Draft 2010-11 Budget Strategies Released by TESD

As was discussed at today’s TESD Public Information meeting, the district has released a draft 2010-11 budget strategies.  We thank the district for releasing this background information in advance of February 8 Finance Meeting.  These proposed strategies are to aid in the budget gap and I suggest a review prior to next week’s meeting.  Your comments/input on the suggested strategies are encouraged but understand that this a ‘draft’ and should be viewed as a starting point (rather than the end result).

I just received an email from someone who was unable to open the pdf in this post.  I have checked it and it is working on my end.  The document is 50+ pages, so it may take a couple of minutes to upload.  You can also find this document on the school district’s website, http://www.tesd.k12.pa.us/

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45 Responses

  1. I currently have 3 children in the school district. until recent events i have never been to a school board meeting, never downloaded minutes, and never got involved. I have never been more angry at myself for allowing this aspect of my children’s education to go unnoticed.

    The proposed cuts are going to strip our school system of everything that makes it unique and exceptional. My son (currently in 10th grade) has enjoyed the opportunity and option from conestoga’s diverse course selection. My daughter (currently grade 7) has had more opportunity then any other 7th grader in surrounding school districts.

    The cuts come down to this: Eliminate programs, eliminate teachers, eliminate opportunity.

    Shame on the School Board for even considering these options! They need to think less of their own political agenda and ask themselves one question: What’s best for the student?

  2. Jane
    I’m sorry it has taken this kind of event to wake up some of the community, but you need to look at the background and not just the outcome before you say shame. School taxes have somehow become taken for granted — part of the escrow along with your mortgage. But in this community, many longtime residents have tax bills higher than their mortgage payments. Additionally, many homeowners have paid off their homes — so bills for $5,000-10,000 a year for school taxes have become serious barriers to staying in your home. Those people not only come to board meetings, but they vote and communicate with elected officials. Take a look at your mortgage statement and see what your taxes really are. If you have kids in school, they are a bargain. If you do not — they can be scary. So what’s best for the student ? A sustainable program. The cuts coming do not mean less — they mean different I think. My kids are only in elementary school, but I have nieces and nephews who are through the high school and I see how the program has grown over the past decade. Please come to the budget meeting to hear the discussion — come to the education meeting to listen to the program analyses. I think you’ll be more comfortable knowing that you moved into a district that is careful and not casual about the decisions it makes. Good luck to us all.

  3. While Jane’s response is natural, it’s exactly what makes this process so painful. When I was on the school board, we had a few folks coming to the meeting wearing “80/20″ t-shirts — reminding us that 80 percent of the residents had no children in schools and only 20% did. I think it’s probably closer to 70/30 nowadays, but the fact remains that the people who object to school expenditures are often people who are trying to stay in their homes whether or not they send kids to school anymore. And they are the majority. They do care about the educational program, but they can only afford so much. It’s the folks moving here who are paying top dollar to participate in our schools who are likely to object the most
    If a house is assessed correctly (the CLR factor for Chester County is 1.89. Multiple that times your assessment and it should equal your fair market value), then we can look at the school taxes (17.47 mills for this year) as they relate to the fair market value of your home.
    Using some horrifyingly boring algebra — if your market value is correctly reflected by 1.89 times your assessment, then your current school taxes are .925% of your home’s fair market value (taxes are current 17.47 mills). That does seem like a bargain — less than 1% of your home value a year to support the school system. Certainly your exact home in another school district might be priced differently, so your home value is supported by your school taxes. But as housing prices have increased (along with taxes), people are living in homes that have a much higher fair market value than their budget might otherwise support. Reassessment was done in 1998 — at which time your assessment was supposed to EQUAL fair market value. So — housing prices have “risen” (this is not good math — but approximates for our purposes) 89% in Chester County in the past dozen years. Clearly that type of increase in value easily justifies 1% a year in school taxes. HOWEVER If you have been in your house during those 12 years, your income might not have followed suit. And taxes in TE are based on the ASSESSED VALUE of your real estate and nothing else. Fair market value is simply anecdotal.

    Whew. Boring stuff — and in my opinion support for why school taxes have gone up and why people moving here have no issue with the amount of taxes — because their taxes are probably 1% of the price they paid — and escrowed along with every other cost.

