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Stanford professor shares why teachers unions are bad for kids

Original post made by Chris on Apr 22, 2009

Mr. Moe is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the William Bennett Munro professor of political science at Stanford University. He's written books and articles about political institutions, including the American educational system. He has been quoted, interviewed and asked what kind of educational reform he believes is needed.
Mr. Moe addresses how the teachers' union have the real power because they have votes, and how the unions aren't for the benefit of students and education, but for their members.

Following are excerpts from publications either written by Mr. Moe, where he is quoted, or from an interview. They are followed by weblinks to the entire articles.

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Democrats favor educational "change" -- as long as it doesn't affect anyone's job, reallocate resources, or otherwise threaten the occupational interests of the adults running the system. Most changes of real consequence are therefore off the table. The party specializes instead in proposals that involve spending more money and hiring more teachers -- such as reductions in class size, across-the-board raises and huge new programs like universal preschool. These efforts probably have some benefits for kids. But they come at an exorbitant price, both in dollars and opportunities foregone, and purposely ignore the fundamentals that need to be addressed.

Web Link
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"The bottom line is the interests of teachers and unions are not aligned with the interests of children, and the organizational arrangements [i.e. collective bargaining contracts] pursued by unions will ultimately diverge from those that are best for students," Moe writes.
Web Link
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In an interview with George Clowes of School Reform News (2003)...
Clowes: The 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, set off what you have called a "frenzy of reforms" to improve the performance of public schools. Why did those reforms produce so little in terms of better performance?

Moe: The fundamentals of the system never changed, even though the system now spends a ton more money. The reforms just nibbled about the edges of the system--changing graduation requirements, teacher certification standards, and so on. Now they're tinkering with class size, when that's not the problem.

These may have been called "reforms," but they didn't actually change the system in any fundamental way. All the reforms that would have done that--like pay for performance--were defeated by the unions and others with a vested interest in the status quo.

Web Link

AS NOTED ABOVE, MR. MOE IS A STANFORD PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE - a teacher.

Comments (40)

Posted by Parent of Two, a resident of Val Vista
on Apr 22, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Parent of Two is a registered user.

I've been saying this stuff for years (and for months on this board).

If the goal is to educate the kids in the best possible way, why do teachers need a union? Without a union, the BEST educators will get rewarded, the WORST will get fired. A union, almost by definition, is for the benefit of the MEMBERS, not the customers.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Parent of Two,
I agree. But I think it's sad that teachers are virtually forced to join the union and forced to take the party line. There are plenty of Pleasanton teachers who would support an across the board pay cut to save all teacher jobs. But they don't dare say so publicly.

There are plenty who would support a wage freeze, but don't dare say so publicly.

There are plenty who think the union should reduce their dues, but they really don't dare say that publicly!


Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

I agree completely. What I also find concerning is that the teacher's union uses our children's education as a bargaining chip at the negotiation table.


Posted by Jarhead, a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 22, 2009 at 5:21 pm

The teacher's union holds down the "Bully Pulpit" and its time to kick them off the stage. They don't exist to promote better education, or for the teachers that they pretend to represent, they exist for their own existence. Deny them, and put and end to this...its time for sundown on the union.


Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of Fairlands Elementary School
on Apr 22, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Can I get an applause? I literally just asked a PUSD teacher and student to leave my property with their propaganda materials in support of Measure G. One of the phrases on the dual sided color paper reads, "For less that 64 cents a day, we will be supporting the exemplary public shcools that contribute to our high adn stable property values."

AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

I thought I was going to scream at them. All I could do was politely tell them I was not voting for the Measure and as I closed my door, the teacher had to yell at me, "If it doesn't pass, the schools are going to change a lot and you don't want that!!!"

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

All I can say is...18.5 million will be generated over the life of the TAX and 15 MM will go to the teacher's step and column. 3.5 MM left for "The children".

I am SO sick of the evil threats from this UNION!

GO AWAY!!!

Oh, and, No on Measure G


Posted by Afraid, a resident of Livermore
on Apr 22, 2009 at 5:42 pm

There is nothing here that I could disagree with and I teach in a school district "on the other side of the hill". I don't even speak about the union to any of my colleagues because I'm afraid that I would have 4 flats at the end of the day.
You're right, they do use your children's education as a bargaining chip, but that's only because they have lost sight of the real purpose of why a unions were created.
You're right, they do exist for their own existence, but I don't think that the "sundown" will come soon.
You're right. deny them and maybe you can hasten the "sundown" and help you school district get down to the business of EDUCATION and not NEGOTIATION.


Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of Fairlands Elementary School
on Apr 22, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Afraid,

Please don't fret...you have NO idea how many of us really believe the same way. I also used to work at a district and when I left the district so as to really help children, a bunch of my teacher colleagues and I became friends out side of work. We discovered how many of us really are conservatives. The only reason we stay in the Union is because of the threat of a lawsuit against us by a parent. The district doesn't provide any legal assistance but the Union does. It is the only thing they have. After leaving the district employ to become a private consultant, I sought out my own insurance coverage and have decided if I ever go back to work at a district, I will never again sign up for the Union and will maintain my private insurance - something I knew little about after finishing my graduate program. I will then choose to donate my union dues to a charity I CHOOSE.

Don't be afraid of the unions...remember there are lots of us out there that love kids and families and put them above our own special interests. Just look at LA school district who just broke with their union and are taking a pay cut. Good, honest, people are out there...we just need to find each other!


Posted by Jill, a resident of Birdland
on Apr 22, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Get...wagon,
Did the student have a broken laptop and a tear in his/her eye. They are using the kids to go door to door, how pathetic. But you can expect more of this becuase they have no real ammo except to play on voter's emotions.
Afraid, you are right, its time to end it now,,,EDUCATION not NEGOTIATION.


Posted by Afraid, a resident of Livermore
on Apr 22, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Get out of the wagon,
I'm not afraid of the union, but I am afraid of some of my colleagues who are liberal as long as you agree with them. The union and politics are not things discussed ovewr a burger and fries. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes you let him sleep unless you want to be what the bear leaves in the woods.


Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Jill - you made me LOL! Thanks; I am crazy mad right now! And no, the child was dressed in athletic attire and was smacking her gum like she could have really cared less. Which she shouldn't!! She shouldn't have even been there.

I think it is inexecusible to use kids. It is one thing for a parent to take their child along, but the teachers need to BACK OFF!

I've shared this "vignette" one other time, but it bares repeating for those who are so good-hearted and naive and believe the "good" intentions of the unions.

I worked for a district in 2000 when the Bush/Gore Presidential campaign was going on and beginning in August, the union meetings were not about "the children", work setting issues, or any "teacher" issues. It was all about convincing our district's parents to vote FOR Gore. We were asked repeatedly to get on phone banks to call parents in the evenings, because AND I QUOTE the union leaders, "Parent's trust teachers."

I stood up and walked out and got a NASTY look from teachers and the union leaders as I did. I refused to take part in their systematic manipulation of trusting parents. How dare they do it then, and how dare they now! No one will use my own little children against me! Seriously, HOW dare they! I do not trust unions after that episode at my district. The California Teacher's Association had HOW much money to support the OBAMA Presidential ticket????

WHERE IS THAT MONEY FOR OUR KID'S????


Posted by Chris, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Get out of the Wagon,
Take a bow!
But let's all remember...the teacher who came to your home doesn't represent all the Pleasanton teachers, no more than SPS represents all the parents in this community who believe in quality education.
If you take the number of teachers who are canvassing for SPS and compare them to the total number of teachers in the district, it's a very small percentage.
If you take the number of parents who are canvassing for SPS and compare them to the total number of parents in the district, it's an even smaller percentage.
The educational system in America needs to be reformed and reform can start in Pleasanton.
$15 million dollars over four years for raises. That number will only increase each succeeding year. The raises are simply not sustainable. In the current economy, they're unconscionable.


Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Thanks Chris,you are right! They are a small percentage of teachers. I honestly just can't understand how they maintain a straight face when they tell people this nonsense. There is no language in Measure G that says the programs will be maintained if passed. Not one program is listed as "saved" if the measure passes. Instead it is empty language like, "keep class size small in the critical early years", "provide effecting reading support programs", "Ensure libraries contine to support student achievment", "Retain our highly valued elementary music programs", "Keep couselors in our schools to support students", "Maintain this", "Keep that", BLAH BLAH BLAH. The measure never states, nor does this glossy color flyer, which programs will be saved and to what degree they will be funded should the measure pass.

I'm not getting hood-winked and taken for a ride on this one. It is a total bait and switch. Actually, it's nothing short of dishonest marketing and manipulation, IMHO.

