Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Is T/E School District the next Neshaminy?

Today marks the first day for teachers striking in the Neshaminy School District. Over in Neshaminy, the teachers are starting the week on the picket line; also marking the second strike of the year. If you recall, in January the Neshaminy teachers were on strike for 8 days. The Neshaminy teachers and the school district have been locked in a vicious contract debate for 4 years with neither side willing to budge – sticking points in the bitter contract dispute is healthcare and salary. It is my understanding that the teachers want a 5% salary increase retroactively for the last 4 years. Additionally, the teachers healthcare package is completely funded by the taxpayers. The Neshaminy teachers have said that they will contribute to their healthcare costs going forward. However, it should be noted that I can find reference to the teacher’s offer to help with healthcare expenses but I am unable to find anything in writing to that effect.

As I wrote in January of this year, the teachers in the Neshaminy School District are the highest paid in the state but if we look at PSSA results, the Neshaminy School District doesn’t even make the top 50 in the state, coming in at number 245 among Pennsylvania’s 500 districts. Over half of the Commonwealth’s school districts have outperformed Neshaminy on PSSA tests for the last 10 years. Compare that to Tredyffrin Easttown School District and the ranking of third in the state. If the highest paid teachers, working in a school district that underperforms 50% of all other school districts in the state, are willing to strike twice in 6 months … what does that mean for other districts with teacher contracts pending?

Should the reward for the excellent education students receive in Tredyffrin Easttown School District be the threat to our teachers of demotion? Some readers have suggested on Community Matters, that the school district has nothing left as a contract negotiating tool but the threat of demotion and the increase in class size. The teacher’s contract is up in less than 30 days, June 30. As a community, are we prepared for a similar battleground as Neshaminy School District has experienced for the last 4 years? Isn’t there a better way?

I used to think a teacher’s strike was not possible in T/E – my Pollyanna view of the world believed that both sides would somehow just ‘work it out’, agree on the contract and everyone would be happy. I no longer think that outcome is likely to happen. If, … the T/E school board decides to demote any of the seasoned, senior members of T/E teaching staff (for economic reasons), I truly believe that the road ahead may well lead to a District teachers strike. I don’t claim to have a crystal ball so here’s hoping that my hunch is wrong and that there is still hope for peaceful resolution in the days to come.

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  1. Pattye —

    I sadly agree that a strike is probably coming and stated such months ago. For the Teachers’ Union, a strike makes sense: it holds the community hostage and gives them more power.

    What also makes sense is for the Teachers’ Union to talk like they want an agreement but never agree. This tactic makes them look good for public relations while preserving their unsustainable salaries and benefits.

    At the end of the day, the Teachers’ Union holds more cards in this negotiation than the school board. It is up to the public/taxpayers to stand by the board in the case of a union if they want to see real changes for the future.

    Only if the PSEA/TEEA see that the public is turning against them will they begin to truly negotiate.

    1. Being on the inside…no one wants to strike…at all….I really don’t think a strike would/will happen!

      1. Pattye
        Don’t blame your “Pollyanna” view….districts with resources don’t typically face strikes, as they have the resources to purchase labor peace.
        So many of our teachers are parents and taxpayers, a picket line is hard to imagine. But Mr. Rosin’s article ought to be a warning shot to anyone who is confused about this process — as he DOES represent a traditional teacher perspective. And Unions universally believe they are there to protect their membership — fight for them. With such bellicose phrases surrounding the whole act of collective bargaining, there has to be some reference to a fight/assault to substantiate the process….otherwise, why would they be needed?

        We have to think of unions in two components — public sector and private sector. Private sectors are ruled by stockholders and a bottom line — and if the union doesn’t work with management, it all goes down the drain. In those cases, power is important, as there are lots of ways to make money — and management can just liquidate and move on.

        But public sector is different. There is no “bottom line.” There are no protections inherent in the system — until Act 1. Districts were handcuffed by a determination that the state would set revenue limits. But the state doesn’t have a state contract, and the state hasn’t applied similar limitations on the unions.

        Who cares if there is a strike? If there it, it would be so short it would be nothing but annoying. Much like the grievance about e-learning and now teaching the 6th period. I understand why the grievances are filed — I do — “protecting” again. But the reality is — the district has no right to “inherent managerial rights” the way the system is designed. If you want to do something different, you have to litlgate it and hope….because teachers expect raises for any additional time in the classroom. And that comes from history.

        I wonder how many teachers in TESD have ever worked anywhere else….and if any of them have ever worked in a district where the union did need to protect them? There is no history of combat here. And yet, the adversarial approach has heightened. Before the last 2 contracts, there was no PSEA rep at the table. The district didn’t hire a “negotiator”. Resolution came from working together — and finding ideas both could buy into. But don’t think it was ever clever — it was about how much the district would pay for the next contract. It ALWAYS cost more.

        So I am hopeful that the TEEA can be the bigger party in this exchange. Instead of the playbook bashing the opposition, and putting forth hypothetical savings (cost of living increases — savings vs. what they expect, not savings), the TEEA needs to educate themselves about how to take care of their members without promising them MORE. They don’t need $20K health care plans. They do need their jobs. They don’t need raises every year. They might just have to pay for their own education which earns them a raise. How is that unfair in a declining (some would say decaying) economy?

  2. As I have asked before — can anyone explain HOW the Board can claim that there is an economic reason for demotions when there is is a 35 million dollar reserve, there are a number of vacant real estate parcels which can be sold and the District has not utilized all of the revenue opportunities (EIT – Business taxes). Let’s be real here on that subject.

    1. Papadick,

      I think we have covered this before, but to answer your question:
      The fund balance ($32 million, not 35) is designated for known expenses. It is not like a pile of free cash that is just sitting there waiting for someone to think of a way to use it. Compared to projected budget deficits it is really not all that much. Sounds great, but you have to look at the numbers going forward. Parcels if land? Drop in the bucket even if you could sell them (doubtful anyway in this real estate market). Earned income tax? Requires voter referendum and will never pass. It should be abundantly clear by now that the eit is politically unfeasible. You say get real – the foregoing is real.

      1. Kevin
        I am shocked that you as an Attorney can not answer the basic question. The question is how can the District claim “Financial Hardship” when they have a fund balance in excess of 30 million dollars 00 vacant land being held as a balance sheet as “Assets” and several revenue opportunities that have been ignored to date.
        If demotions were to happen I would fully expect that the Union would take legal action – Suit/grievance – and in my mind they would win as no Bankruptcy Judge would find “Financial Hardship” when looking at T/E. So what we would wind up with is just more and more legal fees defending a needless decision.
        If you were the Judge could you rule that T/E is in Financial hardship when looking at all the facts and figures?? If so then I would hope that you were a Judge and I would stop paying my school taxes claiming Financial Hardship.

        1. Papadick,

          Any suit over this would not be heard by a bankruptcy judge. The bankruptcy code is federal law, and is not relevant to the issue. The school district is not declaring bankruptcy. This is a matter of contract under applicable law such ax the school code. “financial hardship” is not the same thing as filing for bankruptcy, and in any event I am sure the board has received legal counsel regarding the issue. I do not know how this might go if litigated, but I am confident that the board would have sought legal advice to make sure they are at least arguably entitled to put demotion in play. I think that given the projected deficits outlined in the “success and sustainability” a good case can be made for financial hardship.

        2. From the Success and Sustainability newsletter currently posted on TE website:

          Annual tax revenue lost from assessment appeals went from $256,651 in 2006 to $3.4 million in 2012. Cummulative effect:

          2008-9 $2.9 Million
          2009-10 $6.3 million
          2010-11 $10.3 million
          2011-12 $13.9 million (projected)

          Projected PSERS payments:

          2012-13 $3.5 million
          2013-14 $4.8 million
          2015-16 $7.3 million

          Future Budget Deficits:

          2012-13 $4.5 million ($1.5 with Act 1 exceptions)
          2013-14 $8.6 million ($2.8)
          2014-15 $12.5 million ($3.7)
          2015-16 $16.6 Million ($4.4)

          The TEEA proposal ADDS to the deficits.

          Now, if the budget cannot be balanced by contract, cuts will be made to the educational program such as increasing class size. There is the “hardship” to go with the “financial” numbers above. I think a case can be made for “financial hardship”.

        3. The problem is that financial hardship can’t be proven by projections out in the future, especially as far out as TE is trying to make the case here. Today, this year, right now, there isn’t financial hardship. There’s no way around that and what the funds may or may not be committed to is irrelevant . Eventually, there will be financial hardship without something changing, but there’s no way TE’s going to win a lawsuit that arises from demotions without regards to seniority this year trying to use a financial hardship case. And while it’s great to say that some revenue sources (i.e. EIT) are politicall unfeasible, it’s harder to make that case in court if they’ve never been tried or put to a vote. The financial hardship of one of the wealthiest districts, with money in reserve, being taxed at one of the lowest rates in the state will be hard to sell in court. Plenty of legal stumbling blocks out there for the district right now to risk losing. Although, once we do lose, there will likely be real financial hardship – ironic?

        4. TE Observer –

          You make some good points. It is possible that a court would deny the existence of financial hardship and in so doing cause the very hardship the court denied. This is ironic indeed, only one of many ironies inherent in our current situation.

