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The Main Scoop

Community responds to the District budget shortfall

By

by Paul Socolar

on Apr 1, 2011 04:38 PM

As the District grapples with how to slash $629 million in spending for next year to balance its budget, activists continue to condemn the education funding cuts proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

But the budget crisis has prompted a variety of other responses by local advocates and activists, including ideas on how to reduce the impact on schools and proposals to shift more power to schools in the budget-cutting process.

Barring additional revenues, the gap will require eliminating a full 20 percent of the District’s $3.2 billion spending package in the coming school year. The District’s initial plan calls for $281 million of the cuts to come out of school budgets – an average hit of more than $1 million per school. School budgets were due to be released Friday.

The School District has plenty of company inside and beyond Pennsylvania as it deals with the fallout from a national movement to cut government spending. But Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania districts that are most dependent on state aid are particularly hard hit.

The governor’s $1.19 billion reduction in preK-12 education funding slams the District with a quarter of the total cutbacks ($293 million), even though the system has just over one-tenth of the state’s students.

According to an analysis by the Education Law Center, the reductions in state aid to Philadelphia represent a loss of $1,406 per pupil to the District. That’s not as bad as the $1,545 per pupil reduction in the York City School District and nowhere near the $2,542 loss faced by Chester-Upland in Delaware County.

But in contrast, Radnor’s schools, although well-funded primarily through local property taxes, will lose a mere $76 per pupil in state aid.

Evaluating the governor’s budget in a scorecard, ELC gave Corbett failing grades.

“Corbett cuts funding for the neediest schools more than others,” it said.

The advocacy groups that fought for and won the creation of a need-based school funding formula under Gov. Rendell are struggling to preserve those changes. They argue that the state saw significant academic gains accompanying recent infusions of state aid, and those gains are in jeopardy.

Corbett’s cuts are also part of a broader strategy – to reshape the education landscape by creating more charter schools, offering vouchers to students in low-performing schools, changing teacher tenure laws, and instituting merit pay. Adoption of new charter policies or approval of a voucher bill could widen the already overwhelming District budget gap.

The groups fighting to maintain the increased education allotments do seem to have public opinion on their side. A Franklin and Marshall poll on Corbett’s budget plan found overwhelming opposition to the proposed cuts in public school funding. Respondents were asked which of 14 measures they support “as a way for the state of Pennsylvania to balance its budget.” Only 19 percent of respondents chose, “Reducing state funding for local school districts,” the lowest response for any of the options.

“Cutting services isn’t the answer – we need more revenue,” said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. She said the state could raise funds via reducing corporate loopholes and eliminating the tax benefit for vendors who pay their tax on time. She also called for a tax on natural gas drilling, and a tax on smokeless tobacco. On the latter, she said, “We are the only state that is not doing this and the industry is wrongfully targeting kids – so it’s the right thing to do.”

These are some of the same measures being advocated statewide by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Wednesday’s “Fund our schools, not prisons” march and rally in Center City represents another response to the state budget plan, challenging Corbett’s 11 percent spending increase for the Department of Corrections when education aid is being decimated.

As part of another campaign supported by the School District, called “Protect Public Education,” buses will be headed to Harrisburg on April 5 and again on April 26 to oppose the education funding cuts proposed by Corbett.

While the governor’s budget is the primary focus of many activists, others are calling on the District to rethink its budget-cutting strategy.

“We really need a thoughtful and strategic approach that looks at multiple areas,” said parent activist and Notebook blogger Helen Gym in a Philly.com online chat on Thursday. “The District needs to put out more choices on the table than more money from the state and essential services to schools.

”For example, the District should publish a list of all its contracts. We have millions of dollars going out the door to outside entities. And if it's a choice between a teacher, a librarian, or some testing company in Duluth, I want those options for public review."

A District spokesperson said that professional service contracts total $120 million in the operating budget and make up a similar percentage of its consolidated budget, which adds in categorical programs like Title I.

Gym also argued that the District’s budget gap cannot entirely be placed at Gov. Corbett’s feet.

One piece of ammunition for that point of view is in the documents published Wednesday as the School Reform Commission approved a lump sum budget. The District for the first time acknowledged publicly that despite a looming crunch, it spent down $66 million in District reserves and surplus to fund the 2010-11 budget – funds that are no longer available in the coming fiscal year.

Some, including retired administrator and University of Pennsylvania education professor James “Torch” Lytle, argue that a critical step the District can take right now is to give principals and schools much greater latitude in dealing with budget reductions.

Speaking at a Teacher Action Group (TAG) Forum on March 23, Lytle urged, “Let the people on the ground make the decisions.”

While calling for this shift in the point of decision-making, he added that principals need to be honest and transparent with staff and community. “If you’re not honest, I guarantee it will be ugly."

The District’s current plan is to close the budget gap through the following measures:

  • Central office staffing reductions - $52 million
  • Central office allocations to schools - $220 million
  • Reductions to school budgets - $61 million
  • Operational support to schools (facilities, food service, transportation, utilities) - $85 million
  • Early retirement, facilities planning and other efficiencies - $69 million
  • Transferring costs to the city - $11 million
  • Renegotiating union contracts - $75 million
  • Reductions in payments to charters - $57 million. 

