By Steve Gunn EAGnews.org
KILLEEN, Texas – Bit by bit, school boards around the nation are starting to understand the key to surviving the current recession: cutting unnecessary labor costs that eat up huge chunks of school district budgets.
A good example comes from the Killeen, Texas school district, where the school board is considering a proposal to halt longevity- based stipends for teachers. Under the current program, teachers receive $1,175 in extra pay for every five years of service, on top of overall percentage raises and automatic, annual step raises. Auxiliary staff receive an extra $705 for every five years of service.
The stipends are not one-year bonuses. They are permanent raises that remain part of the employee’s salary until retirement.
Ending the perk would save the district about $900,000 per year and about $8.4 million over time, according to the Killeen Daily Herald. That would be a great help to a district that’s scrambling to balance its budget following large reductions in state aid that led to recent staff reductions and student program cuts.
Of course the local teachers union objects to the proposal, claiming the loss of the stipend would convince more experienced teachers to leave the district. But under the proposal current teachers would keep their most recent bonuses, and only eight percent of the bonuses have been going to older teachers, anyway.
According to district figures, 1,347 of the 1,594 teachers who most recently received longevity bonuses have fewer than 19 years of service in the district. This group accounts for the highest employee turnover in the district, according to the newspaper.
So perhaps the longevity bonuses aren’t doing what they were designed to do in the first place – convince teachers to stick around for an entire career.
Longevity bonuses are just one example of the type of wasteful contract provisions that can be found in most teachers union collective bargaining agreements. Free health insurance, free retirement pensions, reimbursement for unused sick days, salaries and benefits for teachers who work full-time for the union, extra pay for lunchroom monitoring and bonuses for teachers with a few extra students are other ugly examples.
Put together, they cost cash-starved school districts millions of dollars they can’t afford.
Any school district in a genuine financial emergency should have the power to shed itself of these type of labor costs before a single younger teacher is laid off or a single student program is cancelled. All the adults should accept a little less to make sure students are shielded as much as possible from the effects of the poor economy.
Schools exist, after all, for the students, not the adults who staff them.
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