    To use Sarah’s example of ”$5,000 – $10,000” taxes, however, Folks paying $10,000 for taxes would be in a house that has a fair market value of over a million dollars. Hopefully, they are not the ones who are struggling, though with unemployment figures rising, that may not be true. I think the average assessment is $252,000 (?) — which would have a “fair market value” of about $475,000 and would have a tax bill of approx. $4400. Their taxes would increase $44 for every percent increase. If the district taxes at the max allowed 2.9%, this average tax bill would go to $4,530, or $377.50 a month. If that’s not escrowed, that’s quite a check to write every year.

    I hope people will come to the meetings — the next Finance meeting on the 8th of February unfortunately coincides with the RESCHEDULED Board of Supervisors meeting….but it will be at Conestoga and will be videotaped for viewing on cable. No binding decisions will come out of the finance meeting — (we know that’s not true of the BOS) — but the school board is limited to a 2.9 percent tax increase, so the document outlining cuts is one that has to be dealt with. Keep asking questions. Thanks again to Pattye for this public forum.

  4. A very few high level comments from a quick read of the TESD budget strategies material. This looks to me like a really good start, with for the most part practical options that minimize impact on quality of education.

    The listed items total $9.6 million, of which the Administration recommends consideration of $8.3 million. Just about all of that apparently could be realized in 2010/11, although $2.6 million is listed as one time (ie the gap would come back in 2011/12, on top of another round of contract compensation increases). The amount that is one time and the amount that can be realized next year seem to me to be important items for discussion.

    Of the options, the biggest (in addition to big items like FLES and the middle school program changes that have been discussed) include:
    $1.3 million from increasing CHS teachers to 6 periods/day (5 for science)
    $1.2 million from restricting external purchases to 2008/9 levels (detail not specified)
    $0.7 million from increasing elementary/middle school class sizes by one student
    $0.5 million from limits on CHS periods/cycle and on course change flexibility
    $0.3 million from eliminating non-contract salary increases
    $0.3 million from using bond monies for capital items (that’s one of the one time items)
    $0.25 million from reducing aides/paraprofessionals

    There’s a lot of detail, and I encourage everyone to read the material at http://www.tesd.net/budget/10feb8budget_strategies.pdf.
    and to split family forces to attend both the Tredyffrin and the TESD meetings on Monday!

  5. I reviewed the list of cuts and it doesn’t seem very alarming to me. To be honest, the list is much less severe than I thought it would be – and if what they are proposing is all it takes to balance the budget, then I’m all for it. I agree with Sarah – the cuts don’t mean less of an educational program, it is just a different, less expensive way to do business. I think the school board is headed in the right direction.

    • How don’t cuts mean less of an educational program? Did you look at what is being cut? You and other people like you don’t realize how nice you have it…cutting programs or cutting back programs = less opportunities for our kids. Those opportunities are what makes our school district great for the students. Are you okay living in an average school district because thats where TE is headed. Losing these programs and our exceptional teachers will lead us in that direction. Also lower quality school district = lower property value, etc. If you were to ask most families moving to the district why they are coming here….what is there response. The schools are really good! How did they get that way? Us Main-Liners need to get off our high horse and get real.

      • Thanks KT!

        My husband and I could have bought a house twice the size in Marple, Springfield, or Upper Merion. We sacrificed space for education. All our realtor talked about was how amazing this school district is. After researching we soon realized this is an AMAZING school district. Lets keep it that way!

      • Too late. The vote to limit tax increases was taken. It’s maxed at 2.9%. But the quality of the district is not in danger — read my comments elsewhere — people with kids in school will have to pay for more of what they get — it won’t just be part of the package. BUT taxpayers have just said $5000 a year average is enough for now – so the community has to pay attention to ways to affect revenue going forward. The only way to control expenses is to cut….but I assure you that the quality of the administration will ensure that the cuts made do not hurt the program. All the admins were teachers before they joined the admin (home grown ones anyway). The admins most influencing the decisions on what is cut were all at the high school as principal or AP teacher — and others were elementary principals at one point in their career. It is their collective experience and yes — wisdom — that will protect quality while reducing costs. Go to the education committee meetings — and attend finance meetings too. As people with kids in the schools, you have an investment in your home that you need to protect — but for the 75% of residents who do not have kids in the schools, they are trying to protect their ability to stay in their homes. Reasonable decisions can only be made when the board heard from all constituencies — not just the angry ones.

  6. I did some searching tonight online for TE administrator salaries. It is public knowledge and there is a website dedicated to providing this information.

