by Lake County News-Chronicle
February 14, 2013 at 6:45 am in Lake County News-Chronicle
Lake Superior School District is reapplying for the four-day week structure, which it says reduces operation costs and is intended to help stabilize its budget. Continue Reading
Tags: Education, four-day week, Lake Superior School District 3 Comments »
From the Duluth News Tribune regarding the Duluth school systems financial problems:
“The district’s contract with teachers expires in June. Negotiations are just beginning. How about increasing the amount teachers and other district employees contribute to their health insurance? An estimated $1.23 million per year could be saved if employees paid 20 percent. And isn’t that more in line with what private-sector workers are being expected to pay these days?
Another $1.5 million could be saved if full health-care benefits were offered only to full-time or nearly full-time district employees. Half-time employees qualify for benefits now.
Freezing step and lane increases for teacher salaries could trim an additional $723,000, according to reporting this week by the News Tribune’s Jana Hollingsworth. Step increases are for years of experience; lane increases are for higher qualifications.
How about an overall pay freeze? Or a pay cut, at least until the district’s financial fortunes are turned around? How about a freeze or a cut if it means avoiding layoffs?
Another idea to save money is limiting freshmen to six classes a day rather than seven, meaning no zero hour. The district could eliminate early-release days in favor of days off to save even more on staff costs and busing. And paying for high school career centers with existing school money could save an estimated $23,000.
Then there’s moving the district’s alternative high school, Unity. If that somehow could be accomplished without hurting student achievement, it could save $405,000 through staff cuts.
It all adds up.
And it all needs to be on the table.
There’ll be pain. But taxpayers needn’t be the only ones to feel the pinch.”
So, how much did similar folks in the Lake Superior School District give back to keep the budget in line? The rest of the taxpayers went through very difficult financial times and most are still suffering. I don’t really recall any voluntary give-back by the teacher’s union folks to help the district’s financial position.
And let me get this straight, “$80,000 per teacher” is district 381’s average teacher cost? If you figure normal employer payroll tax responsibility and around 25-30% benefit costs, that means the average teacher’s salary must be around $60,000 per year? And I believe the budget must also include 2-3% for “teacher improvement”? Wow, that is a lot of money for 9 months work!
And, pay increases for just getting more education and time in rank? I assume those apply here as in Duluth. Wouldn’t we all like that! Particularly in this economy!
It wouldn’t seem so bad, perhaps, if the kids scores in standardized testing had been substantially improving. However, I saw a slight drop when I looked at the numbers on the state education department site. Certainly no improvement worth noting. And the averages are terrible compared to where they should be.
I am not against paying good teachers for a job well done, but this situation here doesn’t seem to make good common sense. However, I suppose one could argue it might be worse if we didn’t have teachers as good as what we do have. That doesn’t say much for the kids, though, does it?
Maybe Duluth and Lake Superior school districts need a Michelle Rhee?
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OK, so I read the district’s responses to Mark Broin’s letter–great letter, by the way! The district apparently saved $397,683 over the two years of the 4-day week. Far less than the $520,000 projected.
Then, instead of telling Mr. Broin how many dollars were spent on teachers’ salary increases and covering benefit cost increases for them, he was given percentages.
Anyone else wonder what the dollar amount was, compared to the savings the school district achieved?
Like or Dislike: 10 4
Per a reply to an additional request for clarification of those percentages, here are the answers to your questions (including my questions and Superintendent Crandall’s responses):
“Paraprofessionals, teachers, paraprofessionals and food servicees” wages increased (excluding custodians) a total of $508,961 over the two years. The benefit cost increase between the two years 2011/2012 was $19,589. The increase from 2010 was not provided, which would be an important number to add in to get the grand total for the two years.
To answer your question directly, all the savings plus $130,867 additional went to slaries and benefits for the indicated groups. This does not include any benefit cost increase from 2010 to 2011, or custodial contract settlements.
Plus, another $286,500 in additional federal monies ( on top of normal federal grants) went to the teacher group to “retain staff or FTE”.
Simply put, some $417,367 plus all the 4-day week savings ($397,683) went mostly to the “instructional” group for salary increases and benefits.
To the best of my knowledge, there were no individual “give-backs” in terms of salary reductions or benefit cost increase sharing by the teaching staff, to help alleviate the district’s financial problems
However, everyone else took about 20% cuts in pay and many lost benefits or their jobs because the work week went to four days instead of five. These were also typically the lowest paid employees of the district. That is one of the unfortunate outcomes of going to a four day week. Teachers retain their existing salaries and benefits with no cuts, while others lose out substantially.
Add to this probable reduced maintenance on more than around $30 milliom dollars in publically owned infrastructure (school buildings,busses, etc.), the issue becomes more exacerbated.
Then, around $3.5 million was borrowed by the district to cover operating expenses/other, including I assume the excess over savings of the salary and benefit increases given. As I understand, some substantial amounts were also spent on a couple new busses and a new activity trailer.
And, as you said, all this resulted in no improvement in student standardized test scores…actually a slight decrease.
This should concern all of us, and point to the need to re-examine the existing curriculum and programs, and where precious dollars should possibly be re-prioritized.
********From the additional letter:
I have quickly gone through your responses, and will do so again. I noticed on my first go-through, you provided me percentages on the salary and benefit increases (Question #11) in each year, but not the respective total dollar amounts in those categories. Are those dollar amounts available without me having to dig through the MDOE site, and do a lot of adding and subtracting?
Mr. Crandall said:
The approximate dollar amounts for the 2% wage increase in all groups was FY12 $251,961 and FY13 $257,000. The total increases for the paraprofessionals, teachers, paraprofessionals and food service. The custodian group has not settled their contract yet, so there has not been a payout yet for that group.
For Health benefits our health insurance costs for the district were in FY11 = $1,739,439 and in FY12 = $1, 759,028
On question #6, I may be confused but I thought I recalled a special one-time additional allocation of federal monies was granted to each state, including Minnesota. If that was correct, my question refers to the district’s state allocated share of the “additional” funds received from the federal government, above and beyond the normal per student/per program annual grants/allocations. Sorry if I have confused my recollection and that might not be an accurate description of the case. If I’m wrong, let me know and I’ll double check my facts.
I believe you are then referring to federal money for Federal Jobs which was in the amount of FY11 $143,339 and FY12 $143,161. This money was used to retain staff or FTE.”
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