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Inside the Beaver's Dam

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Location: Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, United States

Thursday, July 27, 2006

QEO just not cutting it

Most taxpayers have no idea how public schools are funded. Most, when they discover the truth, are incensed. Take this recent comment for example:

The biggest problem is the QEO law........a mandated 4.2% raise every year??
That's incredible! Anyone else here who would like a job with that kind of a guarantee? Guess it helps to have the Governor and legislature in your pocket, eh Teacher's Union?

Well actually, the QEO was put in place in the early 1990's by conservative legislators in an effort to control annual teacher compensation hikes that reached into the double digits! In addition at that time, laws were passed that put revenue caps in place, limiting a district's ability to raise property taxes, and the state "promised" it would provide 2/3 of the money needed to run local school ("2/3 funding," as it's known).

Ever since then, WEAC, the teacher's union, has worked tirelessly to remove the QEO. That effort continues to this day. To them, a 4.2% annual compensation raise is a pittance. Just listen to this song (if you can stomach it) called "The QEO Blues," from a member of the Kohler teacher's union.

In their comments to the last post, Joe Militello and Azor were both partially correct. District funding (specifically the state funding formula) is based in part on enrollment as Joe stated. But Azor's right too. Districts with a faster growing property tax base have greater headroom to raise their property taxes. So even if Milwaukee Public Schools sees an annual increase in enrollment, the property tax base of that district probably isn't growing as quickly as it is in districts like Brookfield or Oconomowoc (whether from new construction or increases in property values), so those districts have more available funds each year.

Here in Beaver Dam we've had modest property tax base growth over the past five years, and relatively flat enrollment. However, given the restrictions in place (revenue caps, school funding formula), the 4.2% QEO increases costs beyond our revenue gains, leaving the district annually short of funds.

There are three solutions to this problem:

1. Pass a funding referendum. The district tried this and the taxpayers put their foot down. Good for them.

2. Lay off staff, cut back on hours, slash programs. This is what is called, "eating your young," as the Mayor puts it. Since the employee union's won't accept anything short of a QEO, the district is forced to make cuts in programs and staff to balance the budget. This is where the children lose, and this is the result of a decisions made by the teacher's union and the school board.

3. Don't offer the QEO, go to arbitration. As closely as one can parallel financing a school with financing a city, this is the direction the City of Beaver Dam has gone with its police union. It's what is called "playing hardball," and it's what taxpayers want to see happen. Last fall's referendum vote and this spring's aldermanic and mayor's races clearly indicate taxpayers are not willing to sit by as public employees get carte blanche access to their wallets. Yes, WEAC will accuse the school board of spending valuable district resources on lawyers (just as AFSCME did earlier this week in their arbitration hearing), and yes, WEAC will cry that the district will never be able to recruit quality teachers with such terrible pay (as AFSCME did Monday), and yes, WEAC will gush about how important and difficult a teacher's job is, and how no one "out there" could possibly do their job (as AFSCME has said), but it's all rhetoric.

The comments in this post will absolutely inflame nearly all teachers. However, there are certainly a few out there who understand finance, and realize public funding is not a bottomless pit. These few teachers are silenced in nearly every district through intimidation by coworkers. Teachers earn, on average, about $43,000 a year in Wisconsin. That's slightly above average for the nation. However, when you consider the value, or cost, of teacher's benefits in this state, Wisconsin ranks in the top three in compensation. Wisconsin teachers have the best pension system in the nation (Often it's totally free to enroll in, with very high payouts starting at 55 years), and one of the top health insurance packages. Wise teachers who don't buy into WEAC's rhetoric understand they are very well compensated and go about doing their jobs with a smile on their face. As for the rest of the sad, angry bunch, you can bet they are red in the face and ready to spit venom at the contents of this entry, and that should tell you something.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher...and you're right. One piece I would add to your article. People who say you won't be able to draw teachers to the area or they will leave are simply wrong. Ask Mr. Orlenko if he has a problem drawing teachers. He may tell you he is still getting 50-100 applications for every teaching vacancy. The salary schedules in the state for teachers and the way seniority works makes it a high risk decision for a teacher to leave the district they are in. I don't like it...but it is reality.

Thu Jul 27, 04:18:00 PM  
Anonymous 50-100 said...

