Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Teachers Union at War With It's Community

One of the effects from the actions taking in Wisconsin earlier this year by Governor Scott Walker and the GOP majority in the Wisconsin Legislature to require teacher's unions to pay a greater share of their health and pension costs (though still less than private sector workers pay) and limit their collective bargaining privileges, is that hundreds of school districts have moved from being in financial challenges to having balanced budgets or surpluses.

In addition to requiring higher member contributions towards the cost of healthcare and pension coverages, school districts are no longer required to source their healthcare insurance from the unions themselves at highly inflated costs as well as other collective bargaining limitations.

But these lessons are being lost on far too many.

In Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, the Teacher's Union is actively at war with it's community - tearing the community apart with their excessive demands which are driving up education costs almost 40%.

In 2002, the former school board negotiated a six-year deal with the teachers union, which included free health care for teachers and their families, free health insurance for retirees and the $27,500 bonus for retirees with at least 10 years of service.

The worst part, as current board members recently discovered, is that the retirement bonus was written into the pact as a “sidebar” deal between the former board president and union president, and was never ratified by the full board, according to Webb.

The old contract, which Webb calls a “huge mistake,” increased the district’s annual budget from about $125 million per year to about $164 million.

The generous contract didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, because the economy was healthy and tax revenue was pouring into the district. Then the recession hit, tax revenue plummeted and the state passed a property tax limitation law, severely restricting the amount school boards can levy against property owners.

Somehow union leaders have failed to notice that money stopped growing on trees in Neshaminy – or they just don’t care.
Few entities, if any, can effectively manage nearly $40 million in higher operating costs caused by increased labor, healthcare, and pension costs.  It's not as if these teachers are being underpaid either.  They are the second highest paid group of teachers in the state of Pennsylvania, with an average salary of over $81,000 per year.  In addition to a base salary far larger than the average private sector worker in the State, they also have a benefit package that is far more generous than the average private sector worker enjoys. 

Yet, this is not enough for the greedy Teacher's Union.  They rejected a 1% annual salary increase in each of the next 3 years as an 'insult'.  They counter with a demand for an average annual increase, regardless of performance, of 3% for salary and to cap the maximum contribution they are obligated to pay for their healthcare at 8% - when the average private sector worker pays around 40% of their total healthcare insurance costs.  This would increase the $164 million annual school district labor costs by about $4 million more per year for each year of the new contract.  But this isn't the limit of the demands the Teacher's union are making.  They are also demanding additional retroactive salary and pension increases which would add another $9 million to the district's costs. 

This is a school district that is looking at closing schools, eliminating programs, seeing declining student test scores and performance because of their budget challenges.  Their only recourse, if the union continues to make its irresponsible demands, is to require higher taxes on the resident's of the school district which in turn will create more problems.

In this environment, the teachers are now doing as little as possible until they get their way.  The teachers are not providing any 'after school assistance' to students seeking to do additional work.  They will not write letters of recommendation to students seeking those letters to accompany college applications.  They are not decorating their classrooms for holidays - and daily pickets of off duty teachers are taking place at schools and district offices.  Students are becoming props for the teachers - while the union attempts to strong arm parents to putting pressure on the school district.

Surprisingly to the teachers and the union officials, the community is reacting to these acts by standing in support with the school district.  Many parents are tired of the antics of the union and teachers - as well as the greed of both. 

None of this should be a surprise to the union or its membership.  Boorish behavior and greed never ingratiates anyone to others.  But all too often, those who are being boors don't seem to consider that their behavior is affecting how others treat them.  Disrespecting a community will result in that community changing its viewpoint and opinion towards those who are treating it contemptuously.  That is the lesson that the progressive left still doesn't get.

No comments:

Post a Comment