In the direction of “fair”!

In the direction of “fair”

An online petition is circulating that demands our Board of Education “settle a fair contract with our teachers now!” I could not agree more. In January 2013, our school board requested that we open negotiations early, but the Ohio Education Association and Springboro Education Association refused stating there would be plenty of time. With the first day of school (August 26) waiting on the horizon, I only wish the teachers’ union had allowed us to open negotiations earlier. Indeed, the petition’s request is spot on, but the drama—the implication that school board members do not want to reach a fair contract–sadly continues to divide our community.

It all hinges on that word “fair.” We’ve received a lot of email appealing for “fairness,” but not one attempted to describe what is fair.  Fair is not one-sided.  It implies there are two competing interests, not just one.

If “fair” could be defined in concrete terms, years of debating funding formulas for Ohio’s schools would have been avoided.

What’s fair?

For example, the proposed re-instituted step salary schedule amounts to between 3% and 4.75% automatic pay increases per year for most teachers. Are step raises—automatic pay increases tied to nothing more than the calendar—fair? The idea of rewarding service and commitment over time sounds fair for some, while others would like to know why raises are not tied to student achievement? Is a salary schedule “fair” when successful  teachers are paid exactly on par with the unsuccessful? Who suffers most under this system that incentivizes mediocrity, our children and their education.

Is it fair that our teachers received a minimum increase of 1.5% per year for the last three years, but still called that raise a pay freeze? How can pay go up when it is frozen? Furthermore, during the recession, no teacher lost his or her job.  As a matter of fact, the Full Time Equivalents (FTE) in our district increased, while the rest of the economy decreased.  Would it have been fairerto pay our teachers in sync with our community when many in our community lost their jobs, received no raise at all, or made salary concessions to keep their employer in business and keep their job?

When the wealth of a community measured by residential property values decreases by 10% over the last five years, what is a fair salary increase for that school district’s employees?

When community members see health insurance costs skyrocket, is it fair that public employees maystrike to keep up paying only 15% for medical insurance? According to surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation as well as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, average private-sector employees with single coverage contribute 21 to 25% of health insurance premiums, and the average employee with family coverage pays 27%.   The average means that some pay less while others pay much more.

Is it fair to even have this conversation without mentioning our children?  Was it fair to them when previous administrations scuttled plans for textbooks, technology, major building repairs and replacements,  buses and more? While the district appeared to be sailing well, in reality it was drifting without clear direction. A year ago, our district faced a sort of “perfect storm” with needs for everything from buses and books to technology and staffing coming to the surface at the same time. Through good management and some good fortune, our once rudderless ship emerged from that storm with clear leadership and direction. Clearly there are still challenges, but we are moving in the direction of putting Children First.

At the core of Children First budgeting is our staff–making sure we have sufficient staff, that our staff have the materials and training they need to excel, and that they are fairly compensated.

Some assume we’re making catastrophic cuts while others assume we will need more taxes. Neither is true. There are dark rumor clouds swirling through Springboro that cuts will come through our current contract negotiations; rather we have offered every employee a raise.  Some would say that is not only fair, but generous given the fact our economy is still struggling in many sectors. A story in the Dayton Daily News notes that the second largest employer in the country behind Wal-Mart is now a temporary employment agency.

While many wish to cast a negative light on our school district and its leadership, I hope everyone can celebrate the agreement reached between the Springboro Board of Education and the Springboro Classified Employees Association (SCEA), the union representing bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other non-teaching staff.  These are the support staff that makes our district go and many of these people literally have not had a raise in five years.

Highlights of that agreement include:

•           Step raises for three years. (Step raises are automatic pay increases built into an existing salary schedule generally to compensate for the effects of inflation.)

•           $1,000 annual stipend for three years for those who are not on steps.

             •           Employees will pay 20% for healthcare insurance; the district will pay 80% of the premium.

Now, I hope we find a balance that compensates our teachers in conjunction with the important investments to be made in our buildings and facilities, technology and curriculum. This is not an either or situation, both must be done with our given revenue stream to ensure a healthy district into the future.

To learn more for yourself, the contract proposals are online at http://www.Springboro.org. Click on negotiations updates.

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5 Responses to In the direction of “fair”!

