Recently, I have and the (MPTA) to make concessions to help resolve our current budget crisis.
At Wednedsay's BOE meeting, the various leaders of Central Office along with our school building leaders (Miller Place Administrator’s Association) agreed to pay an extra $4000 to $5000 into their health benefits. For many of these people that means they are giving up their raise for next year. I, along with many others, came to the microphone tonight to thank these leaders. That leaves the MPTA as the odd group out and we are all hopeful that they will also join the others by offering real concessions.
As I have stated many times, my 2nd grade son has had wonderful teachers. Mrs. Pederson, Ms. Kootz, and Mrs. O’Connor are miracle-workers. They have been able to teach my son and others how to read, to write, and to solve math problems while being in a room filled with children that have 30-second attention spans. My son resisted reading even though both of his parents are educators and we were always putting books in front of him and trying to get him to enjoy reading. All credit for his reading goes to his three MP teachers.
Just yesterday, my wife took out 20 books from the Port Jeff Library and my son will read these in two weeks! To this day my son still hugs Mrs. Pederson and Ms. Kootz when he sees them and they return the love. At every BOE meeting to date, countless students have come to the microphone to tell us how much they love and respect their teachers at all grade levels.
It is clear that MP teachers are a treasure that must be preserved.
But we must temper this reality with the other realities:
- People are leaving Long Island in droves due to high taxes (longislandindex.org)
- Local taxes are the most common problem mentioned by Long Islanders in every poll conducted over the last eight years (since 2003).
- In 2011 45% of Long Islanders say "high taxes" when asked about the most important problem facing their county.
- Roughly 8 in 10 residents rate high property taxes as a very or extremely serious problem, and these numbers have changed little since 2004.
- Over 6 in 10 Long Island residents have at least some difficulty paying their rent or mortgage.
- Almost 8 in 10 Long Island residents are concerned that some family members might have to leave the area because of high housing costs.
- My colleague is looking for a house to buy but he will not even consider Miller Place due to its high taxes.
- That is why the tax cap law was passed and the MP budget does not pierce the cap. The MP community sent that message and it was loud and clear. Thank you Superintendent Hodun and BOE members for listening.
- All but 25 teachers get a step raise of 2%-3.5% every year even in a no contract scenario.
- Next year, the promised raise is this step increase + CPI which right now is 2.6%. Assuming the CPI does not change, that means raises between 4.6% and 6.1% to nearly all teachers and this, during a fiscal crisis.
- In the latest budget, if the current MPTA contract is not renegotiated we will lose 16.7 of our wonderful teachers. This is an improvement over the last budget which cut 22.5 teachers but it is still unacceptable.
I would give up a few thousand dollar raise in a heartbeat if I knew it would save the job of a colleague. My life does not change if I do not get a small raise but that is certainly not the case for my colleagues who would lose their jobs and do so in this difficult economy. The decision for me to give back a small raise to save jobs would be especially easy if I had received very good raises in the past several years during a global economic crisis where others were losing their jobs. Such is the case for MPTA members. Since 2006-2007, the pay increases for teachers at various steps of the contract were:
Step 1: +$18,322 (+38%)
Step 10: +$21,620 (+32%)
Step 20: +$20,764 (+24%)
Step 25: +$13,542 (+14%)
Top salaries now range from $109,000 to $130,000.
Dr. Higuera and the BOE have combed the financials and they cannot find the $1.5 million that would save the teachers. Upper St. Clair Teachers Union (in a Pittsburgh suburb) renegotiated even before contract had ended. They will use past year salaries for the next several with a guarantee of no layoffs. and I encourage all to read. That union valued jobs over raises.
My union (Faculty Association of Suffolk County Community College) accepted two years of 0% and a class size increase to help the College budget in its time of need.
I have heard from several people in the know that Mt. Sinai teachers are voting on a five year contract that features a PAY FREEZE next year. A pay freeze means they are giving up a 3.6% raise + step increase. They are also increasing their health care contribution from 11% to 15%. Why are they doing this? Because the district needs the help and in return they are guaranteed NO LAYOFFS for two years.
The MPTA leadership must decide which is the higher priority: protecting their members’ jobs or increasing the salary of those that remain. The next few years will feature the same scenario if real concessions are not made now. How many more teachers like Mrs. Pederson, Ms. Kootz, and Mrs. O’Connor will be lost because of stubbornness and pride? I cannot imagine any teacher saying to a younger colleague, “I need my small raise more than you need your job.”
MPTA leadership: please lead by offering concessions that preserve our teachers.