I'm sure that Big Jim is getting plenty of applications. Teachers will take ANY job in ANY area to get a year or two of experience, but then you lose them because they have the qualifications to find the job they want. Almost every teacher has done this. Retention of quality staff is the key. It is NOT a high risk decision to leave a district if a teacher's been there four or less years. Either you're a very young and naive teacher or you've had the same job your whole life, OR...you're Mr. O. writing a post.

Thu Jul 27, 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AS FAR AS THE CITY UNIONS HAVING "CARTE BLANCE TO THEIR WALLETS", CITY UNIONS ARE NOT ASKING FOR A HUGE RAISE IT COMES OUT TO BE JUST ABOVE A COST OF LIVING RAISE.
LETS TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THE CITY/MAYOR HAS SPENT FIGHTING THIS. THE CITY DID BUDGET AROUND $25,000 FOR LABOR ATTORNEY FEES. THAT TOTAL TODAY IS $170,000+ AND WILL BE CLOSER TO $200,000 BY THE END OF IT ALL, PLUS THE GRIEVANCE FILED BY POLICE UNION AS FAR AS RETIREMENT BENEFITS.HMMMMMM I WONDER WERE THAT EXTRA MONEY IS COMING FROM.MAYOR MAYBE YOU COULD ANSWER THAT. SOUNDS LIKE A WASTE OF MONEY TO ME. OH YEAH IM SURE THE BUILDING INSPECTOR WILL EARN A MINIMUM OF 300,000 IN PAY, THAT WOULD OF WENT TO THE CITY BUDGET BUT WONT THANKS TO THE MAYOR.OH YEAH AL SCHWANTZ SAID THE $750,000 THE CITY LOST OUT ON DO TO "OUTSOURCING" THE BUILDING INSPECTOR WOULD HAVE NO EFFECT ON THE CITY BUDGET, AND THIS GUY IS A ALDERPERSON LOOKING OUT FOR THE BEST INTREST OF THE TAX PAYERS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
AND ALSO THE POLICE UNION HAS NOT HAD A ARBITRATION CASE YET MR. BLOGGER D.P.W. HAD A HEARING. YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT YOU ARE ON THE CITY COUNCIL..
AS FAR AS THE NEW GARBAGE PICK UP, ITS A SERVICE CUT MR. SCHWANTZ THINKS NOT.
PEOPLE NEED TO GO TO THE COUNCIL MEETINGS, AND OTHER MEETINGS TO SEE WHAT REALLY GOES ON IN CITY POLTICS, ITS A REAL EYE OPENER.

Thu Jul 27, 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Johnny Can't Read said...

Name me a quality, veteran staff member who has chosen to leave the Beaver Dam School District.

Not "retire in disgust," but leave. Go to another district.

They don't leave, despite how much they bitch.

The only ones who leave are the younger teachers (many of whom are quality), simply because they are at the bottom of the totem pole, and therefore first on the chopping block.

Fri Jul 28, 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

50-100, your are just simply wrong on all accounts. The statistics just don't match what you wrote. Very few teachers leave Beaver Dam.

Fri Jul 28, 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous 50-100 said...

Hello...Johnny can't read...that's what I mean. We're not going to keep young, fresh talent because they either leave or are eliminated due to the fact that they are low on the totem pole. I'm not talking about veteran teachers. More should be done to encourage and keep new, fresh, talent.

To the last anonymous...many leave or are eliminated due to budget. I have an open mind...let's heare the data you have to support that I'm wrong on all accounts.

Fri Jul 28, 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many "young talented" teachers were cut last year due to budget cuts? I don't have that data, I can only account for the high school and I believe it was...oh, ya, NO ONE. You are incorrect that new teachers teach in Beaver Dam for several years and then leave or will leave due to poor pay. Teacher pay is relative around the state. Face the facts, teachers have no competative edge when it comes to bargaining pay. They aren't valueable in the private sector and there isn't a shortage of teachers in the market. I no it hurts, but face it, they aren't leaving because they are unhappy with the compensation package. Now administrators...that's a different story. Look at what happend in BD the last two months. Roughly 24% of our administrators have left to take the same job in a different district since the Board elections. Teachers...no one.