  1. sassypatriot says:

    Well written and a fine example of what a school board should be doing. I am impressed that the board is thinking and planning for the children. Teachers expect a double raise every year. They have their automatic step increases and then they want another raise on top of that one. I don’t know a single person that received even a 2% increase in the past five years. In most professions any increase is achieved by the employee being productive. That means being professional. Even clerks in retail establishments have to follow a dress code. I don’t see many teachers that dress for respect. Many look worse than some of the students. I don’t call flip flops professional footwear. Teachers need to follow a dress code. If they expect respect they need to act and look professional.

    A recent national union president said that “when students pay union dues, then we will think about the students.” Great attitude for a professional teacher. Not!

    Tje following quote sizes up the attitude of far too many teachers. “The only group in society that must be spoken of in reverential terms at all times, no matter what, is public school teachers. Attack the Boy Scouts, boycott Mel Gibson, put Christ in a jar of urine — but don’t dare say anything bad about teachers. Unless you want it noted on your permanent record . . . We are simultaneously supposed to gasp in awe at teachers’ raw dedication and be forced to listen to their incessant caterwauling about how they don’t make enough money. Well, which is it? Are they dedicated to teaching or are they in it for the money? After all the carping about how little teachers are paid, if someone enters the teaching profession for the big bucks, aren’t they too stupid to be teaching our kids?”

  2. Springboro Taxpayer says:

    Can there be fairness for our children first within the unfairness of our state’s collective bargaining laws? Remember in 2011 when efforts were made to make reasonable reforms to the outdated 1983 rights given to teachers to walk out on our children, if union demands were not met? With the crushing defeat of Senate Bill 5, local governments, even if they had the political will to make cuts– those cuts Governor Kasich did not ask state workers to accept–
    are stuck with compensation package costs in existing collective bargaining agreements. Taxpayers Don’t Stand a Chance; always losing no matter who wins.

  3. Springboro Taxpayer says:

    If Governor Kasich did not make those tough choices needed to cut state workers’ big compensation package costs, why does he think local governments will? The reality is that many local government units will look to increase their taxes to replace the lost funding and revenue. As noted in “Appendix to “Six Principles for Fixing Ohio”, School District Charts, even before these cuts, the 613 school districts were projecting an aggregate deficit of $7.6 billion by 2015 with compensation package costs swallowing 96 percent of projected revenue.

    With compensation package costs absorbing so much of local government budgets the only options local government will have are (1) get the unions to agree to across-the-board cuts to realign expenses to revenues, programs; (2) cut less senior employees and “unnecessary” programs, (3) increase taxes, or (4) a combination of these options….

    Because of the state budget maneuvers, local governments will blame Governor Kasick for the loss of funding and resort to emotional blackmail (i.e., large class sizes, no extracurricular activities, reduced public safety, etc.) to pass tax hikes. Some will fail and some will succeed. Keep in mind that Governor Kasick’s budget did not cut taxes in an amount equal t the amount taken from local governments.

    As a result, our profound concern is that the net impact of his budget on Ohio will be an increase in Ohio’s state and local tax burden. Should this concern materialize, Ohio’s tax ranking will again rank among the worst, thereby undermining any private sector recovery.

    -Taxpayers Don’t Stand A Chance – Matt A. Mayer –
    No Matter Who Wins

  4. Springboro Taxpayer says:

    (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) Ohio can no longer afford the luxury of public sector collective bargaining. From 2000 to today, Ohio’s private sector has lost a net of 612,700 jobs. That means there are over 600,000 fewer workers whose activities generated tax revenues to fund government. During that same period of time, Ohio lost a net of only 1,600 government jobs. That means 613,000 fewer workers today are paying for roughly the same size government Ohio had ten years ago in terms of employees. From January 1990 to today, Ohio netted a mere 102,200 private sector jobs, and 62,100 government jobs.

    Ohio in 2011 is not America in 1938. Government workers already have the protection of civil service laws. With the proliferation of wage and hour laws, environmental laws, anti-discrimination laws, and other workplace protections that do or easily could protect government workers, is it really unreasonable to suggest that perhaps adding unions on top is unnecessary and costly? Government offices, precincts, stations, and schools are far from sweatshops and coalmines. (written statement by Matt A. Mayer to Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee, February 15, 2011.)Taxpayers Don’t Stand A Chance, No Matter Who Wins,

  5. Pingback: What’s Fair in Our Teachers Contract Negotiations? | Open Springboro

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