All that stated, I do agree that this does not represent all the teachers in P=town. If some teachers want to break with the union, I would support them and in fact try to help them. I hope we can stop using emotion to rile people up and manipulate their fears. It is just wrong.

State the facts and people will agree with them or not. Don't sugar coat it and don't outright misrepresent the facts.


Posted by Russell, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm

This forum seems like a lot of people congratulating and agreeing with each other.

There was a someone named Kathleen who gave some reasonable information to people like me who want more than stuff about unions being bad and schools not doing their job.

Most of the post above had very little to do with to do with Pleasanton, and for that matter with the Palo Alto school district where Stanford is located. Palo Alto and Pleasanton both have good schools. Some are truly excellent. The teachers are doing a good job. That article above is talking about school reforms, but Pleasanton schools don't need reform. I think most parents in Pleasanton would be happy to keep things the way they are. I didn't vote for change, and I don't want change.

So Measure G is a conservative/liberal thing? Liberals like it and conservatives don't like it? I'm a conservative. I'm for getting rid of the IRS and replacing it with a flat tax, kind of like what Steve Forbes talks about, but I wouldn't have a cut off for low income workers. I think the Obama administration is making dangerous cuts in defense programs that I would favor funding heavily. I'm appalled by the government's bailout of financial service firms like AIG with tax dollars. But I would consider voting for measure G. I'm not against public schools.

As far as I can tell, the school district has a good excuse for asking for money now. There was a huge downturn in the economy caused by a credit crisis. It was in no way the fault of the schools. I would much rather have my tax dollars maintaining high quality schools than bailing out failed companies like AIG. It sounds like a good tax to me. I haven't made up my mind, but I haven't heard a good argument yet to convince me to vote against.

So Chris, you want to reform Pleasanton schools. What is it that you have a problem with? Is it just that the teachers are paid too much? They are doing a great job and providing an excellent education for are children, but they are asking for too much money? Is that all? The reform you want is pay freezes or pay cuts? Do you think they aren't doing a good job?


Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 22, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Posted by Russell -

"Palo Alto and Pleasanton both have good schools. Some are truly excellent. The teachers are doing a good job. That article above is talking about school reforms, but Pleasanton schools don't need reform. I think most parents in Pleasanton would be happy to keep things the way they are.

I think the Obama administration is making dangerous cuts in defense programs that I would favor funding heavily. I'm appalled by the government's bailout of financial service firms like AIG with tax dollars. But I would consider voting for measure G. I'm not against public schools.

As far as I can tell, the school district has a good excuse for asking for money now. There was a huge downturn in the economy caused by a credit crisis. It was in no way the fault of the schools. I would much rather have my tax dollars maintaining high quality schools than bailing out failed companies like AIG. It sounds like a good tax to me. I haven't made up my mind, but I haven't heard a good argument yet to convince me to vote against.

So Chris, you want to reform Pleasanton schools. What is it that you have a problem with? Is it just that the teachers are paid too much? They are doing a great job and providing an excellent education for are children, but they are asking for too much money? Is that all? The reform you want is pay freezes or pay cuts? Do you think they aren't doing a good job?"

Russell,
I agree Pleasanton schools are excellent and that the teachers are partly responsible for that excellence. I do disagree with your comment about Pleasanton schools not benefiting from a reform however. Just because our schools are excellent, doesn't mean they can't be better. I don't think we should blindly support reform without evaluating exactly what it is we are asking to reform, but similarly I don't think we should be afraid of reform just because we're happy with what we currently have. Opportunities for improvement should always be thoroughly evaluated.

Obama increased overall defense spending by 4 percent.

I assume part of your anger regarding the government's handling of the AIG bailout also involves some concern over the retention bonuses and contractually obligated bonuses paid to AIG executives and employees after the company received tax payer money. I think one can draw a fairly strong parallel to the parcel tax and the PUSD choosing to move forward with Step and Column increases. Granted the teachers are not responsible for the economic climate that has caused the lapse in funding, but I'm sure you would agree that if there is no money for our children's programs surely there should not be for raises.

Personally, I have no problem paying an additional parcel tax to maintain the quality level of education that Pleasanton schools have achieved. However, I think it is morally, fiscally, and socially irresponsible to ask the community for money during times when people are having their salaries frozen, taking pay cuts, and loosing their jobs only to pay out step and column increases.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Russell,
I think the majority of Pleasanton teachers are doing a good job, some not so good, and some spectacular. I'd like to see teachers compensated based on performance. The good and spectacular teachers deserve more than a plaque for being the dedicated professionals they are - they deserve the opportunity to get a bigger paycheck. Being passed over for raises would be a way to weed out the bad teachers.

