Friday, March 11, 2011

EASD Administrators Voluntarily Give Up Raises in Response to Gov. Corbett's Call for a Wage-Freeze

Posted by: Noël Jones

Easton Area School Board Administrators surprised everyone last night by announcing that they would give up their raises this year to do their part to help fill the $14 million budget gap now yawning at the district after Governor Corbett's announcement of broad cuts in the state budget, calling for a wage-freeze among educators throughout the state. As Samantha Marcus of The Morning Call pointed out in her article today:

"Easton Area School District administrators on Thursday announced they'll take a pay freeze, sending a clear call to unions to do the same amid the ever-present threat of more layoffs.

The largely symbolic move amounts to just 0.6 percent — $88,000 — of the district's estimated $14 million budget gap, a revised number taking into account a $3.5 million reduction in state funding."

What would not be a "symbolic" cut would be for the teachers' union to come to the table now and agree to a wage-freeze in solidarity with the administrators, and the tax payers, who face another 1.6% property tax increase this year. If the teachers' union and other school employees agreed to give up their raises this year, it would amount to a total of $7.4 million, which wouldn't close the gap, but it would cut it in half.

Considering the district announced at a PTA meeting this week, that they might have to lay off 160 teachers to close the budget gap if the union won't agree to give up raises this year, it would seem that
the best thing to do, both for the sake of the teachers and the students, would be to agree to a wage freeze in these difficult economic times.

Easton taxpayers begged the administrators and the union last year to agree to a wage freeze in solidarity with taxpayers suffering through the recession, but both refused to break the stand-off, each claiming that the other wouldn't come to the table, and the upshot was a 2.35% tax hike and the firing of 72 teachers, 11 tech people, and some crisis counselors and literacy coaches.

The administration has done the right thing this year, and they deserve credit for being the first to offer.

One thing I would like to make clear here--taxpayers asking the teachers' union to give up their raises is not a failure to support or value teachers--quite the opposite. We support and value both students and teachers when calling for this wage-freeze to save the jobs of 160 teachers in our community, after already losing 72 that we advocated for last year.

Let's hope the union comes to the table...


Ken Sturzenacker said...

School boards and gov't unions, governors and legislators are at a point in time in which the future will look quite different from the past....but most of them do not yet fully comprehend that fact.
Persistent high unemployment, significantly diminished levels of both home equity and home values, record demand for food stamps, and aging baby boomers newly eligible for Medicare at the rate of nearly 10,000 a day are dramatically changing the resources available to support even current gov't programs, much less the vast array of promises made for expenditures in years to come for which little or no money was set aside.
Reality is going to bite, and bite hard. This year, school board incumbents and candidates alike face choices forced by diminishing resources: which programs and plans *not* to fund. Any of them who want to pretend otherwise do not deserve your vote.

Anonymous said...

Amen Ken and now that the public unions see this they are running for office. TEachers on school boards and now a firefighter running for mayor, not only in Easton but many other towns as well. This is ludicrous. The firefighter in Easton is running I am sure, regardless of what he says, because Panto has stood up to these guys and took them all the way to arbitration -- just to get the to pay just a small share of their outrageous healthcare costs.

These times are changing and its not the time to elect publie employees to public positions.

Love Unions said...

Dear Noel:

BRAVO! This is one of the first posts I have seen on your blog in a long time where you are dead on with your facts and recommendations.

While a teacher pay freeze will NOT solve the problem, it will temporarily maintain most teacher staffing levels and give the teachers and school board time to work out a new contract that the taxpayers can afford. My suggestion is that the teachers accept a wage freeze until funding levels equalize in Harrisburg. And yes, this could be for several years.

If Mr. Deely and the PSEA union mafia boss Bob Creveling do not get their asses to the table soon and accept a unilateral pay freeze for ALL teachers, with no strings attached, there will be profound teacher and other staff layoffs.

Messrs. Deely and Creveling: Are you going to allow teachers to be laid off again on the grounds of your sacred, union principles??? MORONS!!!!!!! Your number one priority in a union is to preserve jobs, and you have FAILED in this basis task!

noel jones said...

Love Unions said...
"Dear Noel:

BRAVO! This is one of the first posts I have seen on your blog in a long time where you are dead on with your facts and recommendations."

Wow, you really know how to compliment a girl. I will try not to let it go to my head.