          One would hope that a court would understand the complexities of school finance and be able to comprehend budget projections. But there is no guarantee of that level of understanding on the part of the court.

          The outcome of litigation is unpredictable – both sides have a risk of loss. When I settle law suits at work, an estimate of our chances of winning or losing the litigation, including all appeals and the cost of litigating the matter to conclusion are always part of our analysis. The teachers have the same problem. You make a good argument for the teachers having the stronger case, but you may be wrong and it is by no means a slam dunk for them. They too have costs, both political and financial, in litigating. Plus they too have some risk of loss. Perhaps these factors will induce them to offer something more in settlement.

          I still think this is all about getting the union to make some concessions – after decades of labor peace, fair (some would say generous) contracts, the board did not suddenly become a bunch of evil teacher haters.

          I hope a deal is struck that everyone can live with and we can all talk about how ironic it is that we were so exercised, when the parties were all the while calmly working out a deal.

        5. There seems to be some misunderstanding about demotions. Specifically, some seem to think that “financial hardship” has to be proven before demotions can take place. Not so!
          Demotions can be for “economy, efficiency or discipline”. Thus, no hardship need be proven. The district only has to claim an efficiency gain or an economic savings. Demotions are presumptively valid and an employee seeking to overturn a demotion has the burden of proving the action was arbitrary, discriminatory or founded on improper considerations. Id. at 536, 535 A.2d at 1233.

          I’m no lawyer, but my knowledgeable sources tell me that demotions of the kind envisioned by TE are routine and case law has been settled long ago.

        6. Well, you should find other knowledgeable sources because they seem to be clearly in the wrong here. TE’s idea of selecting teachers at the top of the wage scale and demoting them, without in reference to seniority, has not been done. Your quote references a case where an employee had a long history of discipline issues. And yes, the burden of proof is on the employee, but that just means who gets to be the plaintiff and who the defendent is. There is no case law precedent for what TE is proposing. And it’s pretty much irrelevant – there’s no intent from TE to proceed with actual demotions – they’ll manage this year with not filling vacancies and if they have to, cutting programs that will then allow them to shed costs that way. Demoting for financial hardship is something school boards around PA are considering, but no one has pulled the trigger on it yet and when it’s been done before it’s always been with regard to seniority. So no, they are not routine.

    2. The reserve will be needed to fund the deficit in the funding of the pension obligation. and to satisfy debt obligations. Its like asking why shouldnt the kids get an allowance increase, we could just use the mortgage payment for that. The cookie jar money has been spent already.

      Like it or not, the comp and benefits level are off market in the Great Recession. Thats a reality. Nashiminy wants 5% raise and fully funded healthcare. In the US in the 50s the UAW got that. This isnt the UAW and its not the 50s.

      Thats the reality. Teachers deserve a fair wage. That isnt necessarily a higher wage, given that the cost of living in T/E is going down (e.g home ownership, mtg, cost to buy a home). Everyone in the private sector is learning to live at a lower earnings level, like it or not. Time for public employees to accept that new reality.

  3. Can anyone answer this question for me, in those four years that the teachers’ have not had a contract, do they still get pay increases??? If not, looks like the school district may have saved some money!!!! For now!!

    1. As I understand it … Neshaminy teachers have worked w/o a contract for the last 4 years. During this time the teachers did not receive any pay increases, which is why they want the 5% salary increase of the new contract to be retroactive over the 4 years. The school district may have saved money by not paying for salary increases for the last 4 years but — if the teachers union prevails in the new contract, the district will play catch-up on that money.

      1. No, the Neshaminy teachers did not get a pay raise during the four years. However, they also pay nothing towards health insurance. So, the savings the district may have seen in compensation was lost in the increased cost of health insurance. Also, the teachers receive a large retirement bonus of $27,500, a figure they hoped to increase to $30,000.

      2. Neshaminy teachers are not working without a contract; they are working under a very lucrative expired contract, which includes FREE Rolls Royce style healtcare coverage. No they have not received raises, or step increases and are contending a savings related as such should be handed them. However, as another poster so clearly pointed, why should the district hand over any savings to the teachers when they have failed students miserably? Particularly, our schools for the most part are older buildings constructed in the 1950’s and now require an estimated $40million in repairs. Their answer to our school board is that they should raise taxes to cover repairs, a truly out of touch viewpoint!

  4. I suggest that everyone look at the face of TE on the national level with a “budget strategy” of demoting the most experienced and educated teachers. Interesting that the article in Education Weekly Magazine was spurred on by a Radnor Teacher. Here is the site:

    1. I’m sure Mr. Rosin is an excellent teacher, but he does not understand the factors that correlate with a district’s academic achievement.
      First, the two major factors that determine a district’s academic performance are parental education and poverty. Second, there is a high correlation between teacher effectiveness and student learning, but we refuse to measure it using value added assessments. Thus, we’re left with the myth that the best teachers are those with the most degrees, the longest tenure and the highest salary.
      It is nice for Mr. Rosin to claim that excellent teachers are the reason for TE’s (or UCF’s or Radnor’s) high test scores. But what about the 250 districts in PA that have below average test scores. Would he place the blame on substandard teachers in those districts? Mr. Rosin’s column is a wonderful example of the disconnect between the thinking of school directors and teachers.
      Many might wonder why the teacher factors (teacher education, teacher pay and teacher experience) are not significant when determining academic achievement. Haven’t dozens of studies shown that teachers are the key to delivering an excellent education? Haven’t we all experienced the magical influence that some teachers have had on our children? Haven’t we seen the recent study reported in the NY Times that measures the long-term favorable student outcomes derived from an above average teacher? “Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain”

      Yes, teachers are the key to education, but the teacher factors we measure teacher education, teacher pay and teacher experience are just not related to teacher effectiveness. The best teachers are not necessarily the ones that have the most degrees, the most experience and the highest pay. It’s the reason the President is doing his best to encourage states to rework teacher evaluation and compensation systems to include performance based measures rather than relying on just degrees and experience. It’s the reason Governor Corbett is investing in value added assessment for teacher evaluation.
      Until we reach a common understanding of what makes a teacher effective, we’ll be in for difficult times.

    2. The linked article shows me exactly why TESD is right to consider the demotion strategy. Rosin may be an excellent English teacher (he introduces us to the verb “derogate”, and has a nice reference to Jonathan Swift’s satirical proposal that the Irish sell their babies), but he can do more than regurgitate emotional statements that have no factual support:

      “What would it say to our students and our teachers if the solution to a tight budget were to take the people who MAY [my emphasis] be the most qualified and derogate the conditions of their employment?”
      What would it say if those people may NOT in fact be the most qualified? As I understand it, there is little or no causation between more certification/degrees and teaching effectiveness.

      “Measurements suggest that T/E is a top-flight district, and thus property values have skyrocketed — understandably and deservedly — and it follows that teachers deserve a lot of credit. Tredyffrin-Easttown should be commended for having kept their costs low through all of this rise in the rankings…”
      “Skyrocketed”? What are the actual numbers? Over what period of time? Relative to what benchmarks? We’ve discussed here before that it does NOT necessarily follow that teachers deserve a lot of any credit were it to be due. And if you look at, say, the 11th grade PSSA rankings provided on, you’ll find that, rather than “all this rise in the rankings”, in the last decade, CHS has fluctuated from a high of #4 out of 615 in 2002/3 to a low of #8 out of 683 in 2010/11.

      So the problem here may not be that TESD is proposing selling a satirical baby, but rather that that the current generation of teachers is in fact selling out the next generation, comfortably watching from their 2.5x annual defined benefit multiplier as it gets morphed into a 50/50-match-up-to-5%-of-salary 401k and as educational programs get cut.

    3. The rosin article is extraordinarily one sided. It would be more balanced if mr. Rosin mentioned act 1 of 2006 which caps taxing authority, economic losses in transfer taxes due to slower real estate sales, and erosion of tax base due to successful real estate assessment appeals.

      He might alsomention that teachers have two extremely fat benefits that taxpayers working in the private sector can only dream of, but never, ever have: a defined pension benefit (he could mention the increase in the multiplier from 2x salary to 2.5x) and a health care package worth $20,000 for which teachers pay around $1000 and that was introduced (for the first time ) in the 2008 contract.

      Finally, he should have mentioned what will happen if a sustainable contract is not forthcoming – namely, cuts affecting the students such as class size increases, and cuts to all non- mandated programs (art and music come to mind)

      If this is the “face of te” on the national stage, it us only because people are only looking at half of the picture.

      1. Thanks to Ray, Kevin and Keith — who actually seem to read the posts and respond to them, rather than just use each comment to reinforce how “unfair” demotion is.

        Mr. Rosin indeed is a teacher who depends on his own stereotyped view of teaching to pronounce the value associated with educators. The Face of TE has two people on the negotiating committee — one is a PhD on the final step, and one has a Masters on the final step. The gap in their pay, and especially in the increases in the past 4 years, is staggering. One teaches German, and the other teaches art technology and skills associated with digitalized media and more. The German teacher makes $15,000 more. He started in TESD in 2000. The Art teacher started in 1997.

        My point is nothing more than HOW can you possibly suggest that the German PhD is worth more than the Art-Technology teacher? You cannot. And ironically, if we don’t solve this economic issue, neither of them will have a job when their departments are dropped, which is the kind of solution the district will be forced to implement.