I don't suggest freezing salaries because it's something anyone wants, but because it's something that's needed. Where will PUSD get the money to continue with step & column? If PUSD is locked into a contract where they must continue giving raises, the money has to come from somewhere, and my concern is that it will come from educational programs for the children of our community.
I'd like to see APT recognize that, as you say, there's a huge downturn in the economy and volunteer to freeze wages. If wages are frozen next year, that's $1.5 million PUSD has to work with - and that will save quite a few teachers' jobs.

No, I don't want to see teachers' pay cut.

But right now, salary freezes (and pay cuts and layoffs) are happening in every industry. It's the reality of today's economy.

The reform of Plesanton schools I would like to see is with the school district. Questions regarding their credibility have been raised on various threads (e.g. regarding maintaining reserves, providing accurate information on their website, wasteful spending, etc.)

You're right that the poster Kathleen has provided numerous examples, links, etc. that indicate why the parcel tax is the wrong tax at the wrong time.

But I've noticed that in many of your postings on many threads, the only argument you make for the parcel tax is that teachers in Pleasanton are good and you consistently turn every discussion into an accusation that those who don't support the tax are anti-teacher.

You're not really having a discussion, or providing any additional research...just bringing out the same old tired argument and false accusations.

It's become boring.





Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 12:04 am

Chris, Pleasanton Parent, Afraid, and Jill,

Thank you for your sanity in this forum. I was really upset earlier today after my visit from our friendly teacher's union and I am a little embarrassed at how I posted above, but, I needed to vent.

Back to the issue at hand, you are certainly correct that all public agencies could stand some reform, or maybe to suit Russell, call it financial responsibility.

Whether it was the out of control cell phone bills of the district employees, or other wasteful spending, no one wants to look at what could be done to not only save programs for the district, but also potentially save some of the jobs of the pink - slipped teachers.

No one in this community who came here for the school district wants our schools to lose their edge. We all can agree we want the best for the kids' education for their futures, etc. We all, maybe not gladly, but we all contribute a steep property tax because we value the education community in Pleasanton. I personally think, and I know I am not alone, that there are many, many, dedicated and inspiring educators in this district who deserve a lot more credit than they are given. But unfortuneatly, their compensation contracts don't acknowledge them. It is too bad that we don't have an additional fund allocated for them that isn't at the mercy of the union or the district administration to reward those that are outstanding!!

I whole-heartedly believe that we do not need this parcel tax at this time. I believe if we had the chance to pay for an independent auditor to come in and look through the books of PUSD, we might be surprised by both the waste and the need in different areas. And maybe, just maybe, they could take care of each other. Of course this is hypothetical, but I think this is the beginning of reform. First identify the problem, then fix it. Maybe we'd find the funds to not only maintain the current programs, but hopefully retain the staff. And if not, find another option, but I don't think we should cut the teachers' salaries. I just think it would be nice to see the teaching staff be willing to have cuts as an option - putting every option on the table to help themselves, the kids and the community. I mean, we as parents do a lot to support our teachers at each school. That kind of faith and trust would go far in this community where no one wants to lose a favorite teacher they have been looking forward to their child having, or see a dearly loved teacher lose their job.

It is the approach they have so far taken and the lack of willingness to work with our community on a solution, or even to budge from their request for more $$ that has set a tone of incivility. I just feel like they don't care what they have to do to get the money they want, including manipulation, but act like they are entitled to more of my money because they teach my kids. When you bring common civility down to that kind of a low, I have a hard time hearing what you have to say.

I'd love to see this union and the Board of trustees get to the heart of the matter with how the decisions are made at the district and the fiscal management of the monies entrusted to the district from this community. After all, it is our school district, not theirs.

How else can things be reformed?


Posted by Russell, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 23, 2009 at 8:23 am

@Chris

But I am seeing people attacking the schools and teachers on these forums. That is what I'm responding to. When I see comments like "EDUCATION not NEGOTIATION." I get the impression that the poster thinks teachers are doing a good job with education. I've seen plenty of comments on other Pleasanton Weekly forums to the effect that schools don't really matter, that it is all about the parents. I responded that schools do matter. Both the parents and the schools matter. I've dealt with good and bad schools personally, so I have first hand knowledge of both. I want what is best for my kids and all kids.