Please try to refrain from personal attacks on specific union members or anyone else on this blog--it weakens your argument and makes it seem personal. It's important to a productive discussion that we all debate by making strong points and trust the facts to speak for themselves.

This is not the ET or MC on line--I will delete personal insults if they get out of hand.

david said...

Yeah, a fist full of knuckles with that compliment. Still, it's not a shocker, Federal Unions, state and private everywhere are taking pay freezes and in some cases pay cuts of their own accord, and trying to work with us all to find a viable end. A note worthy exception of course is our local school union who seems quite behind the times. I support the base idea of unionization as it is a conglomeration of constitutional rights, but I also hope for tougher bargaining and perhaps an end to tenure.
I agree with all that it is time to revisit the bargains we've made, not because we can't support them, and not because teachers and others should not make a good living, but because of onerous provisions and non-competitive concepts like tenure.
Still it is nice to see some folks getting on board, and I'd like to see the local teachers union agree to the same, before it becomes a fight.
To be fair, the leadership of many unions has gotten away from it's members, still some word from the members that this is acceptable to them either here or elsewhere would make a solid statement of solidarity with the citizens of Easton and help heal some hopefully very wrong ideas about the local teachers union members.
I wonder, if our unions leadership truly represents our teachers?
And in some ways I doubt it. This being the facebook and internet age, I hope that if this is the case our teachers can find the means to represent themselves, and build a bridge to the rest of us.

noel jones said...

Well said, David. Last year when this whole mess was going on during the budget meetings, there were teachers that would whisper very nervously to me that many teachers in the union WANTED to give up their raises out of respect to the struggle of taxpayers and to save the jobs of the newer teachers and had asked their representation to hold and "up-and-down" vote of the entire membership to decide the issue. First they were told that it would happen, and then it didn't. The union said no, and 72 teachers lost their jobs. This year 160 teaching jobs are at stake.

I talked to one of those newer teachers not long after the firings and she said that she had given up a good teaching job in another district to come to Easton, only to get a fired a year later. I hate to see these younger, creative energetic teachers getting turned out onto unemployment just because those with tenure who have been elected to representative positions don't want to give up their very substantial raises.

The minimum annual raises in the contract are 5% annually, but the AVERAGE raises last year were 10% because of the stepped system of ever-higher raises tied to seniority. It is a flawed system because there is no incentive for tenured teachers with seniority to have empathy for the newer teachers at risk of losing their jobs. I thought the whole idea of a union was working people looking out for each other. Hopefully union representatives will do the right thing this year--or at least hold an up-and-down vote of the membership to find out how they really feel and what they really want to do as a group.

david said...

If one Easton teacher put up a facebook or web page, others could rally to it. The school could run a free page with teacher rankings, giving parents choices between teachers. That sort of thing.
Still, and maybe luck of the draw, I know a lot of union people. I'm a vet, and a free and accepted mason. We get a lot of state and federal people and a lot of them say that they feel the union leadership no longer represents them. That they've become top heavy. The local issue just makes a point that our union may not be representative of it's members.
Thankfully in this day and age that kid of stuff really doesn't fly if the members don't let it.
We have this blog, we have facebook, free web pages, texting, and a thousand means we never once did. If the union needs a voice, if it's members need a voice, they have the means, they just have to exercise them. I have a biology teacher friend who is doing this in another state, circumventing their leadership through tech.
Welcome to the 2010's.
Change may be in the wind, I support the union concept hands down...but I don't support leaders who forsake their folks. I do think this is far more the problem locally than bad mean teachers who are greedy. Their is a tv bad guy thing that we are bringing against the individual union member that I just don't see as true.
Hopefully our teachers find the means to speak to us, we live in an age of communication...lets here from them?

David Caines said...