    Here is the site:
    http://php.app.com/PAteachers09/search.php

    These salaries are from 08-09 (so they are now even higher) and I find it alarming how much they get paid considering most don’t have any direct effect on our children. If we are looking for areas to cut money…I think we should start here.

    Waters – $224,000
    Videlock – $165,000
    McConnell – $159,000
    Groppe – $117,000
    Meisinger – $119,000
    Mull – $107K
    Gusick – $128K
    Roy – $115K
    Gibson – $131K
    Cataldi – $128K
    Whyte – $136K
    Cohle – $137K
    Demming – $135K
    Torres – $119K
    Adams – $118K
    Tobin – $146K
    Tiede – $156K

    That is just about half of the administrators….I would have keep going but I was getting sick to my stomach reading these salaries. We want the teachers or taxpayers to pay…what about these administrators that mull around in a brand new building all day creating unimportant documents and presentations. Don’t we all wish we could get 100K to do that!

    • Sue- Interesting post. There are no cuts proposed that even remotely involve the administration aside from not replacing a retirement. Let’s not forget some of the perks they get too- bonuses and such.
      The high school cuts would be dramatic- involving dozens and dozens of teachers which will mean larger class sizes for everyone. Not to mention less time in the school day for teachers to do all the things parents want- write recommendations, call home, attend IEP meetings etc. All of the extras teachers do will cease- they will have to out of necessity. The quality of education will diminish greatly.

      • Doesn’t “not replacing a retirement” mean that the same amount of work will be spread out among the remaining employees. Sounds like a consolidation of work — a measure of efficiency — to me.

    • If you found that website with salaries, you would do yourself a service if you didn’t search for TE administrators — but instead searched by job description and looked at ALL administrators in the county or even the state by job title. You can then sort by salary. You will certainly see some of TE’s administrators at the top of some lists, but in many cases those are NOT people that are homegrown, but instead were hired in a very competitive market. I think the superintendent is in the top 10 in the state, but if you all think this is a great district, there must be some credit where it’s due. He’s been in education for 30+ years and has been in TE for more than 20. People don’t WANT to be administrators anymore. The teacher salaries are adequate and include summers off. (Elsewhere someone said summers are not long — no — not long — but off nonetheless). There is a premium paid for someone to go into administration — and the credentials and certifications to be able to do the job are created by the state to limit the number of applicants.
      Many of the names you list are building principals and assistant principals. TE has curriculum supervisors — who do you think designs our curriculum. Teachers don’t get to just buy a book and start teaching.
      Please do not worry about teachers not having enough time to help your kids. It’s an 8 period day at the high school and they are talking about teachers teaching 6 periods — and those periods off are planning time and are meant to deal with the requirements of being a teacher. The 7 1/2 hour includes time for lunch… 6 periods of teaching a day — even if it was 50 minute periods (which it is not) would be 5 hours of teaching — leaves 2.5 hours in their contract day (which most teachers claim they work well beyond). What these cuts are displaying is that times have been good. As prices went up and people moved here, there was extra money coming in — and programs got beefed up. They are not going away — but it’s like your family turning your thermostat down because the price of heat has gone up. You won’t turn your heat off — and TESD will not cease to be a top flight school district. The administrators are at the top of their game — and if you examine their jojb descriptions, I think you would have a hard time identifying who is “mulling around” in a brand new building. And since the admins are not able to collectively bargain, they’ve already heard that they will have wage freezes for next year. Tredyffrin township did that to their non-union employees (because it’s easy) and now those employees are not non-union anymore.

      Why is it that people look at salaries and deduce that they are overpaid? The public at large has been drinking the “poor teachers are underpaid” Kool-aid for a long time. Let’s look at the teacher’s salaries – how about it? This year only. Next year’s raises are available for TE – and under negotiation for LMSD.