As far as merit pay goes, I'm for it. I'd like to see more things like that in the schools. I don't always agree with Jack Welch, but he used to fire the lower performing 10% of employees each year. I think that would be too extreme for the schools, but some kind of merit pay would probably be good. Jack Welch also didn't believe in salary freezes in tough times. "It's nuts to give everyone a pay freeze," Welch said. "Why give a great employee a pay freeze?"

Web Link


Posted by suggestion, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 10:04 am

I would agree with a pay freeze for teachers like the private sector is receiving ONLY if there was also going to be huge raises and bonuses and other lavish treatment that private sector receives during the plush years. I have no problem asking teaches to share the sacrifice now if they reap the rewards later. As a child of teachers and a person who has been surrounded by friends who work in various socio-economic districts, that has not been the case.


Posted by Get the facts, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

So many of you are looking for a concession from the teachers. That has already happened, the teachers have voted, and there will be a two-day decrease in the work schedule next year, amounting to an average of about 1000 bucks next year per teacher. This total is more than the four-year total of the parcel tax, and if a teacher lives in pleasanton, they will be paying a parcel tax as well.

The community has shouted for a "shared sacrifice" from the teachers, and we gave one. Please stop talking about a "pay freeze" or "frozen wages", because we have already agreed to a cut in pay.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

$15M paid out in step and column over four years that the District would collect $18M from a parcel tax. Do the math.


Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Get the facts -
I personally have not asked for pay cuts on the teachers part, but I have asked for a freeze to be put on any increases for the duration of the parcel tax.

Please explain why you believe it is fiscally, socially, and ethically responsible to take a pay increase (in the form of step and column increases) when the district is saying that our school programs cannot be adequately funded and are asking the community for additional funds in order to do so?

I personally have not asked for pay cuts on the teachers part, but I have asked for a freeze to be put on any increases for the duration of the parcel tax.


Posted by Changed myMind, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm

To Get the facts...
But if the teachers still get step and column increases for the next four years doesn't that make your pay decrease seem a little silly. I think it does and this "shell game" isn't going to work on me. Try harder.


Posted by Get the facts, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I do realize what you are saying about Step and Column, but we look at that differently.

First off, if a teacher was to teach for 30 years, they would only see a step increase for 14 of those years, less than half. If they teach for more than 30 years, then no increases.

S & C should be looked at a little different, in my opinion, because it is more like a promise than a raise. If you work this many years, you would receive this much, for example. But I do understand why so many non-teachers see it differently, I do not want to discount that. I just remember other non-teaching jobs where I had similar pay structures set up, rewards for years worked.

I personally would be fine with a S & C freeze, if it didn't affect the retirees. A teacher receives retirement benefits at the last wage they received. So if a teacher retires after 25 years, but the last six were frozen, then they basically retire at the 19 year mark, far all intents and purposes. I simply don't think that is right.

And as "suggestion" has said, we simply don't get things back when the times get better. I beleive our retirees deserve better than to have their years of work frozen.


Posted by Me, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm

I find it funny how many folks come out asking for the schools to do better, saying every agency could improve etc... with thier proposed solutions. But where were they when the economy was good? Likely sipping margarita's. The Pleasanton Schools are excellent in a state that ranks 47th (48th?) in spending per pupil. The same state is at or near the top of the list for cost of living. Pleasanton is high on the list of cities withing California for cost of living. It is easy to sit back and lob insults and criticism. It is easy to be critical of any tax. It is easy to be critical of the unions, but to say they have resulted in too high of pay,or job protection, just not very objective. Of course everyone has some beef with a teacher who may have mis-treated thier little darling, by making them do homework or be respectful during class. But that does not equate to a bad educator. But this is used time and time again as a reason the union is bad. While I'm not necessarily a fan of the union, the argument does not really pass the test of time and certainly does not apply here. Pleasanton could not be achieving as well as it is with a big staff of incompetant teachers. Sure there may be some, but there are incompetants at your workplace too. The reality is Pleasanton attracts top talent through aggressive compensation. What is wrong with that?

The other reality is that teacher that get into the profession for the summer vacation rarely last, through thier delusions of granduer


Posted by Parent of Two, a resident of Val Vista
on Apr 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Parent of Two is a registered user.

