Tag Archives: education

A letter to the teachers union

Dear District 300 teachers union,

I appreciate the hard work you do. Educating our youth today is not an easy job, and it’s important. It’s important to the health of our families and to the economic health of our country. I appreciate the abuse you take on a daily basis just to teach a kid how to read, how to do algebra and how the North triumphed over the South in the Civil War.

I’m writing you today to implore you to step back a minute and look at your current squabbles with the  school board from my perspective. To be clear, you’re not locked in tough negotiations with the school board — you’re locked in tough negotiations with me — your average property taxpayer in the school district. The thousands of dollars I pay every year in property taxes are entrusted to the school board to spend judiciously, so when the board is demanding concessions from you, it’s because they have to answer to me.

People like me — your friends and neighbors in this community — have been victims of the American economy during the past three years. While the teachers in the teacher’s union were collecting 3% pay increases in 2008-2010, folks like us were taking pay cuts, losing our jobs and foreclosing our homes. The economy has sucked … the wind out of our sales and the value out of our homes.

Don’t get me wrong. Sure, I think you deserve to get a raise. But the fact is, so do I. And I haven’t gotten one in three years. And I’m now doing the work of three people. It’s how the world works right now in this economy.

As far as I know, the administration and the unions representing other staff members have already taken wage freezes or cuts, benefits reductions and other cuts. From what I read in the newspaper, the teachers union and the school board are $83,000 apart in concessions totalling $4 million. That $90,000 you want for teachers who haven’t received raises in the past year or two because of their position on the salary schedule is a petty point. They should be grateful they even have a job. I’m sorry they don’t get a raise again this year, but the money just isn’t there. You can’t get blood out of a turnip, and frankly, my house is a big, fat turnip right now with a whole bunch of worthless paper value.

So when you meet with the school board tomorrow for the 10th time since March, please think of me and be reasonable. It is certainly within your rights to hold things up until the 11th hour when your contract is up June 30, but honestly, I think you’re trifling and being short-sighted and frankly, kind of selfish. Make the concessions and then send out a press release on how you did it because you empathize with the rest of us. You’ll earn my respect for taking that stance instead of my resentment for thinking you should somehow be spared the repercussions of a bad economy. We’re in this together.

A District 300 tax payer

How much does your kid’s teacher get paid?

Some parents attend their kid’s football games.

Some parents read the school district’s annual report.

I am not attending Caswell’s football game an hour away from home tomorrow; Tyler’s on that. But I did review District 300’s annual report.

As I was reviewing the pretty-much glowing report, the staff profile page caught my eye. As a former reporter who sat through hours-long school board meetings long ago, I was familiar with such statistics. For instance:

  • District 300 (which has three high schools) employs 481 secondary teachers.
  • The majority of teachers have a master’s degree plus 30 credit hours (and, conveniently, tuition reimbursement is part of the fringe benefits).
  • Average years of teaching experience: 10.27.
  • More than 93% of teachers in the district are white, which is higher than the state average and much, much higher than the percentage of students in the district who are white (61.2%).
  • Student to teacher ratio at the secondary level: 21 students for every teacher.

Something was missing, however, to this reporter’s eye: Salaries. Small print said, “Staff Salaries and Benefits: To view the contracts for each of D300’s employee groups, click here. [This link was updated 6/25/13 with the most current contract; the numbers recorded in this blog were current in 2009].

OK. So I did.

I had to download an 8.52 MB document with 155 pages. I don’t suppose a lot of tax payers are going this far, but I’m willing to make sacrifices for my blog (in the name of public information). I know teachers and administrators really don’t like this at all — that their salaries are public information, but they are paid with public tax money. District 300 wasn’t making it easy to get.

The index sent me to the wrong page for salary schedules, and when I found the right page, it references an appendix. When I finally found the appendix, I learned a teacher with a master’s degree and 30 credit hours with 10 years experience is paid $58,446 (that’s the “gross amount of actual pay” not including retirement). That’s a 3% pay increase over last year. I’m not sure even teachers merit a pay raise in this economy — I took a 10% pay cut in the past year — but that’s the value of teacher unions, I guess.

By the way, I also learned an assistant football coach (from whom Caswell derives direct benefit) is paid $3,837 to $4,780 a year, depending on his experience.

So, I looked at my property tax statement to see how much of a teacher I paid for. I paid $4,231.28 in property taxes to District 300 in tax year 2008 (couldn’t find my 2009 bill). That’s 7.2% of one teacher. Of course, according to the student : teacher ratio, Caswell is getting only 4.7% of a teacher, so I’m not getting my money’s worth, but that’s the drawback of having a big house and a lot of District 300 overhead, I guess.

For the most part, I think public education is a good deal. Even when I didn’t have a child who was benefiting from public education, I knew schools were educating the next generation and keeping them busy (so they weren’t vandalizing my property and stealing from me). I would never, in a million years, be able to keep 21 kids interested in anything (except possibly sex education, but that class opens all sorts of other problems in discipline), so I’m grateful for teachers.

But I’m not sure they deserved a raise this year, when so many people lost jobs, took pay cuts and saw the value of their homes plummet. Just my two cents.

4.0 ain’t what it used to be

Can someone explain to this old-timer why schools nowadays don’t all use a 4.0 scale?

When I was in high school, an A equaled 4 points, a B 3 points, etc. If you got all A’s, you had a 4.0 grade point average.

Nowadays, if you take Honors classes, an A equals 6 points. Or if you take Advanced classes, an A equals 5 points.

So now Cas thinks he can get a C in his Honors class because it won’t hurt his 4.0 grade point average.

Hmm … it doesn’t quite work that way, Honey. Because there’s somebody in that Honors class who’s getting an A and is working on a 6.0 grade point average (well, la ti da!).

It prompted me to look up the requirements for Northwestern University, which has been mentioned as a university Cas might someday want to attend. Did you know 70% of applicants are rejected at Northwestern? Ouch. I wonder how many of them got C’s! In Honors classes or otherwise!

It was easy for me, back in the ’80s. I got all A’s. But I guess a 4.0 GPA doesn’t give you insight into all of the mysteries of the modern world.