My biology teacher friend BTW is an Afghanistan female vet with multiple confirmed kills, which may be just the thing. As the history of the union is filled with internal wars, deaths, and worse. The history of America is one of class warfare, not freedom. In an odd twist, The Forbes billionaire issue just arrived, and yet again America is falling behind, with less than half of our oligarchy in the top ten. Though to be fair, gates, buffet and others are going NFP to avoid taxes and bolster the nation. Still, local issues are what we can have a say in.
I will support any Easton teacher who raises their voice for change..knowing that hey face an unlikely future, our unions should be a force for good.
I have been trying this week to get a hold of my friend bill. He is done in, 33 years with a county that hires illegals to do his work, and that worked him to near death. An d is now trying to abandon him and those like him. His net total at the end of 33 years, 56,000 per year. County parks, BTW, snow removal, heavy equipment operator, CDL, et al..his nerves are shot from 33 years of uninspected equipment, he may well be dead, four weeks with no news. E Very step is a fight, doctors loyal to the county, a union that seeks hi send. It has been miserable following this for the last ten years. He is F+AM he is a vet, and he is garbage in the eyes of the people of his county, his union nearly worthless. fear for him. Ad both hope and dread his call. He is a victim of our modern world, one of thousands, and I at least cannot replace him.
His name is William G. Hogue 3, and I for one desist his treatment
His liver is shot from the drugs needed to keep him from pain, his spine racked in our service, he is one of many.Our discarded slave, a servant whose four daughters will never walk his path. Our pickings grow slim...
sorry Noel, but it's been four weeks, and I worry and wonder about a man who sustained this nation, a nation who will never remember his sacrifice.
Such is what we are.
Just heard from bill, Alive, better, in debt...went outside of the county hmo and is getting better...I wish him and his kids well, he is an American hero...of a different sort...but he has helped this nation survive and served us for 33 years, he should have some value?

Clem said...

A Freeze at levels that long ago were unstainable is nothing but a band-aid. Someone here said funding levels must stabilize. When the funding levels, to this point, have been a ponzi scheme, you can't just freeze it and hope the problem fixes itself. To state such is intellectual laziness at best, bullshit more likely.

The Ridge pension grab must be rolled back, salary cuts for teachers and admin alike of 10-20% minimum (as seen in Califooooornia) are the necessary first step. Then, you must reign in the criminal capital spends, and the sweethart deals.

Til then, you are just kicking the can down the road and telling your kids to deal with it later. Any adult who thinks like that shouldn't have kids.

David Caines said...

Not to restate the obvious, but a freeze in tax cuts would stabilize the economy, as would ending our wars.
To be fair, the American billionaire is becoming a thing of the past as India and China bury us, but still, if we're going to demand that the middle class pay a fair about the rich and the corps?
Lets do a tax cut freeze?
But we can't can we?
How about outlawing campaign contributions altogether?
Going with equal time and equal press?
Well, we ruled against that.
So, let's be bullies and pick on the people who don't scare the hell out of us?
It is no surprise that the other nations are burying us.
What we are is our doing, what we may become?
Is ours to decide.

David Caines said...

I'd also like to see more of an eye given to in house corruption, "The sweet heart deals", clearly we don't agree on everything, but we do agree on that. Also, it probably is time for pay freezes and a general review of federal, city , state employees. We need to find a way to sort the good from the bad, and to work with those union people who are willing to help. This hardcore us against them thing really isn't working for anyone.

Clem said...

With you on the wars, and on corruption. However, dealing with those will not change the need for the extreme reform in public sector compensation.

I have a hard time seeing how we get past "us v. them" when that scenario was created by unions who threaten death (see Wisconson), hold children and taxpayers hostage even when increases are offered during a period of skyrocketing unemployment and evaporation of their retirement funds (see SVSD, etc.).

It's always been us vs. them. Only, until very recently, "Them" have made the rules and rolled us with no resistance. When you stand up to a bully, the first thing the bully does is cry foul.

I don't know any fiscally responsible person who thinks addressing only the public employee/public education issue will fix all. By the same token, the need for extraordinary reform, regardless of the other issues we must tackle, has never been more clear. As, I've posted before, the status-quo crowd claims the world will end if we don't continue down the path of paying off the extortion. Time to test that threat and find out. If they don't get violent and disrupt normal market forces, you will see we never had to pay the artificially high prices forced upon us by the thugs and their legislative and judicial enablers.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on reform and the need to hold any employee to a standard. I just feel that the unions created part of the problem. The other part, our politicians not keeping their word to those unions? that's sort of a whole other deal. The money for pensions and all of that was supposed to be set aside years ago by states and cities and in many cases simply never was. NJ has probably the worst track record, but many states are horrible on this account.
I'm also a little worried about the us v them, as in a democracy what we do to one of us, we do to all of us.
Just happened to hear an add for a local hospital workers union who seem to be having some major problems with management and may well be striking, on 107 fm- the Hawk- in a democracy all things are somehow related, I think private sector unions need to be watching for the same sort of attacks we're seeing in the public sector. Granted it's hopefully harder to demonize nurses and other care givers, but I can see this sort of thing trending.