Key upcoming District budget dates:

Wed., April 27: SRC budget hearing (at close of afternoon meeting)
Early May (TBA): District community meetings on its budget
Tues., May 10, 10 a.m.: City Council hearings on District budget
Wed., May 11, 1 p.m.: City Council hears public testimony
Tues., May 31, 5 p.m.: SRC meets to approve budget

About the Author

Paul Socolar is editor of the Notebook. He can be reached at pauls@thenotebook.org.

Comments (64)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 5:16 am

Notice that the district's plans don't include re-negotiating the grossly overpaid superintendent's salary or eliminating the costly and inefficient benchmark and predictive testing. This alone would save millions.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 9:16 am

How many millions and millions of dollars have gone to line McGraw Hill's pockets with their absurd, horrible SRA program? Why not just take a huge wad of money, and watch it flush down the toilet. You'd get better results than the SRA program...

And SRA is Sooooooo important, that it gets canceled at the drop of a hat for other things at the school. Seems like it's only "on" when there is a walkthrough team in the building. JOKE.

Submitted by Marcus Drapier (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:32 am

Let me say, WE are beyond sickened by the economic crisis the SRC and the Queen have put us in.

Earlier this week, my associates and I, sent a newsletter of our own fashioning to the PFT Representative of almost every Phila Public school. We called our newsletter, "The Bill of Goods" because that is exactly what the Queen and the SRC have tried to sell us.

The impetus for writing our "Bill of Goods" was drawn from the inspiring events surrounding the courageous Hope Moffett and the rallies organized by our PFT and TAG. We were out there with you protesting in front of 440.

It has saddened us to learn that our PFT, of which we are PROUD dues-paying members, has told the reps to ignore our newsletter. Let me state in no uncertain terms: WE FULLY SUPPORT THE PFT AND THE EMBATTLED PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATORS. WE TOOK "THE PLEDGE" AND WE WILL FOLLOW YOUR LEAD.

However, we feel that you can use all the help you can get. We live in an age where viral messages and guerrilla tactics are sometimes more affective than the old ways.

We did take the liberty of making "440 N. Broad St" the return address for our missives simply as a sort one-fingered gesture to the folks working there and in the hopes that should they not arrive at their desired destination (the PFT reps) that they might find their way there and into the Queens hands.

We have, what we believe to be, important opinions and thoughts that we wish to get out into the public. We believe many of you share our views.

However, we will not publish our newsletter under the names our parents gave us. This is because some of us are allergic to "rubber rooms" and others are claustrophobic, so "teacher jail" is not an option.

We completely understand the PFT's need to distance themselves from a mysterious, unknown entity of which they have no knowledge.

Just know that we are a friend. And we are not finished. Issue #2 to come.
In Solidarity,
Marcus B. Drapier

P.S.-To all who wish to read the newsletter, we will post it in the comment's section on here if that is the desire of The Notebook readers.

Submitted by Tom Bishop (not verified) on April 2, 2011 11:00 am

A few days ago I posted a comment that the tried and true method for breaking a union is divide and conquer. No teacher should ever consider another teacher the enemy.

The same goes for the union leadership. The union leadership is there to represent the membership, not their own private agenda. There must be complete democracy in the union if we are to be united in the fight we face. If the PFT leadership feels threatened by open debate then I have to wonder who they are working for.

I would like to see your newsletter. If not here, is there some other blog where you could post it?

Submitted by Marcus Drapier (not verified) on April 2, 2011 12:40 pm

We want to be clear that we FULLY support the PFT. We just feel that given the dire nature of what we face, we should all do our part. If we can orchestrate a varied attack against the root of the problem, we may be able to affect real change in our public schools.

We are certainly open to suggestions on other blogs that would be open to posting our newsletter. We wrote it in the wry, tongue-in-cheek, satirical way in which Jonathan Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal" and his other essays. It was written to be shared.

We will post it on here soon if the comments asking us to post it continue.

Submitted by bayarea Weather (not verified) on April 13, 2014 11:49 am

When I initially commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is
added I get four e-mails with the same comment.

Is there any wayy you can remove people from tha service?
Many thanks!

Submitted by Marcus Drapier (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:36 pm

Here is the featured essay from our newsletter "Bill of Goods," which was sent to all the PFT reps. It is meant to be shared, so by all means, do so and copy it, e-mail, print it, or whatever. Keep in mind, it is a SATIRE:

Showing Our Extreme Gratitude to the Esteemed Lady Arlene
By Isaac Bickerstaff

Those of us employed at any level of public education in Philadelphia, nay the world, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Arlene Ackerman and the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Can anyone deny they are the saviors of our fair city’s public education system? Lately, they have been getting some bad press and I feel it is high time that this fine group was lauded publicly (by someone other than themselves, of course).

