept to a ridiculous extreme)
Unfortunately, a solution to the fiscal crisis is beyond the TE School district and beyond the T/E Taxpayers. The pressure needs to be put on the state to make it possible for School districts to continue on. The temporary assistance only went so far.