        Monie — there is NOT plenty of money. Disricts spend income. The income is limited by law. The income goes down whenever there is a successful assessment appeal. Costs need to be restructured. “No chance of a strike” is meaningless. We need to know the chance of a settlement — because historically, every contract was purchased. Raises every year. Every level. No cap on the costs of health care plans. We just cannot do that again. The damage done by this toxic labor environment is incalculable. We have to deal with the economics — not be like our teacher in Radnor who simply scrutinizes an effort to resolve it.

  5. There’s no chance the TEEA is going to strike in the next year, there’s just too much to lose in terms of public sentiment for them to do so and striking, with the restrictions on how long it can go, means that it’s just a way to annoy the public – it isn’t any real negotiating strategy. For at least the first year, with the contract basically frozen as it is currently, the teachers will be fine with status quo. If it drags on for 4 years, or if the board decides to risk the legal process and go with a demotion policy that doesn’t follow seniority (a move they will very likely lose with in court at great expense btw) then sure a strike could happen, but the odds of one happening next year are slim to none.

  6. Going on a picket line is not the same as a strike authorization. there is a long way before that comes into play.
    TE Teacher: Could you please explain the general understanding/view of “work to the contract” which I believe is far more insidious and damaging for all sides.

    1. honestly…if they told us to “work to contract” I wouldn’t do it. That’s ridiculous. I feel that at the elementary level it would be about 50% who would follow it with the numbers increasing (probably significantly) as you go up in levels from middle school to high school.

      I know that if a contract is not reached by the time school is out, we have to vote on if we would strike or not come the beginning of the school year. I feel that a vote of not to strike would win by a large majority, but then it is possible that the work to contract statement could be issued.

      1. TE Teacher–If your voice is even close to the teacher opinion in general, then why don’t you go to Sue Tiede and ask to see other benefit plans and their costs. You could identify a less expensive insurance plan that would provide decent coverage at drastically reduced costs. Ask what the district spent on health care premiums for this year and put together a proposal to present to your negotiators. Since the idea of cutting back on wages is tough, freeze all wages and compute the breakage from the retirements. Put that number in the proposal, and some significant health care cost restructuring. What do you get in return? You get labor peace…this time funded by changes to the concept of compensation…and We can all keep our homes and our jobs. See how your team would respond…I suspect you might be disappointed to learn there is less support to be conciliatory. After all, the negotiators have had their step 10-14 bumps for the most part, so I believe they will push back on the cost reduction idea for health care, despite knowing that retirement contributions (another piece of compensation in fact) are growing so exponentially with NO benefit to the classroom quality or the level of work…like it’s not being paid.

        I would love to be wrong, and have offered to work with the TEEA to do the numbers and educate the rank and file. I believe all the language change requests could be dealt with IF the TEEA put a financial package on the table –not to start the talks, but to finish them.

        What do you think? Would you all like it to go away peacefully…letting you earn what you earn and having access to decent health care that insures your family against a major health crisis…and supports you against major expenses and endorses health care prevention strategies?

        If we can get that done–with a defined contribution for health care, TEEA could be a leader in the state to encourage consolidating locals to bargain with health insurers to provide what you NEED.

        Thoughts? Don’t wait for the board? LEAD the charge. They can’t lament their plight if you all put together a package that addresses the budget and obviates the need for any cost trimming through demotions.

  7. Community Matters is a wonderful forum and so informative.

    But, I’m getting so frustrated and tired with a “few” bloggers who feel that only their “always in the know ” points of view count. Why is it so wrong to “google” real facts pertaining to real issues at hand? I wish to consider the real facts before I open my mouth in an “open” forum and I don’t expect to be hammered because I did my homework.

    Now. . ., No matter how some of you may want to perceive “demotions” it doesn’t represent cost cutting here. The demotion strategy is a verbal threat in order to “shove” some kind of a cost savings “from another source” down the throats of our teachers. And the stupidity of “demotion” has caused so much negativity in this district/community (and across the nation) that eventually, if not already, will trickle down and show up “one way or another” in our students — you know, let’s not forget about why there is a school district here in TE and what “school” represents–education!

    I’m sure the board has been “briefed” on the legality/illegality of demoting in the way this board wants to do it. Other than justifying the board’s high paid attorney why is it still on the table? The School Code (LAW) “in so many ways and words” says you can’t “i.e furlough/demote/reduce” without regards to seniority–maybe that’s why the teacher’s contract doesn’t mention demotion–it didn’t need to. And, just because it’s not mentioned in the contract doesn’t give this board the opportunity to exploit its non-existence. Others on this blog have mentioned the illegality of demoting in this “selective” way and have mentioned the School Code. Other than being an “expensive” legal nightmare, what am I missing?

    If this board wants to “demote” their way, the only way they can is to officially declare and obtain approval for bankruptcy– then an entirely different set of rules aside from the School Code applies in PA–and this board is aware of this. So board, let’s not mention the demotion strategy ever again unless you are planning on bankruptcy and don’t forget to inform us taxpayers if this is your intention.

    The fund balance. . .I feel this community needs to see an official “detailed” accounting of that fund and not just a “catch all” item type of summary.

    Negotiations . . .The teachers are professionals and are negotiating as I can see in good faith, so far. My feeling is that this board has turned the table from the start therefore, they are the side using the infamous “old” version of a union’s play book!

    The budget. . .there’s plenty of money. . . and this “fund balance” will provide plenty for the future. Education has associated costs–get use to it.

    We elect school board members to represent the taxpayer and the education system — And by the nature of their position they (should) represent the successes and failures of this community created by this school district’s actions.

    Board you should have made more of a “fuss” over Conestoga’s recent success when it occurred. But you couldn’t because that would signify that you were backing down from your bold “demotion strategy” which represents a reduction of the teachers importance in education.

    And finally, just because some of us value education, our children, and our community successes, it doesn’t give some bloggers the right to infer that our “little voices” are straight from an infamous union play book just because our views don’t agree with yours! Our “little voices” don’t represent ignorance, cluelessness or union rabble rousing as labeled by some in this forum.

    I’m not a teacher nor union rabble rouser but just an ordinary taxpayer who is very much interested in “what’s happening” in this fantastic community–let’s keep this community and its school district a fantastic one.

    No “one person” should demean the opinions of others by reprimanding those who speak by saying “Enough.” This forum is not a “that’s enough of your opinion” type of forum. All of us have the RIGHT in this forum to voice opinions–Some need to RESPECT that right. Drop the superiority.

    1. Monie, When I wrote the tagline for Community Matters, “Your Voice Matters … Join the Conversation” I did so with purpose. Everyone’s opinion does matter and generally speaking, I don’t think there is one ‘right’ answer anymore than there is a clear ‘wrong’ answer with much of the discussions on CM. I appreciate all the readers who take the time to share their thoughts and opinions on Community Matters. I believe that if we take the time to hear what others are saying, we may actually learn from each other. Thank you Monie for reminding us to respect the opinions of others — we don’t have to agree but I do think we should respect each other.

    2. fund balance… cant use it.. already in play. So instead of being child like, (not you, but us as a whole) we should all fix the structural problems, as an educated and reasonably wealthy community should do.
      lets get a solution, be trendsetters and be done.

      Using fund balance will, from how I understand it, cause these same problems in the following years. Much like the stimulus money that was sent to districts, that is used up. Now what?

      1. No problem with using the fund balance flyersfan!

        Since the board just abolished its class size policy they won’t have to use any teacher vacancy/s money or contingency money as approved in the tentative budget for any additional enrollments because this board will just “stuff” the classrooms with any additional new students and at the same time “stuffs” the fund balance with the savings. A win win situation for the board, but not for students or teachers. Way to go board!

        1. Monie,

          Any savings from contingencies would likely be absorbed by the large and growing deficits. The board would only reluctantly allow attrition and class size increases to balance a deficit budget. Therefore I doubt very much that letting class size increase would result in “stuffing” the fund balance (as if that’s what the board wants to do – that’s about the most cynical thing I have heard in a long time)

          And please, the board does not want to stuff the classrooms either. They may be forced to by circumstances. Way to go board? Really? Would you object if someone said “Way to go legislature? or Way to go teachers?”

    3. Monie
      Mea culpa. Lesson learned. But please ask questions of the district rather than promote googled results. You think we are entitled to info on the fund balance or anything else, it takes 2 minutes to submit a Right to Know request. And assuming that bargaining is being done in good faith is not borne out by history when the PSEA is at the table. Empty offers that ignore reAlities (while assuring us of good intentions) cannot move this process anywhere…and since status quo is not affordable long term, something has to give.
      Relying on the fund balance to pay ongoing costs with non-recurring sources digs the hole deeper. I’m not trying to insult anyone when I point out the unrefined analysis on costs simply lacks expertise and an understanding of government accounting. Don’t ignore info here in favor of googled results. This is a out perception AND reality. Good luck.

  8. What shocked me most about your article, Patty, was the suggestion that non-profits pay a ‘tax’. I don’t have enough space to explain the business/accounting problems with this, but offer this a couple of examples: as the district & township are among largest non-profits, obviously, we taxpayers would be doubly taxed. Secondly, separation of church & state is severed.

    Interpret the data however you will, but do not discount that educated, and involved parents trump all other factors.

  9. Spending money from the reserves and taxing non-profits and ignoring the option of more cost sharing on the part of teachers on their health care insurance and pensions is beyond me.