When Lady Arlene, hero to the San Francisco and District of Columbia school districts, first came to us we heard tell of her great “victories.” However, we could not have known exactly how much she would do to our education system in Philadelphia. In the 3 years since the start of the Ackerman reign, she and the SRC (AKA Scandalous and Reprehensible Cronies) have been able to extrapolate bits and pieces of data and information (much like she did in her previous positions) that point towards the type of outstanding progress they wish to display as feathers in their collective caps.

Conversely, they have used partial data, half-truths, and misinformation to target certain schools and label them as “underperforming.” This strategy allows them to fast-track these schools into privatization or turn them into the “Ackerman Model,” AKA Renaissance Schools/Promise Academies. The SRC and Ackerman have professed to choose these underperforming school s using a formula based on a variety of measures of student and school achievement. However, my reporting has uncovered the startling truth: witchcraft is used to divine the names of these supposed failing schools (how else do you explain a school being taken over even though it has NEVER taken the PSSA’s, the very benchmark by which AYP is measured??). Thank goodness Arlene is well-versed in the ancient art and foregoing the tedious, arduous task of making sure these schools and their communities truly deserve this treatment. I mean, who has time for that?

We must also recognize the good doctor and her team for sparing no expense to educate our children. While we may be in the hole to the tune of $400 million, I am sure we can all agree the money was probably well-spent. Dr. Ackerman seems to subscribe to the notion of “Seize the Day” more so than the idea of budgeting for the future. However, I know I speak for all when I say we need fear not with a genius like the SRC’s Chairman, Robert L. Archie Jr. Esq. on the job. I am sure that in no time at all he will have us back to being fiscally sound again (we hope).

I’ve heard tell recently that because of the current financial situation (which I am sure will be cleared up lickety split) that many of us public educators may find ourselves ousted from our positions. Well my brethren, we should all have faith that our fearless leader and her Super team will make sure that such a thing does not occur. After all, would it not be a terrible, egregious, indelible blemish on their track record if they were to systematically fire hundreds of highly-qualified, young teachers who chose employment in this fine city? Oh no, I am certain Arlene has a plan to avoid that awful outcome.

So, we raise a proverbial glass to toast Lady Arlene and the SRC. Thank you, for 3 years that will be hard to forget. May you get all that you deserve for your efforts to change our school district into your image. We know you are doing it “for the children.”

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:29 am

Yes. Please post newsletter. Things need to start moving. We need to organize a "no confidence" vote for Ackerman. I know of NO ONE that supports this woman anymore.

Submitted by Marcus Drapier (not verified) on April 2, 2011 12:07 pm

We will post the newsletter soon. We are in total agreement that Arlene and the SRC must go.

Submitted by Marcus Drapier (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:34 pm

(In case you didn't see it posted as a "reply" above)
Here is the featured essay from our newsletter "Bill of Goods," which was sent to all the PFT reps. It is meant to be shared, so by all means, do so and copy it, e-mail, print it, or whatever. Keep in mind, it is a SATIRE:

Showing Our Extreme Gratitude to the Esteemed Lady Arlene
By Isaac Bickerstaff

Those of us employed at any level of public education in Philadelphia, nay the world, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Arlene Ackerman and the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Can anyone deny they are the saviors of our fair city’s public education system? Lately, they have been getting some bad press and I feel it is high time that this fine group was lauded publicly (by someone other than themselves, of course).

When Lady Arlene, hero to the San Francisco and District of Columbia school districts, first came to us we heard tell of her great “victories.” However, we could not have known exactly how much she would do to our education system in Philadelphia. In the 3 years since the start of the Ackerman reign, she and the SRC (AKA Scandalous and Reprehensible Cronies) have been able to extrapolate bits and pieces of data and information (much like she did in her previous positions) that point towards the type of outstanding progress they wish to display as feathers in their collective caps.

Conversely, they have used partial data, half-truths, and misinformation to target certain schools and label them as “underperforming.” This strategy allows them to fast-track these schools into privatization or turn them into the “Ackerman Model,” AKA Renaissance Schools/Promise Academies. The SRC and Ackerman have professed to choose these underperforming school s using a formula based on a variety of measures of student and school achievement. However, my reporting has uncovered the startling truth: witchcraft is used to divine the names of these supposed failing schools (how else do you explain a school being taken over even though it has NEVER taken the PSSA’s, the very benchmark by which AYP is measured??). Thank goodness Arlene is well-versed in the ancient art and foregoing the tedious, arduous task of making sure these schools and their communities truly deserve this treatment. I mean, who has time for that?

We must also recognize the good doctor and her team for sparing no expense to educate our children. While we may be in the hole to the tune of $400 million, I am sure we can all agree the money was probably well-spent. Dr. Ackerman seems to subscribe to the notion of “Seize the Day” more so than the idea of budgeting for the future. However, I know I speak for all when I say we need fear not with a genius like the SRC’s Chairman, Robert L. Archie Jr. Esq. on the job. I am sure that in no time at all he will have us back to being fiscally sound again (we hope).

