Since 2006 I have advocated for people to vote no and defeat their school budgets. During this time I have been accused of attacking teachers and not caring about quality education. Both of these accusations are incorrect.
I believe in quality education as one of the most important functions of any community―A well-educated society benefits everyone. I also believe that most teachers do a good job and that most of them are good people.
However, if I were advocating for lower heating oil prices and lower gas prices, the teachers would support my stand. Like most of us, they probably objected to the exorbitant bonuses received by Wall Street bankers and oil company executives! They may have expressed outrage at some of the exorbitant salaries received by school administrators! And some have probably even been against the recent fee passed by Brookhaven for town beaches, which amounts to 1.00/month―And yet these same people have no problem with the $400 to $500 or more annual increases in school taxes.
What I AM advocating is an end to:
- Teachers and administrators paying only 15% of their health insurance premiums since 1999. [In my district (Rocky Point), if they were to pay an extra 10% (for a total of 25%) of the premiums, the district would save $800.000---more than enough to keep full-day kindergarten and still stay below the cap.]
- Automatic step increases IN ADDITION TO ANY NEGOTIATED SALARY INCREASES: Step increases are increases in salaries contingent on how many years of service and any additional education credits they accrue. (Yes, they have to pay for further education, but they automatically get increases that are forever, which I am sure amounts to much more than they have spent to get the extra credits. In the private sector there is no such thing as automatic increases just for showing up!)
- Being able to accrue up to 190 sick days and be paid for them at the end of their career. This amounts to more than the school year.
- Ever-increasing annual increases in salaries. Many other unions and certainly nonunion employees have not gotten salary increase in many years. When 70% of property taxes go to school taxes and 70% of school taxes go to salaries and benefits, something is wrong. In my district, 55 out of 244 teachers/administrators make between $100,000 and $162.000. The average salary on Long Island is $52.000--and, unlike the teachers, who work for 10 months out of the year, that’s for a 12-month position.
- Increases in school taxes that far exceed the inflation rate. In the last ten years my school taxes have gone up 80%, compared to 27% for the inflation.
- Out of control pensions and benefits. On May 5th the head of the Long Island Association said on Channel 21 that over the last 10 years pensions for the public sector have gone up 904%. Granted pensions are not controlled on a local level. They are controlled by the state and certainly a battle for another day. Nonetheless, residents still have to pay that bill. I don’t think in the private sector pensions have increased by that much for the people who have a plan through their employers. If anything employer contributions to pensions have been curtailed. And of course many people have no pension plans.
- Taxpayer dollars being used for union business. The teacher who is elected union president only has to teach a maximum of three classes. The rest of his/her school day is spent doing union business BUT IS BEING PAID WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS TO DO THAT UNION BUSINESS. In my district the union president/teacher was paid $92,000 plus. Why was he/she not paid by union dues for doing union business?
- Repeal of the Triborough Amendment. When teachers’ contracts are up for renewal, they should not have the right to have all preexisting items carried over until a new contract is signed. (They have this right under the Triborough Amendment--another battle to be waged on the state level). Because everything stays in place, the teachers’ union has no reason to negotiate in good faith. They will lose nothing holding out. And often they also win the concession from the school boards for any new items won in the negotiations to be retroactive. (A few years ago the Rocky Point teachers union held out for three years before they signed the new contract--and everything was retroactive. They lost nothing by working without a contract. And the taxpayers keep paying.)
And for those who say that teachers also have to pay property taxes, I say it’s not the case when what comes out of one pocket goes in the other pocket. When 70% of what they pay and what we pay goes toward their salaries and benefits, they’re not paying the same thing the rest of us are.
To parents concerned that saying no will mean that school programs will be cut, you have a right to be concerned, but not for the reasons you think. The out-of-control increases can’t go on. A revolution is coming. We can no longer allow the status quo to continue. What needs to be done is to first defeat this budget, which means the Board will have to present a new budget. It behooves you to let your voices be heard. Attend the Board meeting. Tell them you don’t want any programs cut. You want concessions from the teachers and administrators and you want a budget that stays below the cap. Let them know what you want for the future!.
So vote NO on May 15
For the Rocky Point School District: Go to the
Rocky Point High School Gym
Rocky Point-Yaphank Road
from 7:00am to 9:00pm