Saturday, April 2, 2011

EASD: Latest on Teachers' Union Negotiations

This article from the Post-Gazette in 2007 (before the crash) explains precisely why we're in this mess...

Posted by: Noël Jones

In today's Morning Call article by Samantha Marcus outlines the latest stand-off between the Easton Area School District administrators and Kevin Deely, head of the teachers' union.

If I'm reading the article right, it looks like the union has agreed to a wage freeze if no teachers get fired this year, and to giving up half of tuition reimbursement for masters degrees, but--and here's the kicker--only if they can extend their contract for an additional year. The district, on the other hand, wants teachers to take a pay cut--back to 2009-10 levels--to end tuition reimbursement completely, and to cut the last two years off the contract. In exchange, no teachers positions would be cut for the next two years.

In what seems to be the first intelligent thing that the EASD's new solicitor has said publicly (remember, he's the one that went to the PTA meeting and tried to tell parents and teachers that they shouldn't speak up during public comment at board meetings, a right guaranteed by the PA Sunshine Law), Paul Blunt pointed out the cold hard truth: as bad as this year's budget deficit is, it is only getting worse in the next two years.

The math:
Teacher salaries, benefits and pension are 70% of the budget.
The EASD's budget gap is $12.9 million
Deely's offer adds up to $8 - $10 million in concessions, but adds another year to the budget crisis, for a net enhancement of the contract, which would cause the district to collapse within 5 years, according to Blunt.
The EASD's reserve fund is $24 million

One thing I don't understand, is why they are discussing the entire budget gap in this negotiation, as if the only place to make cuts is in teachers' salaries and benefits. It is definitely the main place for cuts as they amount to 70% of the budget, but why then aren't they just discussing 70% of the gap, rather than the whole thing? What about cuts to the rest of the district? What about cuts in administrators and other employees? What about sports programs? EASD Business Manager Marie Guidry managed to shave off over $1 million dollars in other costs recently, but $1 million is hardly 30% of a budget. Deely's offer adds up to approximately 70% of the gap, but only if he gives up the extra year on the contract--otherwise he is actually increasing the district's debt, according to the article.

One thing's for sure--the district is going to need as much of the reserve as possible to balance the budget in the next two years, when postponed payments on pension contributions start coming due. This is thanks to Governor Ridge in 2001 who signed a 50% pension increase into law for all legislators and judges, and a 25% pension increase for all other state employees, including school teachers. Imagine--the legislature voting themselves a 50% increase? Republicans and Democrats voted for that one, and we've been trying to pay it off ever since, but because we postponed payments in the school district, the debt has ballooned and the late payments are all due by 2012.


noel jones said...

Some suggestions for non-teacher cuts:

1. audit Sodexo for fraud
2. close the swimming pool as it is too expensive right now to renovate, maintain, or heat (since there is no insulation in the ceiling) and work out a deal with Third Street Alliance to use their pool and hopefully keep it form closing all together.
3.closely scrutinize the absolute necessity of each D'Huy contract on the table, and cancel the projects associated with the pool (including the roof job)
4. cut JV sports teams, and let them be clubs supported by the community until we weather this recession
5. examine closely all contracts with the county's Intermediate Unit (CIU20) to make sure that there is no duplication for false billing happening, as there was to the tune of $10k for the Tech department. there is a separate line item for CIU20 in many of the departments, and these have to be looked at closely.

other suggestions? teachers account for 70% of the budget, not 100%. what should be cut in the non-teacher part of the budget to make up the other 30% needed to balance the budget? these are tough economic times that require tough decisions--what should be cut?

noel jones said...

oh, and i forgot to say:

6. roll administrator pay back to 2009-10 levels as well, and cut any duplicate administrator positions, i.e., i hear we have multiple principals at each school--is that true? it is not fair to roll the teachers back to 2009-10 pay if the administrators don't agree to the same.

Piaggio said...