Just my two cents,

David Caines said...

A quick look at the Macro-Economics of this.
As we pay most sectors of society less, there is less money to circulate in our society , meaning that people buy less, spend less and save less. Which leads to more unemployment and a further devaluation of the worker.
This is the reason that I oppose illegal workers, and the only reason, because they drive down the median income of all fields.
While it is penny wise to hire them , it is pound foolish to do so.
Same for things like pay freezes and pay cuts to unions and others. Less money in the working man's pocket means less money spent, less taxes to support the poor, less in every sense of the term. Out side of the political considerations, this is just the case...the race to the bottom.
As we fail to find ways to support our fellow Americans, and place our attention to outside concerns our society crumbles from within .
Our attention needs to be here, and it needs to be put towards dealing with our own issues in non-destructive ways.
it's 107 fm "The Bone" BTW, but I always get stuff like that wrong.

tachitup said...

David says, " Less money in the working man's pocket means less money spent, less taxes to support the poor, less in every sense of the term."

Uh, yeah, the teachers and the poor downtrodden working folks would have less to spend. But , where did that money use to come from? That's right, from your pocket and my pocket. There is no less money in the system, I just get to keep a few more pennies of it.

David Caines said...

Morning, actually . Um. no.
Or at least not really.
We may in the short term see a curb on tax hikes, but not in the long term, and no one at all is talking about tax breaks for the working folks. All that this supports is continued tax cut/ breaks for the truly wealthy and major corporations.
Think about that for a moment. Has anyone, anywhere in America who is going against the mean old teachers and street sweepers promised that such actions would lead to a tax decrease for the average person?
The answer is a shocking "NO".
We've written a bunch of bad checks as a nation and now we're trying to rationalize why . All we're doing is trying to get to even ground.
Our taxes will not drop. We may not see a raise, but we will not see a roll back. The money that we've promised these people is money we decided to spend elsewhere.
Instead of paying the cable bill, we decided to go see a war movie. That money is spent either way, and we still need to pay the cable bill or it might get turned off.
IN short, we're stuck having to consider all of this because we'd rather spend the money on tax cuts or the war than pay our employees what we promised them, but either way the money is spent. These pay freezes and other things don't really "Save" us anything. So, yes there is simply less money in the hands of the many, and more in the hands of the few.
Feel free to do the math. This is all a gamble, robbing peter to pay Paul as they say.
It does keep us from having a higher future debt, but the debt we hold remains that same.
Provided nothing else changes, we're in a holding pattern, while I agree that real change needs to happen in our unions, it needs to happen way more in our thinking.
The money is there, we just spent it on something else. A quick aside here, is that as people with jobs, the public employees pay taxes just like anyone else, damn does that also mean that they work for both us and themselves? That they as tax payers are also citizens ? I know, maybe instead of a raise we could let them live and work tax free? then they won't have similar problems as the rest of us.
Need coffee,

David Caines said...

Ohh... and we also need serious welfare, and Social Security reform.
I'll go out on a limb here and say that maybe it's time to make welfare a little less comfortable. To cut state support at one child per welfare family and if you're dumb enough to have another one you don't get a bigger check for doing so. Maybe we could suspend medical benefits for those wards of the state who aren't disabled.
Hell, even union workers have to pay something for their health benefits, why should someone who doesn't work but can work get free health care ? Why do we extend that to their children and not the working persons?
Why should someone who may well have never worked and paid taxes in their life, get free housing, food, education and health benefits ? When those who work have to agonize over these things, and often go without?
Just some side thoughts...

David Caines said...

I'm going to be good and not try to monopolize this, but I heard the commercial again and the Medical workers union in question is the Pocono Medical Center.
I mean hey, I'm with the union bashers on this one...they work for us too, our insurance anyway, and how about those damned programs and anyone else in a service field. They should just be happy they have jobs and blah, blah, blah...who needs nurses and x-ray tech's a man , rub some mud on it and man-up, blah, blah, blah...
Clearly I need more coffee.

David Caines said...

come on kids, my torch is lit...lets do them in...they owe us don't they?
Lets burn that damned hospital to the ground...that'll learn em. Lets get our mob on...Lets make those greedy nurses our equals, lets drag them down like the teachers and every other uppity creature who wants a bit more. My grand pappy had an out house, why should we have better?