      First year teacher – bachelors degree: $46,650 TESD LMSD $48.973
      10th year teacher – Masters Degree (district paid) $63,400 LMSD $85,518
      Most senior Teacher Masters plus 60 $101,200 LMSD $ 109,559
      Most Senior PhD: (16+ years TE – 13+ yrs LM) $103,000 LMSD $ 111,954
      Main Line Health Salary schedule for Resident Salaries, Fiscal Year 2009-2010 (PG is Post Graduate year – equal to Step 1 for a teacher, but with a PhD)
      • PGY I $48,460
      • PGY II 49,537
      • PGY III 50,613
      • PGY IV 53,378
      • PGY V 55,029
      According to Philadelphia Magazine this month: WHAT HEY MAKE

      Anesthesia Nurse $143,333
      Exec Director – Phila Parking Authority $183,000
      CEO – Art Museum $400,000+
      Bus Mgr – Philadelphia School District $220,000
      Pres – Temple University $527,403
      Robert Toll – CEO Toll Bros $8.8 million
      Airline Pilot – US Air $70,000 – $140,000 Avg $80,000

      People choose a profession and when that profession is collectively bargained, they get the good and they cannot control the bad. The “cuts” will be the least senior/least experienced teachers. Layoffs are happening in every industry. You need to be part of the process and not just lament the direction it is taking. The board has openly agonized over this budget for over a year — raised taxes very little last year and even paid off a bond issue because of criticism of too much in reserve to avoid the PSERS spike. These are volunteers who are elected to do a job. Whether they are good at it or not — it’s the electorate that put them into the job. 3 members retired from the board in December — after a collective 50 years or something…which means they were re-elected time and again. Is this “mess” none of their doing?

      So — please use the link to salaries to search by job title — and see what other districts are paying in a market where you can only hire someone for an administrative job that has the proper certifications and credentials. It’s not an open market.
      Keep asking questions — but remember that the highest predictor of success in school is parent support and involvement. Homeschooled kids go to Harvard every year…

      • I think you are mistaken. Right now, teachers have two periods a day to prep and do various duties (like state-mandated committees they volunteer to do), they have one period that is also a “duty” like study halls etc. If you take away one of those periods teachers will have only 1 period a day (43 minutes) to get various things done in order to prepare for instruction. That leaves no time to serve on committees that serve our students needs, or do the extras like write recommendations, call parents, go to IEP meetings etc. I have asked around and that is how the day is framed. So, this isn’t like they are losing time they didn’t use anyway. In the end, teachers will have to give up the extras to get what they need done in the classroom. As someone who has benefited greatly from those “extras” I fear that it will be lost.

        • >>Right now, teachers have two periods a day to prep and do various duties (like state-mandated committees they volunteer to do), they have one period that is also a “duty” like study halls etc <<

          Do you see what you are saying? Teachers volunteer to do things…during their workday? During their contracted, paid for being in the building time? Did you know that if teachers go to a meeting "after school" that they typically get paid by the hour — workshop pay? Did you know that if they have a meeting during the day, the district pays for subs?
          Please stop worrying about the teachers. I can only assume you either are a teacher or don't have a job yourself. The productivity requirements in today's economy are enormous — if you haven't been laid off. I don't know any professional who isn't working 60 hour weeks at their workplace — and doing blackberry 24/7 to stay productive. Teachers are tenured — and are paid regardless of the quality of their work. I'm assuming and hoping that teachers have pride in their work and will continue to do their complete job whether or not it takes longer than 7:35 minutes….(including time for lunch)…so if you find that your kids are being short-changed, then you can tell the rest of the world that those tenured professionals, who are subject to a collective bargaining agreement that controls their compensation and work rules are not in fact professionals, but are hourly workers who are "working to the contract" You are worried that having to teach during their contract day keeps them from doing the "extras."??? Now — the teachers I know would not fall into that category — and I would suggest that parents need to stop worrying about professionals with jobs. Your job is to empower your kids to succeed. All those little extras the teachers do — kind of like extracurricular activities…? teachers get paid to do a job, not to work 7:35 minutes a day. I'm confident they will continue to do so at the highest level of their profession. The ones that won't — who needs em?

          • Again, you are mistaken. Teachers are not paid to go to meetings. They are scheduled DURING one of the free periods. They are not paid to go to meetings after school and subs are not hired so they can attend a meeting- teachers cover for them or the meeting is scheduled during their “free” time. One of the periods they have “free” is supposed to be used for committees and such. With that gone, teachers will not be able to feasibly do that during their work day. I don’t know where you got their information regarding what they get paid for.
            I am not worried about the teachers; I am worried about the bottom line- cuts equal opportunities lost.

  7. KT and Jane –

    Which of the proposed cuts that are listed are you so concerned about? Which “programs” do you think are going to be lost? (I’m not referring to FLES since that is a done deal.) Maybe middle school German and Latin – but kids can take those courses at the high school. What am I missing here?