I’ve heard tell recently that because of the current financial situation (which I am sure will be cleared up lickety split) that many of us public educators may find ourselves ousted from our positions. Well my brethren, we should all have faith that our fearless leader and her Super team will make sure that such a thing does not occur. After all, would it not be a terrible, egregious, indelible blemish on their track record if they were to systematically fire hundreds of highly-qualified, young teachers who chose employment in this fine city? Oh no, I am certain Arlene has a plan to avoid that awful outcome.

So, we raise a proverbial glass to toast Lady Arlene and the SRC. Thank you, for 3 years that will be hard to forget. May you get all that you deserve for your efforts to change our school district into your image. We know you are doing it “for the children.”

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 12:16 pm

Why is there only $75 Million planned for renegotiating union contracts? Half of the cuts should come from renegotiated salaries and benefits packages for all school district employees. That way noone will have to be laid off and the children won't be affected as much.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on April 2, 2011 1:52 pm

Philly teachers are already one of the lowest paid in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As many other posters have stated, we also spend quite a bit of our own money buying basic supplies for our rooms and students--supplies that SHOULD be paid for by the SDP. As for top administration, THEY should take a major pay cut. The PFT contract with the SDP runs through August 2012, so I am not sure they can actually force a renegotiation. The way the Queen has treated teachers, I do not think anyone is inclined to make her life easier. She should consider cutting unnecessary testing programs, the expensive Renaissance Initiative, and her own outrageous salary. Why is it the SDP thinks our signed legal contract WITH them should be up for renegotiation, but the Queen's Nunnery's, Masch's, Davis's, Wright's, Matthew's contracts etc...are not up for renegotiation??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 3:00 pm

I think the administration salaries should be cut as well. I said all employees. The union can agree to concessions if the administration takes cuts, too. The problem with public union contracts, not just here but all over the country, is that they were approved by corrupt politicians pandering for campaign contributions and votes. They made promises that shouldn't have been made and can't be kept. What is really troubling is that union leadership is giving money (campaign contributions) to the people (politicians) who decide their membership's compensation. In the private sector that would be called a kickback, and it is illegal. People go to jail for it. We should expect no less from the public sector. After we get the concessions from all the employees, we should have a frank discussion about outlawing collective bargaining by public sector workers, or at least banning public sector unions from making campaign contributions.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on April 2, 2011 4:23 pm

It is illegal for Unions to contribute any union dues to campaigns, and they do not. What they do is set up Political Action Committees and ask for voluntary contributions JUST LIKE THE PRIVATE SECTOR. Private sector companies are giving campaign contributions to those people who decide what laws to make and what taxes to levy on them (or not). How is that any different? The laws allowing them to set up off shore corporations in order to avoid paying taxes were passed by the people they gave money to. Do you honestly think all the big banks and other financial institutions that helped tank the economy were not giving lots and lots of campaign money to politicians favorable to them? Our new Gov. got lots of money from the fracking industry--they are taking PA's natural resources and paying nothing for all their profits.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on April 2, 2011 5:12 pm

I can confirm that I was counseled that my contribution to the PFT PAC was voluntary and know many people who chose not to do so. They weren't given a hard time.

I love how "taxpayer" just skims over the point that Philly teachers are paid poorly to begin with. Arlene's secretary and bodyguard each make more than the average teacher.

The problem with people like "Taxpayer" is that someone fed him a line and he bit. Much easier for him to blame others and whine jealously about a pension teachers pay into, while ignoring the reality that there is no corporate ladder we elect to climb. You don't want all teachers to have ambitions toward positions where they could actually thrive financially. You want them in the classroom, satisfied with being able to provide a unique service and with enough benefits to make them feel secure, so they won't look for higher-paying jobs. The only "ladder" most of us should try to climb is the one toward developing effective and efficient ways of contributing to our students' academic and in-school social lives.

This is something they have in common with most members of public unions. You don't want every cop or firefighter to aspire to be chief. You want them to be the best cops/firefighters they can be, inspired to do whatever they can to improve, knowing that in addition to satisfaction, there's a pay-off in security. Of course, who ends up being cut loose first, while politicians enjoy their $100,000+ salaries, drivers and for-life benefits, even when they serve as little as two years? Teachers (who in Philly get no medical benefits after retirement), cops and firefighters. That's not just bad for them - it's bad for anyone with a kid in school or who might need protection from criminals or house fires.

Public employees are excellent scapegoats, however, since most of them can't defend themselves publicly( if it makes their employers look bad) lest they find themselves in rubber rooms - or on the street.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 5:03 pm

Well for people who claim you didn't get into it for the money, you sure seem pretty fixated on it. And when you add in your gilded benefits packages, many are making well over 100K per year. The taxpayers can't afford it any more. As for police, I liked how it came public that the compensation per beat cop in Camden was $140K and over $200k for the poloice leadership. Completely laughable and completely unsustainable. We had a massive housing bubble which created windfalls in property taxes for politicians to spend on public employees for kickbacks and votes. Now the bubble has burst. This is the new reality. Corbett was elected by the people to cut expenses and NOT raise taxes, and that is exactly what he is doing.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on April 2, 2011 5:48 pm

Corbett was elected because too many people didn't get up off their lazy derrieres and vote. Polls - even of Republicans - have come out strongly against his education cuts.