    The public has reached the tipping point on the excessive cost of public employees. Look at the election results in Wisconsin.

    I challenge anyone to calculate the true hourly cost of teachers and tell me if we need to dig in deeper to compensate them!

    Don’t tell me that T/E schools are great because of highly compensated teachers. Neshaminy schools have highly compensated teachers and the schools are not highly rated due to cultural variances.

    T/E teachers have great jobs with great kids from supportive families who are working a lot harder than you!

    A strike would speak only to the greed of the Union!

    1. Quote: T/E teachers have great jobs with great kids from supportive families who are working a lot harder than you!

      so you are saying that you are working harder than me…and every other teacher?

      I am a TE parent with a TE family….so am i working harder than myself?

      1. TE Teacher
        I know things here are randomly lined up, but I hope you read my post from last night, as I truly would like to hear your thoughts.

        As to people working “harder”…that is not worth responding to. Each of us gives our best. People rarely recognize that teachers run a 6 hour meeting every day, and prepare for the next day minute by minute. There is no reason to compare effort. Presumably we all do “what it takes.”

        TE Observer : we need to be respectful of every person who puts in a day’s work for a day’s pay. The anger can be misdirected by the “collective” nature of teacher pay, and that they can only solve it collectively. Teachers chose teaching and you chose whatever you do. This economy is pressuring almost everybody who works for a paycheck…and we can’t or shouldn’t simplify it to one sector.

        Ideas lead to answers lead to solutions. Let’s brainstorm and not confront?

      2. yes teacher, you could be in a less “desirable” school district than TE.. Open school night, each teacher at every age level, elementary through conestoga opens with how happy they are to be teaching here… they were here there and everywhere and on and on about this place. You don’t often know what you have until its gone……not sure how willing at the end of the day teachers are to bust this up.. and like you, many live here in the district so it is a very nice existence to work and live in the same community… eh?

        1. I moved here because I got a job here…I didn’t apply for a job here because I lived here. I moved half way across the state, away from all of my family, to work here, and was lucky enough to meet my wife here in TE. Either way, what is your point with that comment?

        2. Also, are you saying that because I work in a school district with really bright kids that I don’t work hard?

        3. Flyersfan,
          I too don’t understand what you are trying to say. And, what do you think the teachers are going to say at back to school night?? No matter how good or bad the district is, it is not in the teachers best interest to say anything but good things about his or her employer.

  10. If we think the Wisconsin election is anti-union, I think we are missing an opportunity to learn about how John and Jane Doe feel about having to fund public sector employee lifestyles without regard to what private sector and unemployed people and property owners can afford. Life is not comfortable for middle Americans. No one guarantees our 401k earnings, and we resist supporting any system where the risks and the costs are not truly shared. I don’t believe people object to public pensions…just the public having to underwrite the market risk and getting basically no “credit” for those extraordinary contributions as compensation. It’s not fair to call for a cola to wages when the posers contribution rate far exceeds any cola calculation.

    Thoughts? I think people just want things to be fair in both directions. Teachers in TESD do not endure dreadful working conditions and do not earn substandard wages. The union protection mentalityt just isn’t required.

    1. “I think we are missing an opportunity to learn about how John and Jane Doe feel about having to fund public sector employee lifestyles without regard to what private sector and unemployed people and property owners can afford. Life is not comfortable for middle Americans. No one guarantees our 401k earnings, and we resist supporting any system where the risks and the costs are not truly shared”

      Exactly. This is what many are missing. No one is diminishing teachers’ “worth” or their importance to delivering quality education. What people are feeling – and how they will vote – will reflect a belief…and desire…for teachers to exist in the world in which the rest of us live…on of austerity and tightening and unemployment and 60 hour work weeks and 2 weeks of vacation and a defined contribution plan and contributing substantially for healthcare costs.

      We are not asking for blood – we are asking for a reality check and to become part of the world the rest of us have to deal with every day.

  11. My comments about the Wisconsin elections is not about being anti union….it is simply a bell weather about the stance of the citizens about the limits that need to be established on public sector employee benefits.

    Case in point…..I would like to see a calculation on the true cost of the hourly wage for teachers. And then have them come back for more in addition to threatem to strike if they don’t get it! This is about fairness!

    For economic reasons, entitlements need to examined for public sector employees. It has been addressed in the private sector.

    1. valley forge lady, great idea. In my business from time to time I calculate (or my accountant does) the actuall cost each employee accrues per year. Included are sick days, vacation days, social security taxes, holidays, health benefits.. all included into a de facto hourly rate. It is an eye opener. And for the employees for sure

      1. Calculating the hourly wage of the teachers would be a good tool for the negotiations. I will wager they have no idea of their true cost to the district.

        Yes, they are doing a job with the kids….but so are we the tax payers and we are not getting huge increases in our pay checks or business revenues.

        I want this to be a peaceful process but fair!

  12. thanks to wisconsin, and california in San diego and San Jose, I am getting that Chris Matthews feeling, if you know what I mean. there is hope. barely.. but a rustling is occuring.

  13. Teachers need to be active participants in the economy!!!!! Lord knows we are dealing with the realities of the economy.

    My daughter did well at Conestoga! However, she is working 4 jobs this summer to stay productive and to help pay for her sophomore year and beyond at Drexel U.

    Teachers need to know that they are not entitled. Just like I taught my daughter about working.

    If teachers want more money…..leave the profession and try find more money in the private sector. Since that is not happening….be content with what you have! You are in a good place due to the values of this community but you are really pushing the limits if you demand more…especially if you are not willing to make concessions.

    To those so inclined….this is not political….it is economic!!!!!!

    1. Valleyforgelady,

      It seems as though you have an issue with our teachers. What have they done? Our schools are not only ranked in the top three in Pennsylvania but 279 in the United States…let me say this again the UNITED STATES!!

      I’m sorry but they deserve what they make. When are we going to hold the board accountable for their short comings? You have to know that real estate transfers are not going to fund your budget year after year. They should have been raising taxes each and every year like other districts so we don’t end up hanging demotions over our most experienced and talented teachers and driving morale into the ground.

      Funny how the teachers are constantly on trial here when they have done nothing but a tremendous job with our children day after day. Ask you daughter…..I’m sure she has some fond memories of her TE teachers.

      As far as the grievance is concerned, when you have a work environment for 50 years and your employer changes it you have the right to challenge them. If the teachers sit back and do not where does it stop? What about their rights? Take our teachers off the stand, they have done nothing wrong. In fact they do many things right and at a very high level. The rankings tell the story.

      You get what you pay for. Take your home and move it to the Chester Upland School District and let me know what the value will be as well as where your daughter will be attending college. The reason I bring up Chester Upland is because the board tried to compare our current situation with Chester.

      Simply Shameful! :(

      1. No one is arguing the worth of our teachers. Our school district excels because of the joint effort of our teachers, kids, families, and community. The issue is that the economic conditions have placed a hardship on most households in the community and left a gaping gap in balancing the school budget. Real estate taxes increase last year to generate over $3MM and similar is posed for this year. Loss of income to the school district is real. Taxing homeowners to make up the loss in income to the district and subsidize mandatory pay increases for teachers and increases in PSERS contributions and healthcare increases is the issue. In Corporate America, employees are not guaranteed annual salary increases and benefits without regard to the health of the company that employs them. In Corporate America, we decide if we accept what the company offers, or we move elsewhere.

        1. CP

          I hear what you are saying but the problem here is this is NOT corporate america……not even close.

          Teachers do not receive stock options or a healthy bonus. Our district has flourished and continues to do so on the back of a very strong school district. Many individuals who are in the Corporate world and have transferred chose to move into our district because of the School District, strong property values and very reasonable taxes for the return on investment.

          We can’t have it both ways my friend.

          Take a long hard look around and take inventory of what you are getting for your tax dollars compared to other tax payers.

          We are doing just fine. Sacrifice a dinner or two out next year.

        2. Moral Compass
          Again you ignore the realities. Sacrifice a dinner or two? The district is prohibited by law of taxing you more than they have advised. So stop with the suggestion that teachers are not like corporate America. This is America. We all live together. If the economy can not pay more for the teachers, that is that. To suggest that they deserve more when the well is dry is simply whining.
          The well is dry. And by the way — note that demotion is off the table for another year — and the teachers ahve agreed to give up their educational reimbursements….a decent settlement, but something that was put on the table to get demotions off. It’s give and take — and for the first time in the TESD history, the teachers are having to give and not just take.
          And that’s not to say they take selfishly — they take because they can. Well — there is no more to give. And as a member of corporate America, can’t remember the last time my company gave either stock options or any bonus much less a healthy one. Somehow, those that have just assume everyone has….except municipal workers who simply need.

          YOU can’t have it both ways? What does that mean. You bought a house, you pay your taxes. What other way should it work? Teachers got a job, they get paid.