  8. Many extras will be cut out of necessity. There will be less man-power in general. All of the extras teachers do will diminish out of restrained time in the day. These cuts resonate beyond the actual cut.

    • The cut of aides will be easily felt — which is why the schools will happily accept volunteers. Call Pattie Littlewood, Director of Volunteer Services, and ask how you can make a difference.

  9. So much commentary here, and split up between threads so it’s difficult to keep current. Hopefully many people will show up on Monday to listen to the details. A couple of things to bear in mind:

    1.The tax increase is capped at 2.9%. The remaining $6 million deficit can only be funded by increasing fees, reducing expenses and using the reserves. Using reserves pushes the problem to next year.

    2. Sources of funds:
    2009 versus 2008, per capita personal Income, wages/salaries, private industry, total US: Minus 6%
    2009 versus 2008, per capita personal Income, dividends, total US: Minus 21%
    (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

    3. Uses of funds:
    2010/11 versus 2009/10, average T/E teacher salary (scale + longevity): Plus 8.6%
    2011/12 versus 2010/11: average T/E teacher salary (scale + longevity): Plus 10.4%
    (Source: TEEA Contract on TESD website; calculation assumes equal distribution across the salary matrix)

    4. One of the primary reasons that schools are good might be that the parents are those that value education over house size, and instill the same values in their children.

    5. Although no administrator compensation cuts are proposed (unlike in the township, where longevity bonuses averaging 6% were removed), one of the budget strategies is to hold non-contract staff salaries flat.

    6. Colleges say that they analyze applicant achievement in the light of the opportunities available. Reducing course options might possibly be doing our kids a favor by reducing stress and allowing for greater depth of study.

    7. It might be reasonable to expect teachers to do a little extra work in the light of the compensation data, above.

    8. The options listed so far do not appear to “strip our school system of everything that makes it unique and exceptional”.

    There is no doubt, though, that more detail is needed and other ideas (administrator positions?) should be examined. The Board seems to be doing its best to make the process work, and I hope that the dialog will be fact-based and constructive

  10. I appreciate the legwork done by those on this thread and the civil discourse. A few observations:

    – The administration and the Board should be commended for their handling of the evaluation process and for their clear communication of the alternatives.

    – I’m pleased to see that the administrators have proposed freezing their own salaries.

    – Ray makes a number of excellent points, particularly #6 and #8 above.

  11. I am puzzeled by the panic. The cuts being proposed are VERY reasonable given the climate of the world today. It’s just common sense. As much as we would all love to remain unscathed by this, and to give our kids the best, sometimes it’s just basic dollars and sense. If you can’t afford it (taxpayers and school district) then you just can’t afford it. Hopefully the economy will bounce back, the homes will start selling again and business will thrive…sooner rather than later. This is not a permanent situation, and things will be revisited as we move forward. There is nothing being taken away that can not be added back later as things improve in the economy. A great lesson for our children – stay flexible, and find solutions where you can. Life is full of challenges.

  12. Have to comment on the exchange with “theway itis”

    If someone is working for the school district, why do you refer to it as a “free” period — as if they were on their own time. That time is bought and paid for.

    The contract reads: Except on the parent conference days, the Employee scheduled work day shall be a continuous period of seven (7) hours and thirty-five (35) minutes for secondary (5-12) Employees, which is 2,275 minutes per week. For elementary
    Employees, the work day shall be scheduled within the parameters identified in Section 4.10 and will be 2,275 minutes per week. Each Professional
    Employee shall have a thirty (30) minute duty free lunch each day.

    The contract language on preparation time within the day:
    A “preparation period” is defined as the time during the work day when a member of the Bargaining Unit shall be released from instruction or student contact and be free from other responsibilities, including meetings, except for teacher initiated meetings, in order that such time may be used for teacher-directed preparation for instruction. Each full time Bargaining Unit member shall receive an average of two hundred twenty-five minutes per week of preparation time within a range of two hundred to two hundred fifty minutes per week in any particular week and a minimum of one preparation period per day. Each preparation period shall consist of a minimum of 30-minute blocks of time at each level. Other released time beyond two hundred twenty-five minutes per week may be used at the District’s discretion for additional preparation time and/or non-teaching assignments (NTA). ”

    The teacher work year is 190 days (going up to 191) and of those days, student contact days total 182. Each school day has about 17% of “paid time” as free from duty or student contact (lunch and prep time). Teachers have 9 student free days a year and 15% of each day for personal time/prep time. I don’t believe they will drop the ball and produce an inferior product.

