Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Are the real costs An Inconvenient Truth?

On March 26, the Rochester Community Schools approved by a 5-1 vote a new a contract with its teacher’s union. I cast the dissenting vote.

I expected to disagree with board members on subjective points, but I didn’t expect an effort to distort the facts I presented.

Oakland Press: Rochester Board OK's 3-year teacher pact (03/27/07)
Rochester Eccentric: School board OKs 3-year teacher contract (03/27/07)

As Senator Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Fortunately, I can clear things up here.

The cost of this contract for the 2006-07 school year is $82.7 million dollars. The cost of the contract for the 2007-08 school year is $88 million dollars.

The increase is $5.3 million, or 6.4%.

That $5.3 million divided by roughly 14,800 pupils translates into a cost increase of $357 per pupil.

Like'em or not, these are the facts.

The “dispute” presented by board members over these numbers is based on a scenario that looks like this:

When the teacher contract expired last August, the district and the union agreed to continue to operate under that contract until a new contract could be negotiated.

Teachers that were scheduled to receive their annual “step” increases in pay would continue to get them. There would be no changes in benefits. Retirement would continue to be paid. These costs represent approximately $3 million next year. This was referred to as "status quo."

Some board members evidently don't want to consider these "status quo" increases as real increases. They apparently only want to consider any costs above "status quo" to be counted as “increases”.

In other words, the real cost of the contract increased $5.3 million, but the board should ignore $3 million of it when calculating the increase.

You can call them whatever you want, but the amount of the increase is a fact.

This debate is not about the teachers -- who I feel are largely caught in the middle of this -- but is instead about school boards, and unions, and leadership. This serves as such an excellent example of what is wrong in public education. School boards either don’t understand their budgets, or try to create alternate facts. Multiply that by the 500 districts in the state of Michigan, and you'll have a clear picture of why the state is facing such difficult times.

And finally, the reason I had presented these particular facts at the board meeting is because they get to the heart of reason why I couldn’t support the contract.

The best-case scenario from Lansing right now is that the district may receive a $187 per-pupil increase in funding. This compares to the $357 per pupil cost of the contract.

In other words, the board was going to approve a contract that will cost DOUBLE the amount of funding it expects to receive from the state. I couldn't support that.

And, this contract only represents one out of seven employee unions

==> Mike.

1 comment:

David Zemens said...

It looks like today's Oakland Press agrees with your position and with your figures, Mike.

David Zemens