        3. CP. . .

          It’s not the teacher’s salary and benefits that are causing the financial problem as suggested by some in this blog, it’s the board and its manipulating tactics of the fund balance. Just look at some of the fund balance “commitments” for 2011-12 and see how this board can change those fund balance “commitments” for 2012-13 to suit their wishes. I thought “commitments” couldn’t be used for anything but its designation?? Here’s some examples from June 11, 2012 finance meeting and June 14, 2012 board meeting:

          From June 11 Finance agenda- 2011-12 “approved”fund balance allocations:
          Budgetary Reserve $1,912,500
          Future PSERS Stabilization $15,350,606
          Capital Projects $2,583,165

          From June 14 agenda- 2012-13 “proposed” fund balance allocation:
          Budgetary Reserve $5,150,000
          Future PSERS Stabilization $3,635,440
          Capital Projects $10,387,537- WOW on this one!

          Can anyone out there explain how these “committed” allocations can change if not used as designated? We don’t need $10+Million (tax money) of capital projects going forward. Much of this “new” Capital Projects allocation was previously reserved for future PSERS stabilization–why did that change? Wasn’t Capital Projects going to be “bond” money? How did some of the tax money reserved for future PSERS go towards Capital Projects? Anyone know the answer–Township Reader?

          This district has the money–it’s just the way this board wants to use it.

          Links to mentioned agendas:

          June 11 Finance:

          June 14 Board:

        4. Monie – I am not responding to why fund designations have changed because I have neither sat on the board nor finance committees. My comment is about your stand on the use of reserves to close the budget gap. As the reserves are used to close the budget gap, the mandatory pay increases, increased contributions to PSERS, and rising costs in healthcare coverage will continue regardless of the income generated in the school district. My original comment was in the spirit that companies do not guaranty employee salary increases and benefits over and above what can be prudently funded by the company’s profits.

        5. It has been explained to Monie multiple times by multiple posters why the reserve fund should not be used for recurring expenses such as compensation increases.
          Some people don’t listen.

        6. monie, it IS the teacher’s salaries and benefits that are causing the problems – how they got unsustainable is up to interpretation. (ie. did they ‘manipulate’ the fund balance or did the union ‘manipulate’ prior Boards into giving them too much?)

          Using fund balance to pay teachers IS not sustainable.

      2. moral,

        the flip side of that great teacher is that I have been appalled at some of the unprofessional things teachers have said to my children. I have also been appalled at some of the actions they have taken in the classroom.

        Having said that, I understand that not everyone is perfect all of the time and they are allowed to be human. However, when you have a straight-A child in tears who doesn’t want to go to school day after day due to a teacher’s treatment (not grades, treatment), it is hard to feel empathy for teachers when I read their gold-standard benefit package. Overall, I think the teachers are great and I do my best to let them know that I believe that. They aren’t all Mother Theresa, toiling for the poor though.

        As to the work environment changing over the last 50 years? I should hope so!!! Every other work environment has changed in a much shorter time. I think what many non-teachers try to explain is that our work expectations have had to change. You can’t worry about clocking hours – you worry about getting the job done. I’ve worked some horrible hours to do exactly that. And this latest grievance feels like the teachers are worried about clocking hours when they should be worrying about educating our children the best they know how.

        As to forced demotions? Really, how many German majors in college do we have coming from TE? Is that really the best use of funds? I’d rather see math specialists or reading specialists that affect a much larger portion of the student population. I’m sure that teacher is great, but in the big picture, is that really a wise use of funds? There may not be forced demotion coming, there may just be a total cut of various departments, which has a totally different economic reality. I’m not saying I support that decision, but thinking about the end game and alternatives. I’m not convinced the Board has any real intention of following through on demotions, however, it may just be part of a negotiation strategy.

        I think the teachers, when they file a grievance like this, don’t understand how it plays with the tax-paying public. I don’t think they understand how much the ‘average Joe’ pays in healthcare insurance premiums, co-pays, and medical bills. That is what I find appalling – that they expect to continue with free healthcare as well as significant raises year after year.

        1. a concerned citizen,

          From my understanding the teachers were willing to pay more in healthcare premiums but the board simply ignored their offer while presenting them with 113 pages of cuts.

          When you negotiate, both sides present offers and go from there. Apparently the board has a take it or leave it stance. If they are angry over the current contract then they need to go and take a long hard look in the mirror.

          These numbers and projections they put up during board meetings are just that. Where are these numbers coming from? Of course the board is going to paint a picture of doom and gloom. They can because there are no checks and balances against them. They spend thousands of “OUR” tax dollars printing and mailing out full colored brochures to educate us all on our awful situation while are teachers can not even speak at our board meetings? Why is this? I would like to hear what OUR teachers have to say.

          How much of OUR tax dollars are going to that high priced attorney our board has chosen to represent us? Where has that gotten us so far?

          Like valleyforglady said Let’s brainstorm here. Let the teachers speak at meetings and stop spending thousands of dollars on full colored, first class mailers trying to sway me to think like a board member. Present facts not projections.

          Your comments over some of the things teachers have done in the classroom seems vague to me. I think you have good and bad in every profession. I’m sure you have heard similar comments about Doctors as well.

          When was the last time a Doctor took a pay cut? If they did maybe health care wouldn’t be such an issue. Why do we compare our teachers to the Corporate world? The corporate world is a place where many of the individuals working there do not hold nearly the education our teachers do while making twice as much on top of stock option as well as very friendly bonuses and vacations. You are comparing Apples to Oranges my friend.

          The teachers took a pay freeze this past year which resulted in a savings of one Million dollars. If you average that out every teacher lost about $2,300 (higher for some lower for others) which they will never get back while a tax increase would be about $150. I’m willing sacrifice a dinner or two out each year in exchange for a private school education and a property value I can depend on.

          The notion if the teacher does not like what they are doing, the environment they work in or the money they are making should result in them changing professions is like some one telling you if you do not like the taxes you are paying “just move to another township.” Doesn’t feel good does it.

          Take our teachers off the stand! We are not talking about Chester Upland here. We have the best school district in the State of Pennsylvania and are ranked 279 in the UNITED STATES!

          You get what you pay for and we certainly do here at TE.
          For now that is until we send our senior teachers packing and our other promising teachers join other school districts because they know once they attain the higher salary levels they too will be on the chopping block!

          Funny……why aren’t the admin’s salaries being scrutinized? If we are in a building full of smoke and fire shouldn’t we explore all options? I’m sure the admin would take one for the team (us tax payers) and take a 50% pay cut while only insuring themselves, their family can go on Cobra….right or are we treating the admin as though they are in the Corporate world?

          Last time I checked they are in Education too!

        2. The teachers should keep in mind the fact that significant cuts will have to be made to all programs which are not mandated by the state – unless an affordable contract is reached. If you were a (fill in the blank, non-mandatory program) teacher, and you had the choice between paying more for health care vs. Being laid off, which would you choose? But I am sure that is not how union leadership is framing the issue.

        3. moral, thank you for your comments. I agree with some of your points and disagree with others.

          I cannot state too many details as to actions teachers have taken with children in that I believe it would violate the confidentiality of the process – of both the student and the teacher. Trust me, there have been issues that have been brought forward to administration where the administrator has admitted the teacher was wrong in how my child was treated. Just know that while the teachers are good, by and large, there is also room for improvement.

          As to your comparison to a doctor – that is an ironic comparison, and really an apples to oranges one, because:

          1) doctors ARE taking pay cuts – in the form of regulated payments from the government.

          2) I have free choice with doctors and can choose a different one if I am unhappy with my service. I do not have the ability to choose the teachers my children get (although I know there are “some” parents who dictate teacher choices, I am not in that category). Obviously, I can choose to change school districts (by moving – a pretty onerous process), or spend a significant amount of money for private education, but certainly not simple like changing doctors.

          3) vacation – Teachers get the entire summer off, so your comparison of vacation benefit is ironic, since most teachers get more ‘vacation’ than anyone in the private sector.

          As to the teachers speaking in School Board meetings, they are welcome to do so if they are a taxpayer in the District. However, the School Board serves the taxpayer – that is who they have to answer to. Any teacher who is also a District resident is welcome to speak. Also, teachers are represented by a Union. They have a ‘collective voice’ which is represented by the Union – that is how their voice is heard. It isn’t as if they are silent in the process.

          The teachers deferred their pay raise – not a pay freeze. The two are different. At the end of the year, they were paid their union-contracted rate (with a raise) not the previous year’s salary.

          Ironic, again, that you mention Administrators. Because they did take a pay freeze. I believe they have frozen their salaries for the last 2 or 3 years. Administration works a full-year, works a full 8 hour day (or longer). So, yes, there are differences than teachers.

          Who is proposing a 50% pay cut for teachers? I assume someone since you are advocating that for Administration. Most of them are former teachers and have the option of going back if such a pay cut was enacted.

          Since you want to give the teachers credit for the strong performance, how about the administration? Aren’t they responsible for determining the direction of the ship and ensuring that everyone implements the appropriate curriculum, appropriate standards, and ends up at the right place? They are a 5% piece of the pie, teachers are 75% piece of the pie. How do you close the budget gap? Not with administration cuts (unless you cut the entire administration).

          I understand that you disagree with that high-priced lawyer and the fact that the Board is communicating with residents. Those costs are a drop in the bucket compared to the benefits that teachers receive. Just a small difference in co-pays would more than make up for those costs. Or is it that you don’t like that residents aren’t willing to write a blank check? Or is it that you don’t like that the Board has higher a smart negotiator to represent them? How much does the Union pay for their leadership who don’t ever step foot in the classroom? (Ultimately, the tax payer pays for them, too!) How much does the Union pay for political advertising and lobbying?