    This is just for information, by the way. I understand that cuts are troublesome — but I think this district is committed to excellence, and whatever decisions are made going forward, I don’t for a minute believe that Conestoga will deliver a lesser product.

    The bottom line, by the way, was determined in the vote last week to limit any increase to 2.9% . Many of these concerns are — to coin the phrase “a day late and a dollar short.” It’s too late to change the course of action. They need to be made — now we just have to help identify which ones we can live with.

    Cuts mean opportunities need to be valued, not casually offered. Ray’s points as Mike points out are accurate.

  13. What happens to us who still have kids in the district? I see how some of you state that this is what needs to happen AFTER your kids finish in public school. When I moved here I thought I was making a good move for my kids however, I am really second guessing our move here and would encourage others looking to move here (for the purpose of an education) to look at one of the other school districts who are still afloat.

  14. The teachers at TE are amazing. We should do whatever we have to in order to support them. I was in favor of raising the taxes above the tax 1 index – but now that isn’t a possibility THIS YEAR – but the board can still draw from their rainy day fund and raise taxes 2.9% instead of cutting teacher positions. SUPPORT OUR TEACHERS!!!! They are what make this district amazing!!!

  15. I still have kids in the school, and will for a long time, and I strongly agree with Andrea and others on this blog that the proposed cuts are NOT going to negatively affect the schools. Times are tough for everyone and the cost cutting measures that the school board has suggested makes sense. I’m willing to have one extra child in my kids’ classes to help keep taxes low in these tough times. I think the teachers need to do their part to help the situation – even if that means losing some “prep” time or teaching an extra class during the day. “Teparent” was right on in saying that we, as parents and teachers, need to be good examples of how to be resilient and flexible. You might think things are better elsewhere, but the grass always looks greener on the other side; there are issues in all school districts. I’ll stay here in T/E anyday…cuts and all. It is so easy to criticize those making the decisions – but you overlook the fact that our school district has become great under these same leaders – and it will continue to be great even with some minor cuts. Not everyone in our school district can afford higher taxes, so the school board is trying to do what is best overall. One last thing – our schools don’t have a monopoly on educating our kids – I consider myself as a parent to be just as responsible in providing my children with a good education as the school district.

    • Do you really think it will only be 1 extra kid in a class? Why are we not afforded the same offerings as the parents before us? Ok, let’s take the assumption that teachers will teach 6 periods out of an 8 period day, what will they give up in order to take the time they need to do the paperwork? Should teachers drop clubs and activities? Should parents pay a fee to keep these clubs going?

      Also, it is not the same leaders who are making the school great. Aren’t most of the board members new? Wouldn’t you have to give the credit to the administration and the teachers for doing that?

      I always find it interesting that people make teaching sound so easy: 3 months off, “high” pay and ask for them to cram more students into a room or teach another prep – If that was the case why don’t many of us become teachers? I know I personally could not have the time, devotion or drive that I have seen my kids teachers have.

  16. I don’t think that anyone can realize the stress that teachers and administrators deal with on a daily basis. I have volunteered at both the elementary and high school levels and I am amazed at the problems that arise each and every day and the amount of time and energy that the administrators and teahers invest in all of their students to ensure that they are getting the best experience possible. I fear the time when teachers have less time and energy to deal with students who truly need them because they only have 43 minutes of “free” time – if any of their time is really considered “free” – what an oxymoron. Keep up the good work teachers – we are rooting for you!!!

    • The oxymoronic part of “free” period is that it comes when they are “on the clock” — by contract their lunch period is “free” (while also part of the 7:35 minute day) and one prep period is “free” —
      I fully appreciate and respect teachers — and I understand just how stressful life in a public school can be. But I think you would hear the same description of life in most work settings in today’s economy — where productivity gains are demanded — where entire levels of workers are laid off. I’m sure you can ask your friends in offices, at hospitals and more whether they have much “free” time at work — if you aren’t busy, they don’t need you anymore.
      So this is just about trying to find a balance where the taxpayers (70% of whom do not have kids in school) feel that their limitations are receiving the same level of respect that the demands of a collective bargaining agreement achieve. We could be simple and tell those people to just move way — but then again, people with students in the schools are not purely tax payers — as their taxes are buying services in lieu of tuition. If we lose the people who pay taxes but don’t use the services, the price goes up for all of us as the new residents add to the population of users.

