Culver City Observer -

By Letters 

WHAT KIDS LEARN, NOT BASED ON WHAT TEACHERS EARN

 

October 26, 2017



While watching a video of one of last month’s School Board meeting, online, something happened that set me back.

At the one-hour, seven-minute mark David Mielke, the Teachers Union president, was there to address the Board about School District salaries.

While he was handing out an L.A. County salary survey and before he could get to the rostrum, Kathy Paspalis set the desired tone for Mr. Mielke’s address.

She chirped in with a well-placed exclamation, “We’ve moved up!”

Arriving at the speaker's mike, Mr. Mielke whole-heartedly agreed.

He then went on to praise the District “for setting aside money and sharing it with the teachers. The District has moved teachers up to where their salaries are now competitive.”

But that statement was only partially true. Much of the money used for these past five years to increase employee compensation ($15.9M) came from the District’s Reserve Fund.

The Reserve Fund already had been put aside by previous School Boards years before the five-year salary plan’s inception. Previous members had set aside this money, thinking it should be saved for a rainy day. They assumed that since it was onetime money, it never would be used to pay for ongoing expenditures, such as District salaries.

He pointed out a few examples of success: Beginning teacher salaries were at the median, beginning teachers with a Masters were at the median and the salary for 25-year experience was just above the median.

Health and welfare benefits were right at the median.

Justified?

After receiving a cumulative 28.3 percent in raises in the past five years and almost $20M in district-wide compensation increases, Mr. Mielke had the chutzpah to suggest that the District needed a new five-year plan. This time, to move teachers up to the top tier from their median County ranking.

It sounds as if Mr. Mielke wants teachers to be paid beyond just fairly and with a respectful, competitive salary. Now, he wants his members to be some of the highest paid teachers in L.A. County.

Here It Comes

He went on to lament that this probably couldn’t happen without a new parcel tax.

So the teachers' union is looking forward to passing another parcel tax.

Is the new one going to be used to increase teacher salaries from an already acknowledged respectful, competitive county median, to reaching some of the highest salaries in L.A. County?

Do the Math

According to last year’s J-90 Certificated Salary Survey, the School District’s average salary now stands about $7,750 behind the 12th ranked district. Since last year’s top tier average annual salary increase rose more than four percent, our district would have to raise teachers’ compensation a minimum of six percent or more each year to have a chance of reaching such a lofty goal.

Measure EE, the five-year, $99 parcel tax, which passed in 2009, raised about $1.2M each year. That would mean local taxpayers would have to pass a parcel tax that would start out costing double that, about $200.

It would have to increase by over $200 for each of the next four years.

At the end of the Teachers Union’s proposed five-year plan homeowners would be paying at least $1,000 annually in support of teachers’ salaries.

That does not even take into account the classified workers’ salaries. We cannot forget about them! They, too, play an important role in our children’s educational experience. Their salary increases would only add more to the homeowners’ cost of the parcel tax.

Is spending local tax money for increasing salaries of teachers in Culver City a good use for local parcel tax revenue?

Back in 2011-12, at the start of the Teachers Union’s first 5-year plan, we ranked 44th — out of 47 districts — in average teacher salary.

We were about $6570 below the county’s median step.

The Teachers Union’s five-year salary plan cost the School District over $17M. If you look at the average Culver City salary for teachers in 2015-16, it moved up only three steps, to 41st in the County, out of the now 48 districts.

Today, the District is even further from the union’s newly proposed goal of being in the top tier, by about $7,750.

How many more millions of dollars will these proposed salary increases cost local homeowners/taxpayers to make up for years of poor spending decisions by this School Board?

A Hole in This Bucket

Over the last four years our District has been deficit spending to help pay for these District-wide raises and predicts it will continue to do so into the next decade.

This school year alone, 2017-18, the School District projects that it will be deficit spending $5.2M more than it takes in.

That is 7.5 percent beyond what it receives. No wonder the District wants to float a new parcel tax.

What Happened to Respect?

We know how much the adults in the District benefited financially from their past five-year plan.

The real question needing an answer is: “How much did our children benefit from it?”

Isn’t it supposed to be “all about the kids?”

Over the past five years the School District’s average SAT scores have gone up two percent — from 1500 to 1532. That still is below the 1550 benchmark set by the College Board.

Students who take the SATs are among the District’s brightest, most self-motivated high achievers among their peers.

These students see themselves as college material. They are in the top 40 percent of their class.

Our School District exists to teach our children, not just to insure that teachers are among the highest paid in L.A. County.

With this new, seemingly shameless, proposal, it is beginning to look like union reps are testing the politically progressive waters in Culver City.

It seems they are over-reaching, seeking a salary well beyond the achieved respect and competitiveness they sought for members five years ago.

More Never Enough

With help from sympathetic School Board members — and don’t forget that new, constantly-growing parcel tax they will ask us to pay – Teachers Union members see our District as a big cash cow. The cow is just waiting to be milked for all union members can get.

Finally, I again ask what should be the most important question needing answered in this discussion:

What’s in it for the kids?

Local taxpayers and parents should not forget: What our children learn is not based on what their teachers earn.

George Laase

Culver City

 

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