          Negotiations, by nature, require extreme positions – so ‘meeting in the middle’ is truly the middle.

          Also, you want to complain about the current contact? Okay, so the Board wrote a blank check (or “bought” labor peace). In some ways, this Board is admitting the last contract was too much – and yet you complain about that. Much of this Board is different than last time, so maybe these members are taking a more hardline approach. If you were unhappy with the last contract, why are you complaining about a Board trying to make realistic adjustments?

          (For the record, the Administration has investigated other health plans and have communicated that at various meetings. They couldn’t find anything cheaper with a similar level of benefits and would have been in violation of the contract had they tried to change benefits.)

      3. Is Neshaminy getting what its paying for? Making the link between teacher compensation and school performance has been thoroughly repudiated.

        Irrespective, its a more global issue. Its not a matter of only our teachers…its a compensation system and benefit structure that simply does not exist outside of public unions. This has been allowed to persist because these unions wield the ultimate hammer…but its gone on way too long and its simply not sustainable any more.

        Teachers should be very happy they were able to take advantage of this structure for as long as they have. Given the economic and budgetary realities, teachers are going to have to take some kind of pain like everyone else…like we all are doing – as we pay for these extraordinary compensation packages.

  14. Let’s brainstorm on how to control the costs of the school district! One component is the teachers….and their high cost health care and pensions. Filing a grievance about teaching another period is not my idea of being in step with the economic realities of today!

  15. The reason they filed a grievance is because they believe that the issue is subject to bargaining. The problem with that is that the teachers would probably never agree to it. The elementary teachers already do what the high school teachers are grieving. But high school teachers write college recs and do more with kids out of class.
    So talk to your legislators people. Even the township police are subject to mandatory arbitration. That’s a risky option, but at least it means things go forward. Our problem (taxpayers) is that even our Governor is clueless about the mechanics of paying for items without having income to support it.

    VF Lady — you are right. ONLY concessions on health care can get this done. I posted last night about an option for a teacher to save the day….hoping we’ll hear some feedback on that. Because if people don’t accept that things must change — then we are all doomed. Our kids will pay the price, because there will be attrition to increase class sizes, and other issues.

    Then again — I again suggest that activity fees should be MUCH higher. If people want to donate to help TESD, then make the donation to FLITE (tax deductible) and designate it to help support kids who are unable to afford the student activity fee. It is the MOST direct way to raise predictable income from the people who most benefit from the activities /programs …and doesn’t require a referendum to pass. It’s asking the parent population to invest in their kids education beyond their property taxes, which no matter WHAT you pay annually doesn’t come close to what the value of a single year of education costs. That helps with the income by directly focusing on the things that make our schools special.

    1. Township Reader

      I feel, that it’s really not up to your selected “teacher” to promote an alternative healthcare plan to the TESD. The employer (TESD) in this case should have been shopping “the plan/s” in preparation for negotiations. And it’s this employer that should have the alternatives already “researched” to present to the union in their proposal after all, it’s what the district can afford, right? It’s not only easy to reduce healthcare expenses by “cutting” family coverage –it’s just plain lazy! SHOP AROUND!

      There are a few out there who feel the teachers “control” the contracts and that they need to be more supported of the financial realities–but are you considering who “approves/approved” all the contracts? Not the teachers, right?

      Your comment (example) regarding the “staggering” difference in pay for an art tech teacher with a masters degree and German teacher with a PHD with both being on the same step is, I feel, not thought through. Why wouldn’t you want to reward an employee who acquired advanced studies pertaining to their profession? The board encouraged advanced studies so why not reward it?

      The previous board who approved this salary schedule that “rewards” advanced study was brilliant! Just can’t understand why this present board doesn’t support the “brilliance” of that previous board.

      The previous board knew what they were doing in regards to teacher compensation–they supported teacher “advanced” studies even though the economy wasn’t any better 4 years ago. Great job former board–education matters!

      1. Monie: C learly you are brand new to this dance. Have you read about the history of teacher negotiations on PA? Boards buy contracts. They bid up from the starting offer until the teachers say yes. The teacher ratification only comes when the team believes they have pushed far enough. Never before has the district started with requests for major concessions…because before, there was money. How much was all that was in play. So your view of how it works is not accurate. The last contract seemed fair to the then board based on what the economy projected…who knew 4 years later, a full Obama presidency, that we would still have no plan in the US to resuscitate our economy. It’s part of the reason Obama suggests major changes to teacher compensation, highlighting merit pay.

        Moral Compass…again you tell us you would be willing to pay more property taxes…but thanks anyway…imposing those taxes is not legal…so again–cannot change income so need to adjust expenses to get a balance.

        But anyone who reads here to learn should know that by now. refusing to face the facts of our dilemma can poInt your compass wherever you choose…but in fact you are merely turning your back on reality…which is PSEA training. “Don’t tell me what you want, tell me what I’m getting…and it better be more!”

    2. FLITE is for the underprivileged in the district. They have said they do not want to be the collection agency for other types of donations. They have a mission and would like to stick to it. There is a new link on the tesd website to make a tax deductible donation directly to the schools.

      1. FLITE will do what the community needs. It is for the kids who cannot afford what the system costs. Think bigger.

  16. Township Reader – I applaud that you are exploring other avenues, but activity fee increases could sustain the cost of activities at best. They would not and could not make an impact in closing the annual budget gap. You cannot charge that much in an activity fee.

    1. CP
      Activity fees for 6,000 students could easily generate $3 million dollars…..or more. I’m talking about fees that masquerade as tuition….and I’m talking about those that are IN THE SYSTEM paying to maintain it.
      What does the average parent contribute to maintain their child’s soccer team, or lacrosse team, or PSAT tutor, or car insurance so they can drive that extra car instead of riding the bus? I’m serious. Local independent schools have tuition in excess of $25,000. If one more parent warns me they might have to pull their kids out “if TE goes down the drain” I will scream. And once you charge a fee, you can charge whatever you want. Bottom line — asking for contributions is silly unless the contributions are specifically useful in the budget process, which they cannot be by definition. SO — make your generous donations to FLITE and ask them to designate to support the student activity fees….scholarships as it were.
      Not saying this is the only answer, but we need to stop suggesting that “that wouldn’t work”….because you CAN charge that much in a fee. Easily. Ask every college you have ever visited or attended…they control the tuition and they raise the fees….science fees, lab fees, student activity fees, club fees, sports fees, transportation fees, laundry charge for gym towels….make them up. And would that be a hardship for all? No. For some. Yes . Which is why there needs to be a social safety net.

      1. Say tuition if you mean tuition. Tuition certainly implies a greater dollar figure than an activity fee. In college I paid a tuition and a nominal activity fee. The college activity fee was nothing compared to the tuition. My family did not pay real estate taxes to my college. I pay college tuition for my daughter; I do not pay real estate taxes to her college. Let’s be done with this topic. I do not want to read more about placing a tuition-like fee on every student (6,000) in the district.

        1. Ok. That must mean you want to solve it another way.
          And property taxes don’t come close to paying your public school tuition…you count on other taxpayers to subsidize the program. So if the taxpayers say no, the program goes down. Good plan.

        2. Township Reader – It seems you cannot tolerate any opinion that differs from yours. So be it, but please refrain from making statements of what others “must mean”, when those words have never been penned by them.

        3. CP — correct me if I’m wrong (or apparently even if I am not),but you said let’s be done with this topic (fees) and told us what fees and tuition meant, but you offered no alternative options for maintaining quality in the schools…so doesn’t that mean you want to solve it another way? Or does it mean you don’t want it solved?

    2. There have been numerous alternative options set forth in these online pages…but anything that involves the teachers making any sacrifice are discarded…and in its place, proposing additional taxes…and yes, an “activity” fee is another tax.

      You are coming off as a shill and its neither credible nor productive.

      1. Bill
        Not sure who you are referencing as a shill. If it’s me based on my activity fee comment, you need to read more. My goal in any suggestion is to get it solved, not get it settled. Settling with the teachers may never happen…again, look at Neshaminy. And with the law written the way it is, status quo is as unaffordable any any proposed raises going to the future. The PSERS increases are simply going to put us all out of business, which is why I believe the board basically “crossed their eyes and prayed” that the state would figure it out. By law, the district cannot raise taxes any more than the proposed budget, which I believe is unfair to taxpayers because it’s taking the Act 1 exception for PSERS and it has already accrued money in the fund balance for PSERS. But regardless, if I were still a parent in the district, I would want to know how to subsidize some of my children’s programs rather than watch them be destroyed. PTOs do it all the time — raise money for specific projects. Well — in this case — the project may be the Music department, or the band, or the theater, or the Newspaper. Why is it so okay to raise money and buy playground equipment and then call “Fees” an additional tax. I KNOW they are an additional revenue — and I’d love to tell you we don’t need the revenue because the teachers were going to step forward climb aboard the USS Economy ship. But they may not…so having a way for parents — the direct beneficiaries of programs as opposed to all taxpayers — to participate and support key programs is a solution.

        You see — we cannot mandate the teachers make a single sacrifice. And I know enough teachers who are lovely and wonderful but still don’t get it that I don’t know if a sacrifice will happen.