To the previous poster (saying "Me" sounds borderline psychotic):

Yes, there are incompetents in every work environment. But in a UNION, they are protected at the expense of the least tenured. When my company had "workplace reductions", they cut the unproductive and least cost-effective personnel. When teachers have layoffs, they cut the least tenured and least expensive, and then complain about the belt-tightening rather than take advantage of the opportunity to trim the fat.

To the inaptly named "Get the Facts":

The teacher "cuts" were tied to the passage of the parcel tax, meaning that if we didn't vote for the parcel tax, they wouldn't cut out the days, paradoxically spending more money with less available. That wasn't a concession, that was an ultimatum and a form of union-sponsored extortion.


Posted by Mia, a resident of Canyon Creek
on Apr 23, 2009 at 2:51 pm

"Attracts top talent with aggressive compensation" Define top talent. A recently hired elementary school teacher in Pleasanton is amazingly immature, actually less mature than the children she teaches. Top talent? Hardly.


Posted by taxpayer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

The CTA has contributed $5.3 million in support of 1B (May 19th election). The Union is also pushing for the temporary 1% CA State sales tax to become permanent and for the funds it generates to support education.
The following website has some very interesting information about teachers' unions in CA
Web Link


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 23, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Suggestion: Bonuses are typically paid for being on duty 24/7/365, for canceled vacations, for missed and interrupted family events, and for hitting very specific goals. If the goals aren't achieved, despite all the effort to get there, the bonuses are minimized or not awarded at all. There is always this image of corporate fat cats, and certainly there are some, but the reality in the private sector is far from what's been described. You can have 20 years or 2 years or 2 days with the company or be the top performer, and if the boss walks in and says pack your desk, there's no discussion about seniority—you're gone. At will employment is not something unions favor.

Gtf: A teacher's retirement is calculated on their three highest years of pay and is wonderfully generous. No one on social security is collecting 80% of his or her pre-retirement income.

Russell: As has been pointed out, the unsustainable raises given in 2005-2008 are directly impacting ongoing costs at the district well beyond the life of any parcel tax. If the salary schedules were frozen today, it still would have a $6 million impact over the four years proposed for this parcel tax, one third of the $18.4 million being asked of us.

We disagree about the need having been proven by the district and most certainly I believe there is no good excuse for how tax dollars were managed leading up to the crunch. Others are expressing themselves well about this perceived shortfall . . . and I say perceived because there are federal dollars, flexibility from the state, and other proposed cuts that buy the district time to put its fiscal house in order and for the community to get an accurate picture of what is happening. Many of us against the tax now would work for a necessary and very specific tax (X teachers, X counselors, X reading specialists) once the smoke has cleared and transparency in district operations are made readily available to all.

There is frustration in the community because there are teachers and classified staff members willing to freeze their pay (and/or take cuts) in order to save their peers, which ultimately saves program and student education. There also is frustration from voters already economizing, taking pay cuts, and losing jobs. It's natural to believe unions have a sense of entitlement if they aren't taking action that mirrors what is occurring all around them. Membership is allowed to vote on proposals (like the furlough days), but does not appear to have a voice in proposing pay freezes or cuts as an alternative to pink slips. It could be those willing members are in the minority. It isn't likely we'll know. And it can't be determined if it's necessary because of the dearth of information about the district's finances.

To Jack Welch's comment about a pay freeze, "Why give a great employee a pay freeze?" Unfortunately, there's no alternative under current union agreements (any union). You can't honor a great employee either.


Posted by Get the facts, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Kathleen:

You're right, a teacher's retirement IS based on the last three tyears of employment. But If the last five years of a teacher's employment are frozen at the 19-year mark, then they will not be getting the 20-year kick at the end of their work, a kick that was promised to them when they were hired.

Yes, it is a generous retirement. But that is one trade-off for not getting higher pay in the first place.

"There is frustration in the community because there are teachers and classified staff members willing to freeze their pay (and/or take cuts) in order to save their peers"
This is exactly what the union has done! We are taking a two-day cut next year, earmarked for saving teachers! The community spoke, and the teachers' responded!

I beleive bonuses are paid for hitting goals, like sales goals and such. I have never heard of a bonus for cancelling a vacation, but I'm not saying this doesn't happen. It would be news to me.


Posted by Brandon, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Me said: "The reality is Pleasanton attracts top talent through aggressive compensation. What is wrong with that?"