He had better name recognition as well. Don't delude yourself into thinking people comprehended his platform.

I mention salary because you claim I make too much of it, with no concept of how I have to stretch my check in order to pay my mortgage and raise two kids (without PS3s, cable, new car payments or anything else one might consider excessive). We don't get into this field for the money - but we can't feed our families if you take away the salaries we have.

On the whole, your response conveniently ignored ever salient point - even to refute it (I guess you couldn't). Kind of laughable, really.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 6:17 pm

If you take a poll people will always say they don't want cuts. Ask them another way. Ask them if they want higher taxes or cuts in spending, and show exactly how much public employees make, including their gilded benefits packages. As for your money problems, perhaps you should learn how to stretch a dollar a little better, because you are already making far more than the U.S. median income of around 32K for persons over 25 years of age.

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on April 2, 2011 8:48 pm

I don't apologize for my salary. I am a college-educated professional, and I expect to be compensated fairly for the job I do. You sound like the people who attack teachers for making so much money, yet in the same breath claim $250,000 is practically poverty level for families with children, mortgages, and car payments.

While you are complaining about teachers, you can include politicians who have incredible health care and pensions. You can include corporate CEO's who are making 100x the salaries of their workers. You can also include corporations who took bailout money, make incredible profits, and pay no taxes. Tax cuts are in place for the wealthy (not teachers, we don't make nearly enough to be considered wealthy by the IRS).

There are ways of raising revenue in Pennsylvania but Gov. Corbett refuses to tax natural gas drillers, even though they aren't opposed to paying a tax. I find most appalling that he found money for several new prisons, but in Philadelphia schools there might not be full-day kindergarten.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:22 pm

This is the point Taxpayer consistently ignores:

"While you are complaining about teachers, you can include politicians who have incredible health care and pensions. You can include corporate CEO's who are making 100x the salaries of their workers. You can also include corporations who took bailout money, make incredible profits, and pay no taxes. Tax cuts are in place for the wealthy (not teachers, we don't make nearly enough to be considered wealthy by the IRS)."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 6:18 pm

Put down the bong for a while, taxpayer, and let your head clear. Few teachers in this district make anything near 100K even with benefits. We are the 61 out of 65 districts when it comes to our pay level. Look at how many teachers are gone within their first five years. They aren't approaching the money you want to pretend we're all getting. Corbett doesn't have to raise your taxes if he'd tax the natural gas industry. Of course, that won't happen as long as they pay him to look the other way along with the charter carpetbaggers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 6, 2011 6:51 am

Remember you idiot it was wall street that started the mess and now it has to be cleaned by destroying education. We did not get into teaching for the money but we do have to make a living. The pension system we pay into is part of our compensation. And you are truly an idiot if you think your taxes won't go up. Your local tax bills will surely go up with all of the services Corbett is cutting. Also please explain why Corbett should not be taxing the shale drillers.

Submitted by Disgusted (not verified) on April 3, 2011 9:28 pm

"Why is it the SDP thinks our signed legal contract WITH them should be up for renegotiation, but the Queen's Nunnery's, Masch's, Davis's, Wright's, Matthew's contracts etc...are not up for renegotiation??" Even if they were, WE should not renegotiate. Water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned. The way money has been spent borders on the criminal-there's the Inquirer's next story.
Disgusted

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 4:11 pm

The difference is that when a private company or PAC makes a contribution the politicians who get the money do not pay the private corporation. In private industry you get your revenue and profits from your customers. If you give money to a customer and that customer gives you business, it is called a kickback and it is illegal. Tax policy is not the same thing, but we do need campaign finance reform across the board. I see your point that there will always be ways around any new rules, so we should outlaw collective bargaining by any government workers. For teachers, they can accept what is offered or go work for another school district or somewhere else. If any school district doesn't offer enough, they will not attract talent and will have to offer more. That's the way it works in private industry, for whom you serve. The taxpayers through their politicians, uncompromised by kickbacks, will decide the right level of compensation.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on April 2, 2011 4:45 pm

Educators do not serve private industry, we serve the public good. This country decided a long time ago that education was something everyone needed and deserved, and we try to fulfill that. However, that does not mean that we should not be able to negotiate fro wages and other parts of our jobs.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 6:19 pm

What you serve, sir, are the taxpayers, many of whom are out of work. That makes federal, state and local tax revenues decline. States are required to have a balanced budget. The taxpayers are asking for some shared sacrifice from public workers.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on April 2, 2011 8:43 pm

Why "sir"?