        So one more time: I posted elsewhere a link to federal benefit programs. We don’t have anything like it, nor does the PSEA, but every person in private industry of any size (# of employees) has a decision to make at benefit time — what benefit do they want and at what cost. You can take the very high deductible plan and it will cost you very little. You can take the almost no deductible plan and it will cost you a lot. Or you can be the moderate and take the middle level plan that will cost you some, but based on your health care profile will probably help you come out ahead.

        Our teachers have ONE plan. It is a no-deductible, very low co-pay, 100% hospitalization paid plan. It’s all they have ever known. And even when we negotiate with them, it’s to a “slightly more modest plan” which might mean $5 more copay, or formulary drugs. And the last contract had them pay up to $1200 or so towards the $21,000 family plan. Of course, when the contract was signed, that $1200 was probably towards a $18,000 plan. But whatever.
        IF the PSEA truly wanted to improve the system, and encourage membershp in the US Economy, they would educate their membership on health care. On health insurance. On benefit options. Monie above says the district should do that. Okay….but the PSEA needs to endorse the idea or teachers will stand back and JUST SAY NO.

        So — we can figure out how to settle the contract…or we can look for ways to solve the problem in the meantime. Cause our ship has no captain, and it’s floating around without any direction….and unless we can offload some serious weight, it’s either going down or people are going to jump off.

        Enough analogies. You get it.

  17. It’s not often I comment on S.B. issues; and I certainly do not have the answers, but …

    For years we have given in to TESD teacher union demands. Now look where we are. Again looking at a deficit and again raising taxes. Have we made all the cuts we possibly can without losing our great curriculum without which we wouldn’t graduate the top students we have?

    What I want to know is which insurer and what broker provides the T/E healthcare plan? (Whoever they are, they must make a bundle.) Or is it self funded; I have no idea. Are various plans submitted to the S.B. and union for comparison and approval? There are a multitude of plans out there; there is no reason a teacher should have a $20,000 “Cadillac” health plan. How many teachers are married with spouses working in the private sector, and we the taxpayers are picking up that tab? Just what are the benefits in T/E’s plan? Does anyone know? Deductibles, co-pays, etc.

    I worked in the private sector; healthcare costs increased each year and we the employees had to pay those increases, not the employer, and take decreased benefits in addition. I happen to know my prior employer has slashed their employee health plan to the bone and the employee contributions are through the roof. I have better benefits with my Advantage Plan (at a lower premium) with the same insurer than my old co-workers have with their current plan.

    I’ve said it before; it’s time to institute an EIT in order to meet the deficit. T/E residents give away money every year to other districts funding their schools and townships; we should keep it at home to pay for our school and township expenses. FYI, there’s a property tax reduction bill pending in the state legislature, but I have my doubts it will pass.

    There was a list somewhere in C.M. which showed steps & degrees. I’d like to see the monetary amounts associated with each. I would also like to know what the starting salary is for a T/E teacher with a BA or a BA + Masters.

    Come on teachers, join the real world. Remember seniors on social security had no COLA for over 2 years, and they’re struggling to remain in their homes; but many have to move due to increased school taxes.

    1. The entire teacher contract is online at as an employment contract.

      We have posted the benefit info here more than once…basically it’s $20,000 a year for family with no deductibles and very generous copays. It’s just not what anyone outside a collective bargaining environment can even relate to. But in my opinion, it’s time to stop caring what plan they have and just offer a fixed “DEFINED” contribution to health care, from which they can select plans and purchase what they need using their own money to supplement it. It’s like no one has a clue. The benefit plan the district offers actually includes employer paid disability…which of course means any benefit is taxable.
      The teachers are not overpaid, but they are overcompensated. Does that make sense? They make their salary, plus their benefits, plus PSERS contribution plus social security and medicare contribution. That’s a boatload of money that they don’t even recognize. All they are concerned about is preserving what they have and getting a little bit more….when in fact status quo will cost us a fortune as — like Neshaminy — the health care plan is not sustainable.

      1. TR,

        I want to know by category in DOLLARS exactly what the teachers pay & what the SD pay for premiums (ie family, H&W, single, etc). If I’m reading the proposals correctly, teachers pay a ridiculously low ANNUAL premium like $480 – $940. You’re correct, no one in the private sector has a similar plan, especially if they have no deductibles, etc. to boot. Right now they’re insured by BC/BS, very expensive as is Aetna. But they have plans with moderate co-pays & deductibles, prescriptions that don’t cost that much. Sometimes I think the insurance companies see a large union sponsored group & think they can increase premiums over what the private sector pays & figures no one will see the difference. If I can get my Advantage Plan which is a carbon copy of what I had when employed, I don’t see why the SD can’t; they’re just not asking their broker the right questions.

        Kevin – defined contribution may be the way to go, but on a sliding scale based on type of coverage (ie single, family, h&w, etc). Not give them a flat $20,000. The SB appears to be giving up a pretty fair amount in group life & disability insurance too. Again what are the costs?

        Still waiting for salary info. I saw what the union offered; but in this economy when we have no idea when there will be a complete recovery; the amounts are unrealistic & unsustainable. Many private sector employees still have not received raises & many are still unemployed; but they’re managing to make ends meet barely.

        When there was money to be had, the SB “gave away the farm”; now in this economy they must dig in their heels & say enough is enough. We just can no longer afford it.

        1. The district would not provide total breakdowns for health care — apparently I didn’t phrase the Right to Know request well enough (you have to identify the document that they supposedly produced, or they won’t produce it).

          The TEEA has C1-F1-02 at the following costs:
          Single $8,332
          H/W $19,213
          P/Chldren $17,591
          Family: $20,814
          Parent/Child $15,978

          Delta Dental
          Single $359
          2 or more: $989

          For a single person, the premiums break down as follows:

          c1f102 $6,236
          Drug $10/$20/$35 COPAY $2,010
          Vision $86.52
          Dental $359.16

          For budget purposes, I believe they are contemplating a 5% increase to medical costs, a %15% increase to Prescription costs, 2% vision and 2% dental.

          So — if the union “only got single coverage” for 2012-13, as they claim the district is trying to force (but of course, not without a contract), the cost would be $9,314.16….
          In-Network Costs

          Dr. and OB visits $10 copay
          Specialist $20 copay
          Unlimited Lifetime maximum
          100% inpatient hospital, unlimited days
          100% lab and pathology
          100% Outpatient surgery
          100% Ambulance
          $100 Co Pay ER
          Skilled nursing facility 120 days 100%
          Mental illness – $20 visit 20 visits a year
          Serious Mental Illness 60 visits at $20
          Inpatient mental services — generally 30 days 100% paid

          None of this is meaningful because I truly believe we have to stop negotiating the benefit. We need to educate not only our teachers but our administrators and our board members on the alternatives. To go to a cheaper plan is the same as just reducing the pension….it still puts all the risk of the costs on the taxpayer. This has to be defined contribution….COST SHARING with shared risk. The employee is perfectly capable of choosing the right plan for their family — and a flat amount toward that as part of a contract gives them the tools to make the decision. Do they want free health care at a high premium, or INSURANCE against extraordinary costs at a lower premium.

        2. I was not proposing giving a flat $20,000. What would be the point? I was thinking of some affordable number that would save the district money and still allow teachers to buy a decent level of Heath care.

    2. In a down economy, an EIT would not fix the deficit. It would be a temporary bump, but Act 1 still prevents taxing beyond a specified number, so unless incomes went way up annually, the hole would theoretically end up just as deep, because with the infusion of income tax, the base for real estate tax would go down.

      And EIT requires a referendum. Why not just have a referendum to pass a bigger budget. I think residents would be much less wary of a shot in the arm than they would be of a permanent reach into a new pocket. Because to those not paying it, that’s what it is.

      1. Right now – and in the next couple years – I don’t think you could pass either an eit or budget referendum. Maybe after more cuts over time enough people would wake up an support a budget referendum, but right now it just does not look even remotely possible. Even now, far too many people are not paying attention. And we have the recent demonstration from one of our local political parties that they will say and do anything – anything! – to defeat an eit. We can expect the same behavior with respect to a budget referendum. This will make it very difficult to have a fair and factual discussion on the issues.

        In war, the first casualty is the truth. And for some in our local parties, politics is war. Therefore the truth be dammned. Winning is everything, even if you have to lie to win.

        1. I believe we need to have both tactical and strategic plans in motion. Many are addressing the tactical on the local level as the budget gaps are closed. Warren Kampf has spoken of a 401(k) alternative to the PSERS issue for new hires into the system. That is a partial solution. I’d like Kampf to take action, now, on the topics you mentioned – EIT and a budget referendum. Perhaps it will take years, but it will never complete if it is never started.

  18. Pattye……………

    Thank you for this forum! I hope that school board member and the TEEA read the discussion from the tax paying voters.

  19. TE Teacher and Taxpayer

    I have posted several comments specifically related to options for you to respond to…and yet every response you have to this board today is defensive and militant. Why? You questioned if you didn’t work hard, if you are a taxpayer so do you work harder, and referenced leaving behind your family and friends.

    This, sadly, is what happens in negotiations. No one wants to address solutions — they just want to obfuscate and divert attention from what they must do to fix a problem. Everyone wants to assure everyone that things are okay — but no one wants to do the hard things to make them okay.

    PLEASE tell me whether or not you believe a health plan that protected your health and provided good but not overwhelming services would be okay….because the cost of that plan would be about half. (Deductibles can significantly influence premiums…you have no deductibles.)