      • I think that you misunderstood – “free” – means free from class obligations – not free from work. Most teachers I have observed during the school day come in before their contractual time, work through lunch, and stay well after the end of their contractual day and/or take work home with them. I don’t think “free” is being used in the way you first interpreted it.

        In a previous post you quoted the contract: A “preparation period” is defined as the time during the work day when a member of the Bargaining Unit shall be released from instruction or student contact and be free from other responsibilities, including meetings, except for teacher initiated meetings, in order that such time may be used for teacher-directed preparation for instruction.

        As you can see the “free” period teachers refer to is the “free from other responsibilities” as listed in the contract langauage above. I don’t think anyone that has walked into any one of the schools in TE and has seen teachers at work would describe these periods of time for teachers as free time.

  17. A lot of snow out there. If you taxpayers don’t want to have your taxes raised maybe you should head over to the school parking lots to shovel so that the district doesn’t have to pay workers overtime to come in and do it.

  18. We’re all rooting for the teachers – and the students, but someone needs to look out for the taxpayers, too. Yes the teachers are fantastic, but that does not mean that they should not be part of the solution to the current economic situation, nor does it mean that the taxpayers should have to shoulder the burden alone. I would love to see the union provide some options for helping the budget situation other than just telling parents that the taxes need to be raised. No one ever wants to address the taxpayers who have lost their jobs or had their salaries cut and just can’t afford taxes to go up and up each year.

    • The union offered, in good faith, $600,000 in cuts and were rejected just last week. You don’t believe me? Ask those who are authorized to reject such an offer! Why should the teachers be partly responsible for the economic crisis of taxpayers who historically haven’t been in favor of raising taxes? Small raises over time will make less of an economic hit, like what is being felt now. In most communities taxes go up a bit every year. As parents living in an amazing school district, with correlating high property values (yes, even those of you without kids in the district), should be ok with paying more to keep our district achieving at such a high level.
      TE teachers are FINALLY making what they should based on surrounding district salaries & test (PSSA & AP) scores. When times were good, I didn’t see anyone offering the teachers more $$, but now that times are tough, they should help? Doesn’t seem fair. What is best for students should be everyone’s primary focus & cutting teachers isn’t best for our kids.

  19. Don’t believe everything you hear. I heard that the $600,000 initially offered by the union was later taken off the table BY THE UNION because offering the concessions would have meant that the teacher’s contract would have to be reopened – and the union leadership did not want to do that. Everyone needs to relax. The schools will be just fine. These cuts are more than reasonable considering the economic climate. There are more solutions than to just raise taxes.

    • Absolutely false. The Teacher’s union offered the equivalent of every teacher to forego $1200 in pay for 3 days of work (a total of $600,000) directly to the board as a good faith gesture to play a role in helping with this budget crisis. The response from the board president was a flat out rejection and a request to open the contract INSTEAD of taking the $600,000. Every teacher would have offered MORE MONEY than the average TE resident would have to pay with a tax increase. What does that say about the teacher’s willingness to provide for OUR KIDS? They pay their OWN taxes in their respective districts and STILL they were willing to shell out more money for TE kids. I understand that this will absolutely be brought up at the finance meeting Monday night before the boead tries to paint the union as the bad guy for not opening the contract. Please be there to hear the truth about where these teachers stand.

      • Thank you for the additional information! I think you’ve had the best advice thus far asking everyone to come out Feb 8th & hear the truth spoken, rather than the skewed truth being posted. Wow, $1200 per teacher? I’d say that’s generous. What would the average TE taxpayer have to pay with a tax increase, I’d like to know.

        • According to Andrea above: “Their taxes would increase $44 for every percent increase. If the district taxes at the max allowed 2.9%, this average tax bill would go to $4,530” This is from $4400…. by my math that it $130. Doing some more math it seems that each teacher is offering almost TEN TIMES what our average taxpayer would have to spend.