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on April 2, 2011 8:30 pm

And cutting teachers' salaries would save the local businesses...
If you had just a little brain, taxpayer, you would understand that teachers are not responsible for the revenue decline, and cutting salaries of public employees would actually hurt local economies, because the money we earn get spent in the local businesses. You are so eager to support this race to the bottom imposed on all of us by the rich and their shills "elected" on corporate dime, that I am starting to think that you are either one of them or completely stupid.
If you have just a little bit of reasoning, you would ask questions like, why corporations like Verizon and Bank of America are allowed to operate in this country, while routinely cutting jobs and paying no taxes? Why we paid $30 mln for new Comcast building, and are paying $30 mln each year for the stadiums? Why Corbett refuses to tax fracking? Why our spending on prisons increases every year? Why this country spends 60% of its budget on the military? This is where the money had gone. Stop inspecting teachers' pockets.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:47 pm

Wrong. We serve children.

Again, this about jealousy of a perceived benefit without any concept of (or a stubborn resistance to ignore) the service rendered.

We serve children whether or not their parents are unemployed. We serve them so they will have less of a chance of being unemployed themselves. We serve the future, not the present and we sacrifice more than you can comprehend.

Most of us teaching in Philadelphia pay a voluntary tax every year ranging from hundreds to more than $1,000 as we buy school supplies, equipment suburban teachers are supplied, prizes - and sometimes coats - for our students. Take more money away from us and we can't afford to do that. Who hurts? The students. Some of us can't afford to spend that money now, but we do it anyway. How much of your money do you voluntarily give to others in need? Would you be satisfied with the pay-off of a child moving up three reading levels in the course of a marking period?

We pay a tax in lost sleep, when DHS ignores our calls about a girl with a black eye the size of her father's fist or when we begin to suspect the car one of our students pulls up to the school in each day might be doubling as his home. Or when our principal is told if we don't make AYP this year, they will turn our school into a robot factory (Empowerment/Renaissance School, where teachers spend the day reading to children from scripts).

Honestly, Taxpayer, you're being an argumentative child, twirling his tea bag around his finger as he petulantly chose who he thinks should make sacrifices as though he actually has any sense of judgment at all. I'm through with your trollish self.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:40 pm

No. You are being the argumentative child. The cuts are coming. The money is simply not there to pay you what you want. I see plenty of finger pointing on here about how everyone else should take cuts. Everyone except you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 11:56 pm

Wake up and fly right, we took our pay cut earlier this year when we agreed to no pay raise. We did our share then so enough with the whining. You'll be amazed how quickly the money will reappear if the clowns that want to union bust suddenly have to teach these kids themselves. There are plenty of days I have thought about quitting because of all the lack of support, respect, etc. Add to that lower wages and you're going to have a black hole in terms of no teachers, especially if you raise the class size. TFA fresh meat only lasts so long before they're on their way home. The ones who have stuck it out deserve every cent they make. We pay taxes too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2011 5:51 pm

Actually, I do not serve the taxpayer. My clients are my students and they aren't paying any taxes yet. I am hired as a professional to teach these non-tax paying individuals to read, write, do numbers, and think critically, partially so that they will be equipped to one day become taxpayers themselves (other than becoming a taxpayer, there are countless reasons we should want our young people to do these things well). I serve them.

The people who pay me are the taxpayers. And just as most taxpayers would agree that being a professional while practicing medicine is important, involving many years of school and practice and an ongoing dedication to the work (who trusts a sloppy doctor who barely passed his exams?), I think most taxpayers would also agree--if we take money out of the equation (that's when taxpayers starts to dislike education professionals)--that being a professional while practicing education of young people is important. Whether or not most taxpayers acknowledge it, being a professional teacher capable of doing the job requires many years of school and practice and ongoing dedication to work.

It's just that our clients--our students--don't pay us and they have relatively little power in our society. So it seems it is so easy for the taxpayers who have come out the other end of the education system already to forget that teaching is a skilled profession and the very future of our society is in our hands. As a taxpayer, I want the people doing this job to be highly educated, dedicated, and have all the resources necessary for them to practice their art (or science: it's both, just like medicine). Just as we seem to agree as a society that other professionals (whose clients are taxpayers) who serve the public like doctors and some attorneys should have salaries that reflect how important their job is to their clients, the public, and the future, so should we consider teachers.

A poorly paid teacher is not one whose skills and education and (presumably) dedication are reflected. A district which pays poorly simply will not having the best professionals working for them, particularly a district with as many special challenges as this one.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2011 7:48 pm

I'm not sure how you can say you aren't serving taxpayers if you admit that they are paying your salary. However, the structure of the SDP really dilutes the true connection (i.e. taxpayers are essentially hiring teachers to educate the youth of their community). In large urban districts, there are so many levels of disconnect that alienate this relationship. SDP is the worst of both a school board (all kinds of political interests) without the accountability (having to get elected by people). At least in the mayoral-control cities, you can place the blame on one elected official. In Philly, nobody really shoulders the responsibility to answer to the public about the schools.