    1. TR

      Thanks for the insurance information. TEEA and the teachers live in a fairytale world. Wow, if only. I can see no reason why a Right to Know request has to be filed; this information should be available to the public. If it were, there might be a taxpayer revolt, since most of us cannot possibly afford this coverage. I agree this should be cost sharing/defined benefit and I’m not talking just a couple of thousand dollars. Both the SB & TEEA should educate themselves on what plans are available (although the SB claims to have done this) & their options. I’ve seen the salary proposal by TEEA; they are overpaid and overcompensated.

      Does TEEA want layoffs & terminations (like Reading SD this week), or do they want their membership working? If TEEA can’t exist with their current salaries with a benefit change; they’re living way beyond their means. Teachers should look again at the compensation packages their private sector spouses are offered & don’t take because their TEEA benefits are free. As a single parent living in Tredyffrin with only my salary as income, I know what it means to tighten my belt & live on a limited budget. TEEA should join the real world.

  20. Brava concerned citizen. You saved me typing HUH? To the notion of doctors not affected by cost controls. Likewise Doctors don’t have employers paying for their credentials (and then paying them more for having the credential)

    Just one comment to add to your health care explanation for why the admin has not found cheaper alternatives: Precisely. Teachers negotiate for specific benefits, and the district has to buy and fund those benefits. That needs to end by making it a defined contribution…but this is definitely a fox in the henhouse issue…the people tasked with examining alternatives have very little experience with these options, and the teachers have NONE. PSEA specifically has warned teachers that they might not be able to purchase insurance if the district did not provide it. “Pre-existing conditions” and other jargon of the health care industry.

  21. Moral compass,

    I have to completely agree with you.

    Some of you are hung up on teacher health benefits and comparing it to what we have in the private sector. If this is the case, then we should be fair and provide our teachers with signing bonuses, stock options, and performance bonuses (we are one of the top schools in the United States), just like we had when the economy was doing well and we should probably pay them an annual salary similar to ours. Bottom line is that teaching is different then the private sector and since it is not a money making business, we can not compare it to the benefits that we get. Every job has its own perks. What kind of teachers will we attract if other districts offer better benefits?

    Keep in mind that while we enjoy having lower taxes, many of our teachers live in districts where their taxes have been going up year after year to support their schools. Also some of them have spouses that have lost their jobs. Everybody is affected by the bad economy in some way and we all need to support each other especially when it involves our children, their future, and the very people we entrust to look after them and nurture them for so many hours.

    I am very worried what impact all of the changes will have on our kids. I moved here because of how great this district is and I wanted the best for my kids. I wish I had the answers to fix the problems, but I do think that we need to do whatever it takes to preserve what we have.

    1. What part of the private sector do you work in that you think a job with 192 work days should be paid like you….what is your salary?
      Here is what so many ignore?

      Teachers that teach a full career keep their salary as their pension. Do you get that? So if you retire making $100K, your pension is close to that. Do you have the first clue what you would need to save to produce a pension like that?

      Teachers have a pension plan that is like a Christmas club, except that when the market goes down, there benefits are not at risk.

      $80,000 salary
      $20,000 benefit (we’ll assume that’s the average since the district pays for all the other insurances too like life and disability)
      $6.120 Fica and Medicare (plus or minus — I don’t know whta the FICA cut off is any more) 7.65 % paid by employer on your base.
      $9,888 PSERS contribution (12.36% for next year)

      Yes — I know the state reimburses some of this, but let’s just pretend that the state uses taxpayer money….shall we?

      So – -that $80,000 “salary” costs the taxpayer an additional $36,000.

      The employee pays $1000 towards their benefits, 7.5% toward their retirement, and the same FICA.

      $6.000 PSERS, $6120 FICA/SS, $1000 benefits.

      So an 80,000 salary with $6,000 put towards retirement guarantees that employee a pension with no chance of losing anything (it’s the 2.5% for every year worked times the average of the 3 highest years salaries).

      Oh — and one more thing about the teacher — unlike the accountants and the engineers and the service industry workers….very little chance of losing their job.

      So PLEASE — it’s exacttly because the public sector is not a “money making business” that we cannot compare the perks, because those in the private sector have to generate profit to get perks….Teaching is NOT different — and if unions allowed merit pay, there would be bonuses and merit challenges and -people wouldn’t be lumped together.

      We are ALL worried about the impact. All of us. Don’t get confused that because people want a reality check on this economy that we want to punish the teachers. We just want fair cost sharing. And despite your sense that their salary is not similar to yours….so be it.

      They work 192 days. Translate that to a typical work year and that means they have almost 10 weeks vacation. So their salaries are not annualized at these costs. They work 74% of a year. If we wanted them to work one extra day, it would cost 1/2% of their salaries to do it. That’s how the base of days grew — in years where the union demanded larger increases and the district wanted something in return…so they got more days.

      We can indeed support each other and our children. Hopefully this email notice that the groups met together for a long time today with another meeting scheduled means there is some movement toward a solution — not just a settlement.

    2. Rachel,

      I applaud you for being worried about the impact of all of this on the kids. We should all remember that in the end it is about the kids, educating the kids to prepare them for the future.

      I too am worried about the kids, but I am looking at it from a different perspective. Here it is: the kind of teacher compensation we had in the past is no longer affordable. It is that simple. If an affordable contract cannot be agreed to, then the budget deficits grow even larger and – here is the impact on the kids – deep cuts will be made to the educational program. All things not mandated by state law will be on the chopping block – art, music, class size . . . . A lot of the things that make our schools a rich experience for our kids will be cut.

  22. An email I received tonight:

    The Association and the District held a three hour meeting today at the request of the state mediator. Both sides exchanged off the record proposals. The tone was positive and productive. It was a worthwhile meeting.

    The next negotiations meeting is scheduled for June 18th.

  23. That may be good or bad news, depending on what their settlement includes. They have a very different revenue profile (or at least they did 5 years ago), and the devil will be in the details. For instance–this article notes that they pay 11% towards health care. That s the problem with that lens — the cost of the benefit is only relevant to the nature of the plan. So let’s hope CR has been creative and offers a solution that is longer lasting than the next economic cycle.

  24. I think the fear that the TESD will lose teachers to another school district if the are not compensated adequately is mostly unfounded at this stage of the game. In most districts in the state there are examples of salary freezes, salary cuts (see Souderton Area School District where the teachers took a 1.6% cut on top on paying increased insurance premiums), layoffs, program cuts, class size increases, the list goes on and on. I can’t name one district that had a good year. Add to that the projected PSERS contribution increases, and the budgets are going to get a whole lot tighter.

    I think one of the best ways we can look out for our kids is to not to continue to mortgage our kids’ futures to pay for many of these “perks” today. And yes, I do think that some of the benefits the teachers have are perks because I believe that many people in both the public and private sector have been living well beyond their means for too long. Only now are many of us learning the painful reality of that.

  25. TE School teachers leave for better opportunities? Get real….where would they do better than they are now?

    Have any teachers really left for better finiancial offers? If so…great…gives a growing pool of teaching talent that cannot get even close to the system.

    We have the best system of colleges to train teachers and a very low percentage even get interview is in the state.

    Looking at a 3% increase in school taxes…..I wish more would leave! What makes the schools great are the families and the values of our community…..not just the teachers who are paid enormously high salaries and benefits for an abreviated schedule!

    1. We need to take the notion of an abbreviated schedule out of our lexicon. It’s a different kind of job. Teachers run a 6 hour meeting every day. They are well compensated and after retirement, they live at a standard of living only the very rich can contemplate.
      Teachers need to understand that just because they have power in negotiating doesn’t mean they can demand economically infeasible things. Any kind of raise is a reach, but if they would change their health care PLAN, not just the level of contribution, it all becomes possible.
      Until someone decides to offer affordable health care plans (at half the price), no one will be at anything other than an impasse. And I promise you — the district won’t offer it either — they are foxes in the henhouse.

  26. just got a new newsletter from the TEEA. Here is part of what it said, things do not look good:

    Bargaining Impasse

    On Monday, June 18th, TEEA made a two-year off-the-record proposal that included a reduction in health care benefits, an increase in health care premium share including a shift to percentage-share, a reduction in advanced studies assistance, and a full salary freeze in the first year. In return, TEEA asked for salary schedule advancement for non-master teachers in year two, a one-year-only “off-schedule” salary premium for master teachers in year two, and “no-demotions” language for the duration of the contract. This offer was rejected.

    Instead, the Board asked TEEA members to take a larger compensation reduction of approximately $8000 per teacher, equaling as much as a 13% reduction for some, and TEEA rejected it.

    As a result, TEEA believes that we have reached a bargaining impasse. We have requested fact-finding from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. This is a process under Act 195 that is used to resolve labor negotiations that have reached an impasse. The Labor Relations Board will appoint a fact-finder to hear the case. Both sides will present evidence supporting their position. The fact-finder will issue a non-binding report on the findings and recommend a basis for settlement, which must be voted on by both sides.

    TEEA believes that we have made every effort to be reasonable and respectful to the District. The TEEA contract expires on June 30th. We hope the fact-finding process will provide a means to contract settlement in the absence of fruitful bargaining.

    We thank the community for your continued support and encourage residents to stay informed as the fact-finding process moves forward.

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