What is wrong is that the aggressive compensations don't really attract the top talent. All it does is attract local talents.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 23, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Gtf: Careful about not getting higher pay. It's a 180-186 day work year for teachers, depending on the district. For the sake of discussion, we'll accept that the teacher and the corporate employee work 8 hours a day. A beginning teacher making $60,000 a year for 180 days is making roughly $333 a day. Corporate norms are 260 days, so the equivalent corporate job would pay $86,580. Or to look at it the other way, a beginning teacher makes the equivalent of $86,580.

The corporate employee will retire on social security (I leave out 401k income because teachers can have 403b income). So explain to me how teachers aren't compensated well and where it is they make a "trade off" to retire with 80% of their highest salary?

Now, that is not to say I don't value teachers or wouldn't pay them more, and differently, if that was possible.

(The bonus idea is not literally for canceled vacations, etc. It is recognition of sacrifices made by the wage earner to reach corporate goals and to achieve the bonus. Often, the sweat and tears are put in and goals are not attained and bonuses are reduced or canceled.)


Posted by %^&*, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 9:22 pm

KR,
"Corporate norms are 260 days, so the equivalent corporate job would pay $86,580. Or to look at it the other way, a beginning teacher makes the equivalent of $86,580."
What do the "Corporate Norms" top out at? Adjust the teacher's 10 year pay for the 260 days. Minus the days that teachers work for free! Weekends, nights, weeks before and after the school year starts. How about the 20 year teacher? Then throw in a bonus or two just to see what happens.
You ARE saying that teachers are overpaid. You've lost me there.


Posted by Russell, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 23, 2009 at 9:31 pm

@Chris

"But I've noticed that in many of your postings on many threads, the only argument you make for the parcel tax is that teachers in Pleasanton are good and you consistently turn every discussion into an accusation that those who don't support the tax are anti-teacher.
You're not really having a discussion, or providing any additional research...just bringing out the same old tired argument and false accusations. "

OK so what Mia said below is not an attack on teachers? And if not, what was the point of the post?

" A recently hired elementary school teacher in Pleasanton is amazingly immature, actually less mature than the children she teaches. Top talent? Hardly."

People are attacking the teachers, and I keep responding to that. I have lived in a school district that went from good to bad. Things can really turn sour fast. I'm not saying that PUSD has been fiscally responsible. They may well have mismanaged their funds. The examples I've seen so far are a lot like the criticisms that I read about any government agency -- like the defence department spending $200 on a hammer or $5000 on a toilet seat. Sure, it makes sense that there should have been a rainy day fund, but enough to cover the current downturn? Who could have expected that?


Posted by Russell, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm

@Kathleen

I agree, it would be a good thing if great teachers could be paid more. I'm all for looking for ways to reform compensation.

"As has been pointed out, the unsustainable raises given in 2005-2008 are directly impacting ongoing costs at the district well beyond the life of any parcel tax. "

That gets to the crux of the matter. My question is would the raises have been unsustainable had state revenues not dropped off precipitously? If so, then I agree, there is a real problem. The numbers are still murky to me. I thought there was not a shortfall until to the big drop in the economy.

"There also is frustration from voters already economizing, taking pay cuts, and losing jobs. It's natural to believe unions have a sense of entitlement if they aren't taking action that mirrors what is occurring all around them."

I can certainly appreciate that frustration.

What bothers me is that issue has become so confrontational. I really think there is a risk to the school district. Has anyone else out there seen a good school district disintegrate? It does kill property values. The confrontational tone of a lot of these posts is troublesome (not yours Kathleen). I hope we all try to work together on this.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 12:18 am

Russell,
I have no issue with you responding to those who actually say negative things about teachers - it's you assuming that anyone who is against the parcel tax is anti teacher that bothers me.

My frustration lies with the school district...I do believe they should have taken a long term approach to district finances and I am frustrated by promises of transparency and then discover that the district hasn't been forthcoming with information - not to the Budget Advisory Committee or to the community. Poster Kathleen has explained these frustrations much better than I can.

I do agree with her that a specific parcel tax, if needed, and after the district has gotten its "fiscal house in order" is something I could support.

But I truly don't appreciate being called, even indirectly, anti-teacher. I have good friends who are teachers, I have worked with many teachers, and have been a substitute teacher.

I would be happy to see teachers starting salaries increased, when the economy improves, so that teachers salaries are more in line with those in the private sector. I'd be happy if the good teachers I know weren't "rewarded" for being good teachers by having their classes filled to the maximum because parents pull their kids out of classes taught by the bad teachers. The good teachers get more work, the bad teachers get less. I would be happy if the good teachers were not only recognized for doing an excellent job, but rewarded with higher salaries than those who aren't doing a good job.