Government is basically just an agreement of citizens to pool their resources to do thing they can't do individually very well. One problem in Philly is that the citizens don't get what they pay for. It's not the raw dollar amount, it's how the dollars are used. The problems in Philly, including teacher salaries, are only partly due to funding. They are also partly due to horrible mismanagement of funds (silly contracts, investing in "interventions" resources rather than human resources, an essentially useless summer program, unsustainable staff size [for as much as I hope class sizes don't go up that much, they are currently not even close to the caps in many high schools [read about South Philly High in the Inquirer, today, for example]).

The solution isn't to stop paying for it (essentially what Gov. Corbett has proposed). It's to make each dollar do more. I know this only works up to a point, but the SDP is a long ways away from maximizing the impact of every dollar it spends. Unfortunately, this mismanagement has made the SDP a really easy target for people who are ideologically interested in attacking public employees.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 5:11 pm

Why aren't people complaining about mailmen? The DMV workers? State Store workers? Police? Firefighters? Why are TEACHERS of all things being singled out as the "problem" that caused states to be in the red??? It's a joke and it's false. But the right people were hired to get that message out for the Tea Party folk and those that think like them. They were able to frame this absurd idea that teachers are sucking the government dry. They hate teachers, professors...hell, they hate EDUCATION in general. They hate it because it's a large voting block for dems. Doesn't matter even if they believe to themselves that what they are doing is wrong. It's about winning and winning can't easily happen if their are organized unions and organized educated citizens. They want to maintain their base, while crushing the other base (middle-class America) We are so far behind many, many countries in the education of our youth. But that doesn't matter right now to a portion of our population. Touting positive education policies won't win them elections with their brainless stepfords that vote for them.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 6:30 pm

Noone is singling out teachers. This is going on all over the country with state and local government workers. Half of Camden's police department was laid off. State workers across the country are being laid off. Governments simply can't afford the compensation packages promised to these public workers. We have 14 million people out of work in this country. We have 44 million people on food stamps. We spend more money on education per student than any other country in the world. What most people find particularly galling is that every public sector union thinks they are "special." Well I have some news for you. You're not. We have people in this country who have been out of work for years, and the last thing they need are higher taxes, be it property, sales or otherwise. Cuts are coming across the board. It's called shared sacrifice. Get used to it and be thankful you have a job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 8:51 pm

They didn't go after the police or firefighters in Wisconsin, but they did go after teachers and other union employees. The same people who are badmouthing the unions are the ones who shipped our jobs overseas and then wonder why nobody has money to pay for anything in this country anymore. There are plenty of wealthy corporations like GE that don't pay their share and still expect favors from the politicians they buy off.

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on April 2, 2011 8:21 pm

Shared sacrifice ?? Are you asking anyone else to share in the sacrifice? If you expect me to sacrifice more, then call on Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, Chevron, Boeing to sacrifice as well. The first thing they could do is pay their fair share of taxes, since most of these companies pay little to none. I am sure you are calling on your politicians to force them to pay taxes. Maybe the CEO's could sacrifice and take a salary cut to make what teachers make. After all, we have incredible salaries and gilded health care benefits.

Submitted by Herb (not verified) on April 4, 2011 11:32 am

Hey Taxpayer, Please don't try and sell that tired line about teachers and their great benefits and their pensions and other similar diatribes. I am thankful I have a job and I feel sorry for everyone who doesn't. But I'm not evil because I have a job. It seems that anyone who has a job should almost apologize for having it.
This country and this state is in financial crisis due to issues and events that are far above public workers, be it teachers, police, fire and whatever their benefir packages may be...and YOU KNOW IT. ( Take Afghanistan for example). I am tired of the vocal minority in this country gettting all of the attention. Thanks to your tea bag friends who want to blame unions for everything, unions and public workers now poll more favorably all over the country..and YOU KNOW IT.
Why don't you write your tea bag friends and mobilize them to bring our troops home? Turn all of that pent up anger into something good for a change instead of factless rhetoric that the tea baggers are famous for. And yes, every tea bag politician who ran for office and won, ran on one thing..they were not the incumbent. They spread fear and offered no specific solutions to anything. Let's see how that plays in the next election.
And by the way, like I always say, if you think we teachers have it so good, step on up and join us. Come see what the real world is, not what you think it is. I'll give you my school address so you can come on in and help out.
It is strange that everytime I make this offer, no one ever takes me up on it.
Again, lead, follow or get out of the way

Submitted by Jeffrey Phil (not verified) on April 4, 2011 10:44 pm

I didn't hear anyone complaining about high teacher salaries back when I graduated from college and earned my teaching certification in the 90s... or when I paid my way through Grad school and added three additional certifications so that I could better instruct my students. I started working for the SDP making 29,000 and watched in awe as others went from business school to six figure salaries that same year. I toughed it out in this district for 13 years and made it to the top of the pay scale - I wanted to teach here, and have never carried a checking account balance higher than $5,000 because teachers in the SDP just don't make big bucks no matter what anyone says.It is just crazy to suggest that any SDP teacher is in it for the money or that we are overpaid. People just don't go into teaching for the money. Yes I am thankful I have a job in this economy, but I had this same job and modest salary through all the highs and lows of the past thirteen years - only recently has the economy shifted to the point that our state can't fund our school systems.... again, not the teachers' fault. I was in my classroom teaching not investing in real estate or ruining the economy ;-)