Sat Jul 29, 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it unfortunate that a very key piece of information was left out of the original story. It ISN'T a 4.2% PAY raise. Why does that elude people who think all teachers are cry babies? 4.2% is the TOTAL PACKAGE RAISE! Many districts teachers in Wisconsin actually take pay cuts every year to keep the same insurance benefits. And yes, I know, you will say "then they should drop WEAC insurance." To an extent, I agree with that statement. But not all districts carry WEAC insurance and the increases are still astronomical. Again, I know, you will say "then the teachers should pay some of their premiums." Well, some do. And well, if they don't, and now you say they should, isn't that just like taking a pay cut? Hmmmmmmm. I think I covered the pay cut thing earlier. Go back up and read it again if you need to. The fact is, we need to start looking very closely at what is causing much of this debate. Namely, insurance premium increases. Until Wisconsin passes legislation to limit law suits and starts to do something about exorbitant insurance increases, this will never end.

Sat Jul 29, 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn''t agree more with anonymous above. I am one of those "overpaid" teachers. I am entering my sixth year with the school district. I do not receive the benefit of the district insurance plan as I am covered by a pre-exitsting plan through my spouse's employer. Here is a "real world" glimpse of MY increased compensation under the new contract: My Gross salary rose $4.07 per biweekly pay period. That amounts to a yearly pay raise of $105.82 (net pay, after taxes, is an additional $2.43 per pay period, or $63.18 per annum). This results in an increase of $11.18 per year to my retirement benefit. So my total compensation increase amounts to a whopping $117.00 this contract year. Yup--I'm laughing all the way to the bank!!!

Sun Jul 30, 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Change your insurance package or quit complaining! By the way...do you have next week off?

Sun Jul 30, 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I don't have next week off. I have to take a graduate class to keep my teaching license up to date (cost - $400.00). Besides, I am not employed by the district during the summer. My contract is for only for the school year. But I do paint houses to make ends meet.

Sun Jul 30, 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make it sound like these teachers are sitting around watching TV and eating bon-bons during the summer. I don't know of one teacher that does that. Some are even teching summer school to those whom I am sure wish they weren't there in school! The teachers are either continuing their own education, or doing their work plans for the coming school year. Others take part-time jobs to add to their income since it is my belief that their contract runs for the nine months out of the school year.

Time to stop picking on the teachers. We are administrative heavy and either need to cut pay or cut jobs and reassign them to several people. Why do we need an HR person? Can't the school principals hire their own people? They used to do it!

I agree insurance is a hot button that every union has to face. But if you must change a doctor, you have to do it or pay out of your pocket. People in private industry are going through the same problems. This is nothing new.

Let's get back to concentrating on what is important: Our children's education. If/When we get more parent cooperation, the teachers can do their jobs more effectively and won't be coming home with Excederin headaches day after day. Most of the pressure comes from the higher up.

LET THE TEACHERS DO THE JOB THAT THEY KNOW THE BEST....TEACH, AND QUIT BUGGING THEM!!!!

Mon Jul 31, 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whiners... the lot of you teachers.

Iif you would have agreed to change your insurance, you would have saved the jobs of your FELLOW UNION MEMBERS.

All for one and one for all?

Or Screw You, what's in it for me?

Sun Aug 06, 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Last Anonymous:

Have you ever spent a day of your life as a school teacher? Walk in their shoes before calling the whiners. I bet you couldn't last a month in the position. You haven't a clue what they do or who they have to deal with...and I am not talking personnel, I am talking students. Educate yourself before you blast the educated!

Wed Aug 09, 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger jyd said...

What is most interesting about conversations like this one is that when the rights talking points are challenged, they immediately go into "attack" mode. If you can't win a debate, attack the character.

I don't know much about the Beaver Dam school district. Perhaps they are run poorly. But this whole Republican claim that teacher compensation are the cause of program cuts is simply ridiculus. The QEO is a total package raise. Go ask your employer tommorrow how much your insurance went up last year. Keep in mind that you probably pay for 10 or 20 percent of that increase. Teachers, on the other hand, pay for their total insurance increase each and every year. And, in some years, insurance increases are higher than the QEO and teacher pay goes backward.

If you want to argue that guidance counsellors aren't needed or that high school sports should be replaced by club teams, lets have that debate. If you think gifted programs are elitist and technology has rendered libraries out of date, lets talk. We might even agree that teachers should pay more for their health insurance and recieve raises to meet the QEO. We may agree that WEA shouldn't be allowed to be WEAC's only insurance choice.

But please, stop with the talking points that have no basis in facts.

Tue Aug 15, 11:55:00 PM  

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