My friends who are teachers all readily admit they didn't become teachers for the money - they love what they do, they work hard to do their jobs well and they truly care for kids. They also care for their peers. They realize that salaries are the biggest expense PUSD has. They would willingly accept a salary freeze if it would prevent layoffs. They believe Pleasanton is a community that not only cares for their kids, but their teachers, and they believe that once the economy improves, PUSD will not only remove the freeze, but if/when possible, increase their salaries.

They see the CTA union spending millions on various political campaigns, but being unwilling to reduce union dues, and unwilling to try to work with the School District to find a workable solution to the budget problems. They are worried that if a salary freeze isn't put into place, programs for students will be cut in order for teachers to get raises. That they worry will turn parents against them. They also worry that an inability to keep up with the salary increases will bankrupt PUSD.

They're afraid to speak up because those union members who are closer to retirement are so opposed to any discussion of a salary freeze. They're afraid of the very union that is supposed to be there to support them. They understand why so many of those opposed to the parcel tax have to keep their opposition quiet because they too feel they can't express their opinions publicly.

They are good decent people. They would rather not have a freeze placed on their salaries, but they think it's the only real solution until the economy improves. Better a freeze than layoffs.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 24, 2009 at 7:27 am

@(*#@(: First read the post by Gtf to which I was responding; then read what I said. Gtf's argument was that teachers aren't paid well and the trade off is being able to retire at 80% (and I know others who retired at 100%) of their averaged three highest years of pay. I was responding that teachers are indeed paid well. Even said I would pay more, and differently, if it were possible.

The rest is a rant on your part. How about the private sector employee who is told they are needed at the office for 56 hours straight (literally) or one whose vacation is canceled or one who puts in 80 hours and more a week and is then told his/her pay is being cut by x% and then is told to pack up his/her desk . . . today. Teachers are paid well and do not face that kind of risk. Teachers chose their careers, private sector too. Just the way it is.

I have no problem with private sector making good salaries for what they do. Teachers either. Gtf's argument saying one side deserves 80% of their pay in retirement while the other gets to retire on social security has no legs and I called him/her on it.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 24, 2009 at 8:54 am

Stacey is a registered user.

I once made less than minimum wage after working a few months at roughly 60 hours per week. I got a _small_ bonus for it, helping my company achieve a strategic cost-savings goal.

Did you know in the video game industry that those guys usually sleep at the office especially in the last few months leading up to a release?

So yes, I understand it when teachers say they are overworked and underpaid. And no, I don't think some teachers understand that the same thing occurs in the private sector.


Posted by kids today, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 9:50 am

Teachers should be paid more for dealing with the kids and parents of today. The stress level of that alone is worth every penny they make. I lasted only a few months teaching and ran back to my private sector job. I actually make less than teaching, but it is a hell of a lot less stressful.

And, I will second some of the earlier points....teachers to do get "rich" or have "added benefits" in the plush years like those in private sector jobs. They just continue to chug along.

Also, while the idea of keeping good teachers and getting rid of the bad ones is a great concept, the actuality is that it is difficult to have an objective criteria for determining who is good and who is bad.


Posted by Well, well, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:28 am

Goodness, someone (kids today) is actually saying s/he makes less money in the private sector than in teaching?


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 24, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Russell, The crux is to remember that the district had a stated goal to have a seven percent reserve. The goal was abandoned and large raises were awarded instead. Any long-time educator will tell you that the tide ebbs and flows in school funding. These cycles must be planned for because they will come. A seven percent reserve now would have bought time for the district and the community to determine what it values and is willing to pay for. I believe a more conservative approach was discarded at the district's peril. In its rush to cover its backside, we are being harried to the voter's booth. The crisis at the state level exacerbated the district's woes; it didn't create them. It didn't have to happen this way. In fact, it shouldn't have happened this way.

We actually don't have a clear picture of the risk. There are two levels of federal funding available; one of those is providing $2.1 million to the district; the other amount the district qualifies for isn't known at this time. Other economies have been suggested that will save jobs, including not spending $300,000 on this election (that would save roughly four beginning teachers). We are being asked to vote for a tax before the district has to finalize its budget. It is very likely we could put a tax in place that isn't needed, and then we will have given $18.4 million with very vague goals of where it will be spent and with no guarantee that current fiscal behaviors will change.


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