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on April 4, 2011 11:05 pm

Very, very well-said, Jeffrey. I always wonder why all this ire directed at teachers and other union workers is not directed at the big muckety-mucks who failed the economy so badly all the while lining their own pockets.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on April 5, 2011 7:22 am

Well stated. They were not complaining about our salaries back then, because in reality there is nothing to complain about. Especially for those of us teaching here in Philadelphia.
I also agree that I am here because I am effective here. What I do and can do in the classroom makes a difference to many children. I am not here for the summers off (which I have yet to take), high pay rate or "short hours". I never found any of those things.

Submitted by Jeffrey Phil (not verified) on April 5, 2011 8:40 pm

Yeah - it is hilarious in some ways how far things have swung in the last decade. People used to hear that I was a teacher in the SDP and say things like "bless your heart" or tell me that they know I must not be in it for the money because the SDP pay is so low - and on and on. Now we do see many more folks displaced from their jobs in the business sector who come into teaching because it is more rewarding and used to be more stable, too.... but for the most part the teachers I work with are in it to make a difference in the lives of the kids and as most have said in these comments here - we spend untold hours and dollars to help the kids the best we can. Too bad that we are lumped in with other "government" workers when we reach a budget crisis like this one.

Submitted by Tom Bishop (not verified) on April 2, 2011 7:00 pm

The drive to lower living standards of American workers to that of underdeveloped countries has been going on for years. Corporations have been moving jobs to other countries because of the low wages since the Reagan administration. It has continued unchecked under the Democrats as well as the Republicans. As a result, manufacturing and the jobs it created has been reduced drastically in this country. (Just look at Philadelphia!)

When it comes to public employees such as teachers and state workers, they can't ship their jobs to underdeveloped countries. Therefore they must vilify these workers and turn the part of the population that has already been impoverished against them.

"Taxpayers" (who isn't) who claim everyone's living standards must be lowered are fronting for the corporate and banking elite whose wealth is at historic proportions...and want even more!

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 8:41 pm

How about the NJ teachers who were getting 4% annual pay raises even when there was no inflation? And then when Christie asked for a one year pay freeze they had the gall to say that was the greatest attack on public education in history.

Times have changed. Years ago, people retired at 65 and lived a few years longer. Many people never even lived to retirement. Now people are living alot longer and using much more healthcare expense to do so. These public unions want to retire at the same age as their grandfathers even though they will live alot longer than them. We can't afford for people to work for thirty years and then retire for thirty years. The same goes for social security. It is the same age today(65) as it was when the program was started under FDR even though people are living 20 years longer. It's unsustainable. We have to raise the age for retirement and social security and medicare. Public unions will not be exempt.

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on April 2, 2011 9:10 pm

Years ago people worked 12-14 hour days, no weekends or vacations. Child labor was a norm. Women did not have a right to vote and own property.
Is this what we should strive for?

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:17 pm

Very well stated, YPT!

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:55 pm

Not at all. My point was that years ago, the average person had 5 years of retirement before they died. Now they live 20+ years in retirement. Years ago, if you got cancer you died. There was no chemo costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Years ago, if you needed an organ transplant, you died. There were no transplants. All this costs money and resources. Contrary to union belief, this money does not grow on trees. It must be taken from someone or somewhere. We have $60 Trillion in unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare over the next 30 years. That means if we don't do something about it, then in 20-30 years there will be nothing left. If the current trend continues, we could tax every single American and every corporation at 100% of income and it still wouldn't be enough to cover the costs. That is the reality of the situation. No amount of protesting, no amount of give me mine, is going to change that.

Submitted by Tom Bishop (not verified) on April 2, 2011 10:12 pm

But we have no problem with coming up with billions for THREE wars. We have a larger military than the rest of the world combined.

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on April 2, 2011 9:23 pm

So true. I just read about a politician in Maine who is proposing lowering minimum wage and calling it a training wage. I believe it is $5.25 an hour. This would be in effect for what the politician calls children, individuals 20 and younger. (My note - When did 19 & 20 year old workers become children?)

This is an attack on workers by lowering wages. It would effectively push out higher paid employees for workers that would qualify for this lower "training wage." Also, younger people would still be covered by their parents health care plans, so the lower paid workers wouldn't even get benefits. Such a devious plan.

I wonder if taxpayer is willing to reduce his/her salary - my school would gladly take any contribution. After all, taxpayer expects a shared sacrifice to be made.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2011 9:59 pm

Actually, I would like to know if all of the politicians-governors and senators plan to give up their pensions and health benefits? Theirs are highest pensions and the best health benefits. Union workers also pay taxes. It appears that politicians are trying to pit citizens against each other. Perhaps ‘taxpayer’ needs to ask these questions of politicians instead of union workers or, start his/her own union.

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