Noel, re: multiple principals in schools: I don't know if you are aware of the fact that since Bill Rider was forced out of his job as the EAHS head principal about 2 years ago by Supt. McGinley, there is no HEAD principal at the HS. While he was there, there was a principal for each grade(4) and Mr. Rider, for a total of 5. Bill was the person in charge of running the school on a daily basis. After he left, they kept the grade level principals (4) and then hired two more principals - one as principal of grades 9-10 and another of grades 11-12. (New total of 6 at EAHS). Confusing? You betcha! At the time of the announced changes, Supt. McG. claimed it would save $$. How can you run a HS the size as Easton's with the multitude of problems associated with such a large student population is beyond me and exactly how did increasing the adminstrators from 5 to 6 save $$? Still waiting to hear how much money was saved by adding another administrator at the HS but "Silent Sue" never says too much.

noel jones said...

Seriously?! We have SIX principals at the high school? This is ridiculous. When I was growing up I never heard of a single high school that had more than one principal. The principal is THE PRINCIPAL--they are supposed to be the big cheese of an entire school. Since when did our educational system start hiring principal for two grades each?

Principals cost more than teachers--I have heard people calling for administrators to take a wage-freeze, or a pay cut, but how come the union isn't pointing out that one school has SIX principals, when there should only be ONE?

Piaggio said...

Noel,hang on for this one: the EAMS in Forks also has 6 principals. Dr.(a real earned degree not like the SB member with the fake one)Charlene Symia is principal of the 5/6 school and then there is a separate 5th and
6th grade level principal. The principal of the 7/8 side is Angie DiVietro and there is then a separate principal for the 7th and 8th grades. The simple fact that there are a total of 12 principals for two schools (EAHS and EAMS) may cause you to turn to alcohol, Noel!! Keep in mind, though, that these two schools combined account for all of the EASD's students from grades 5-12. You can check out the district's website for verification of what I posted. Btw, Noel, as a disclaimer, I am a retired EAHS teacher who left about 10 years ago and I have still have several friends still teaching and numerous former students who hold teaching positions and three former students on the EASB. Enjoy your day and rest of the weekend.

Anonymous said...


Your comments about principals shows your tremendous lack of understanding of this and MANY other educational issues you have chosen to speak about.

Your are really the perfect example that having a "little" knowledge about something is a very dangerous thing.

Jane S. said...


I am glad you are keeping up with the EASD shenanigans. However, please note that although 70% of the districts budget pays for salaries and benefits (like most school districts and companies), the teachers alone do not account for all 70%. If you recall, the superintendent and top administrators said they would also take a pay freeze, but I'm really wondering how much of a "freeze" it really is if it only saved about $60k.

Also, please don't say this was "Deely's offer" - it was the teachers combined offer. They make much less than the administration, but are giving back 100 times more.

It also appears to me that the budget projections by the district are based on an assumption that will prove false. They budget based on no retirements and the fullest possible raise scenario. If the district was smart, they'd offer a retirement package that would get rid of more teachers at the top. For every ten teachers that retire the district saves roughly $1 million. Compare that with the cost of laying off teachers where the district is required to pay 55% of their salaries in unemployment. Even if they decided to replace those teachers that retire, they still save 50% more through retirements than layoffs. It's absurd.

It looks like the teachers' proposal would ensure that the district would actually be spending several million dollars less next year on teachers than they are spending this year. Plus, it gives them the opportunity to talk again next year - something Paul Blunt's proposal doesn't allow.

As a taxpayer and parent (with a husband who works in the district), I definitely support a plan that keeps program cuts and class sizes to a minimum. I appreciate what the teachers (like my husband) are willing to give up to make sure that happens. Now, if only the board has some sense to take the millions the teachers are willing to give!

Erma said...

I hate to break it to you Noel, but there are two assistant principals in the elementary schools too!

The tally

EAHS, 2- Head, 4 assistants
The Academy - 1 principal/director
Middle School - 2 Head 4 assistants
Elementary - 7 Head, 2 assistants

Who is in charge of the principals? What about looking for cuts here?

noel jones said...


noel jones said...

Jane S. thanks for the post and you make a good point--the 70% referred to is the portion of the budget that is salaries/benefits/pensions for ALL district employees, including administrators and anyone else, so even though teachers are the lions' share of the total number of employees, the percentage non-teacher-salary cuts, in fairness, should amount to more than 30%. Thanks for the correction.

Which so many administrators in the district, at higher salaries than the teachers, in fairness, administrators clearly need to offer more cuts to the deal.

This must be why Anon 10:43 has his panties in a bunch, while offering nothing new to the discussion.