  20. The Union should make their offer public at the Finance meeting on Monday night. Everything else will be on the table. I’m guessing their offer was an offer of a trade-off — so the rejection may well have been that their $600,000 pricetag wasn’t enough to buy what they wanted to achieve. But I would love to hear the offer and understand it. The board has posted all the things they are putting under consideration . I’d be happy to look for the TEEA offer on their website? http://TEEAcher.org
    Kidsadvocate — I don’t think you should reduce this to a “the world vs. the teachers” budget crisis. Cuts needed to be made means everything is on the table, and the biggest factor in school district spending is personnel costs. Radnor and Lower Merion are in contract years — it will be extraordinary illustrative of whether or not the economy message is reaching the PSEA as to how these two districts do in ther process.
    I have wrtten elsewhere at length about the situations in neighboring districts. I think we all need to be up to speed about our region, not just our district. The comment that we should be able to “pay more” belies the fact that we already pay significantly.
    This economic downturn should and will force a “market correction” — housing prices, salaries and benefits are all under siege. Few of us were around in 1929, but I think this is the modern day equilvalent, whether we get quite that low or not.

    • I agree that the Union should present their offer on the 8th, however, only taxpayers may speak. At the last meeting, a Conestoga teacher tried to speak & was made to sit down because she did not live in the district. I can’t disagree with the teachers not wanting the contract open, as it was negotiated in good faith by both sides. It is a good & fair contract for those who are educating the really good kids that are our future.

      Andrea it was not my intent to make this a “world vs. the teachers” issue. I just think it is unfair to ask our teachers, who are finally getting properly compensated based on other comparable districts, even with higher student achievement, to possibly lose some of those benefits in their contract! It is the parents & teachers together who shape our kids into who they become as adults. Others in this blog have not spoke of them as equals, rather as the greedy subordinate. They are highly educated professionals who teach because they love kids. They don’t get bonuses when the economy is booming like some of us. Some of our bonuses are double their annual salary!

      Where does our district rank in tax burden out of 501 in the state? I think as parents, we have a responsibilty to bear this tax increase for our kids! If any of you think teachers are overpaid, no one is preventing you from getting your teaching certification. No digs at professions, please.

  21. I just called a friend of mine who is also a TE teacher and confirmed the offer. The union offered approx. 1200 a teacher to the school board as a gesture of good faith. The board said “no, but we are willing to renegotiate your contract.” What kind of response s that? Does this not show us how much these teachers care about our kids? They are willing to take a pay cut to keep this school district afloat?

    drop the teacher pay, drop the programs, and see if you like the type of person spending 8 hours a day with our kids.

    • Thanks for checking and confirming the offer with a teacher. My neighbor (TE teacher) told me the details. I wonder what the board will have to say for itself Monday night when more of the public is made aware of the TRUTH that TE teachers offered $600,00 of their OWN SALARY, no strings attached, to help the district and the board’s response was to throw it back in their faces. UNbelievable!

      • It is also true that if the teacher’s contract were to be opened, all the negotiated items are on the table. Neither the teachers nor the Board can open only 1 aspect, such as salary. Let’s all keep this in mind when considering whether or not opening the contract is a good idea. The teachers certainly would have a lot to loose. I think they realize that, which is why they offered up the $600,000. Again, it is NOT the union’s responsibility to remedy the budget of our district, they did this in good faith! Thanks, TE Teacher’s Union! I truly hope the Board has a solution in which they don’t need $600,000.

    • Pattye- could we open a new thread that addresses this proposed offer from the teacher’s union? This is quite important and is integral to the entire issue and really deserves more visibility and discussion. Thanks for considering. Keep up the great work with this public information forum!

      • parent – As requested, I have written a front page post which addresses the Union offer. Let’s get the comments going on the new post. And, thank you for the compliment.

  22. I also heard the same thing about the teacher offer. 600,000 dollars without strings attached?! What does that say that teachers are willing to offer some of their salary as a sign of good faith? Do you think the current school board will bring up the offer OR state why they rejected it at the finance meeting? The school board is making it a taxpayer vs. teacher war and hope to enjoy the spoils of it. The board does not want to make the hard choices regarding the budget but appear to make the teachers the enemy. Rest assured I will be at the meeting and advocating for teachers since the board will not let them speak but, wants them to be a “shared stakeholder”.

  23. I think we are just going to keep getting more and more confirmation that the teachers are not as bad and greedy and some are saying. If there were they would not devote and volunteer so much time to the hundreds of clubs offered at TE above and beyond the normal school day. Good for you teachers – I don’t know if I would have been so generous if I were you. $1200!!!! – but it makes me realize how lucky we are to have such a great group of people educating our children! I just hope the board realizes it and votes to raise taxes and use the rainy day fund instead of cutting teachers. We need you to keep this school district as great as it is today!!!

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