Boo-Boo said...

Once again, Noel Jones gets it wrong! In reality, the teachers did NOT offer a pay freeze. They wanted three less days a year and $10,000 for health care for each retiree.

Some deal. It amounts to a pay increase!

noel jones said...

Boo-Boo--then I guess you're saying the Morning Call got it wrong as well? Here's a quote from Samantha Marcus's article--did you read it before posting comments?

"Teachers are offering a plan to freeze salaries for one year and halve tuition reimbursements. Combined with some early retirement incentives, Deely's proposal should save the district $8 million to $10 million in the 2011-12 school year."

noel jones said...

Erma--thanks for the info...I cannot believe how many principals these schools have...

noel jones said...

the early retirement question is also a good one...i wonder how many teachers and administrators would be willing to retire early, since those closest to retirement get paid the does seem to make more sense than the district paying unemployment for newer teachers that get fired...

Clem said...

Early retirement -

Oh, that's right, let's just make it someone else's problem. That is just the kind of thinking that got this state's education system in the current mess - Take care of them with borrowed money, take care of them with State/Federal money (as if the government actually has money of its own).

You do know that PSERS is kinda a ponzi scheme, right?

How in the hell do you "offer" something you don't have the money to pay for?

Jane S. said...


The way PSERS works is that the retiree gets a percentage of their final salary based on how many years they worked and their average top salary. It's like Social Security in that the current employees are paying for the retired. The current employees pay 7.5% of their salary, and new teachers will be paying 10.5% of theirs, to keep funding the system. Most of the money in PSERS is from employee contributions and interest on that. In fact, the employees portion of the funding is more than double that of the school district and state contribution combined.

When a teacher or other employee retires early, they take a lifetime hit, and earn less in pension than they would otherwise. In essence, an early retirement also saves taxpayers a lot more money over the long term. It's an overall win-win for the taxpayers and the district. I don't know why they don't consider it.

noel jones said...

Clem--one other thing to consider--while I know that you are arguing on principle, the reality is that pension increases cannot be taken back, according to state law. So anyone who wants to change that would have to be ready to mobilize a massive campaign to overturn the PA State Supreme Court, and remember, those judges' pensions were among those raised 50% in 2001, so there's a personal incentive NOT to overturn it. I'm not saying it couldn't be done, I'm just saying it would be an incredibly tough fight and take a lot more than everyone sitting behind their computers complaining, and then voting and thinking that they have done their part for their democracy.

The only political group I know that is currently engaged enough to try to pull that off is the Tea Party. Democrats are mobilizing in great numbers now, but they are focused on preserving unions. And both Republican and Democratic legislators and senators are also benefitting from the 50% pension hike, so they are not likely to help either.

noel jones said...

Jane S. thanks for the info on PSERS.

Clem said...

Jane -

Respectfully, they won't take a hit if there is an early retirement INCENTIVE. The incentive is service credit (which translates to tax dollars) to get them very close to or at a benefit that will be acceptable (and which is already too high) for them to move on.

Noel -

You are dead on, very few pols and/or judges would have the guts and integrity to undo the wrong. They are whores bought and paid for by the unions and unabashed feeders at the public trough.

Too bad.

Jane S. said...


I think I need to clarify what I mean by "hit" because I'm not sure you understand. The Early Retirement Incentive for teachers is different than that for higher paid administrators, etc. The teachers ERI only gets them the ability to purchase healthcare from the district until they're eligible for medicare.'s a short-term gain. They may lose ten thousand dollars a year in their retirement - for life - for a short-term gain. Now, it may seem to those without a pension that "at least they have one" but, it's deferred compensation. Those teachers that have worked in the district for 30+ years, and have paid into their pensions for that whole time (and earned a pittance for most of it), certainly deserve to get the pension they worked for. Despite your belief that teachers may be making a better than average salary right now, it wasn't always the case. Something does need to be done to fix the funding inequities in the system, but teachers don't deserve to be the scapegoats for these problems. They've contributed significantly to their pensions, and when you've given 35 years or more to serving a community, the least you deserve is the ability to pay your bills in retirement. These aren't Wall Street Bankers with million dollar bonus'. These are teachers who didn't start making close to a decent wage until the last ten years.

noel jones said...

great discussion everyone...