Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Warriors without Ammo

I have been in dialog with a good friend over the past couple of days regarding the upcoming 9.5 mill levy that we'll get to vote on in March. He talks about moving to central Ohio about 15 years ago and selecting Hilliard because our schools were good and the property tax rates low. Now, he says, property tax rates in Hilliard are among the highest, and he feels "enough is enough."

Many folks in our community agree with my friend. Their intention is to vote against the upcoming levy because all they know is that they're tired of paying more and more school tax, and simply don't believe more money is warranted. Surely – folks like my friend believe – if we cut off their money, the school district will need to straighten up its act.

I think the problem is that we're confused about who caused the funding problem, and therefore are punishing the wrong folks. If we don't fund the schools appropriately, it's the kids and the great team of educators we've assembled who will be hurt.

It's like thinking we can end the Iraq/Afghanistan wars by withholding ammo and food to the troops we've already sent over there.

The cause of our funding problem is not the school leadership, and it's certainly not the kids. We have funding problems because we sat back and let thousands and thousands of new dwellings get built in our community without considering where the new money needed to educate all those kids would come from. We let our city mayors approve all those development and building permits because, while they understood what would happen, we weren't paying attention.

So our apathy is going to cost us another 9.5 mills in property taxes starting in 2009. And I suspect that it's too late to avoid another levy two or three years out – at least not if we want to maintain the level of programming and services we now have.

There are still thousands of acres to be developed in our school district, including the large developer-owned parcels sitting around Bradley High School (and new For Sale signs went up on a large farm on Roberts Rd this week). If we want to get control of this beast, it's not the School Board we need to influence, but rather Mayor Schonhardt, Mayor Coleman and the Hilliard and Columbus City Councils.

The School Board could certainly be much more vocal on this issue. And they could do a much better job of educating and mobilizing the community on behalf of the schools. But we won't win the battle by cutting off their money. All we'll do is make the schools go into crisis, cause our kids and teachers to be miserable, and diminish the value of our property in an already horrendous real estate market.


  1. The School Board could certainly be much more vocal on this issue.

    That is precisely what so puzzles me. The school board would seem to have the most to lose in keeping mum about the effect of so much development. They certainly couldn't be ignorant of it, seeing it happen in other school districts. By speaking out about it, they would've been a sort of the natural "check" against the major & council's development mania. (No one ever told me that new development wasn't self-supporting education-wise.)

    So I don't see why the school board is so beholden to the mayor & council. Whatever benefits they get by "playing nice" seem to be outweighed by the hell they are going to go thru with this bond issue, given how fed up people are with increasing property taxes.

  2. The administrators-teachers union show-down is amusing.

    They who make twice what they are worth (administrators) are questioning the right of more fairly-paid teachers to make a small bit more than currently.

    It’s all for show. Management will capitulate, reluctantly. The public will think: “why are they being so hard on the teachers!” and then vote for the levy because they think administrators have been lean, mean, fighting machines, protecting the public dollar, when actually they’ve given it afterthought status at best.

  3. Note that the two sides are not the administrators vs the teachers, but rather the school board vs the teachers.

    The administrators are almost all former teachers, and remain fellow members of the State Teachers Retirement System, which will provide for their pension and other retirement benefits.

    Don't fault the teachers for negotiating for more money. My only beef is that they don't want to disclose the full deal: 7.95% per year under the current contract when you consider both the 4.15% step increase and the 3.65% per year base pay increase.

  4. Paul - you keep mentioning the "correct" percentage with the step increases. But you also keep "forgetting" to mention that many many teachers wouldn't get a raise at all becuase they are "between steps". I'm sure that most people in the community would fight to get any kind of a raise given that their pay is essentially frozen for 5 years (from years 15-20) and NEVER get a step increase after 23 years. Given that a large majority of teachers work for 30 years, they could go for 7 additional years without ANY raises (not even a cost of living increase). Please make sure that the facts you relate to the public are the complete facts, not just the ones you want to "expose"

  5. I think that if you read this earlier post, you will see that I do describe the gaps in the step increase schedule. I would ask you why it is that the HEA doesn't talk to the community about step increases at all. Only the increase in base pay is mentioned.

    Nor did you mention that a teacher with 23 years of service and a Master's degree is paid $78,492/yr ($82,695 with a Masters + 15 hours).

    West Virginia uses a similar step increase schedule for its teachers, with similar gaps. One of the ways they have tweaked teacher pay over the years (ranked 48th in the nation at $40,000/yr), is to 'fill the gaps.'

    I could be in favor of doing the same with our teachers' pay scale. But there's only so much money to go around, and such a change would probably require smaller step increases. That's better for more senior teachers, but hurts the young ones.

    Some folks seem to think I believe teachers are overpaid, but you'll not find a statement to that effect anywhere in this blog or the website. Indeed, my daughter is a teacher just beginning her career, and I hope the compensation is such that she remains motivated to teach. If she were in Hilliard City Schools, she would be getting paid just $36,564 right now. No wonder 50% of all teachers leave the profession in their first 5 years.

    My mission has to put all this information out in the open, and to demand that decision-making be transparent rather than hidden in executive sessions.

    By the way, my pay has been frozen for six years now. That's the way it is in the competitive world sometimes. Still I'm thankful to not be in the position of the thousands of Delphi workers who have seen their place of employment shut down. Some of those are residents of our school district who will be paying their property taxes, and teacher salaries, nonetheless.

  6. $36,564 is good beginning pay. I started out with a 4-yr degree in computer science and got my first programming job for $20K. Adjusting for inflation that's $37,472 in today's dollars. Much more recently, a young man I know with a degree from OSU in Economics started off at a very good company in town at around $34K. For starting teachers to make what other young professionals start off with seems very fair, especially considering the benefit of summers off.

  7. I have a Japanese friend who teaches English at the secondary level about two hours south of Tokyo. He told me that his pay is comparable to that of an engineer, but he also is in the classroom 48 weeks per year.

    What is the right way to compare teacher salaries to other professions? Should we say teachers are on the job say 38 weeks/yr, compared to the 49 for most American workers, and therefore must multiply their pay by 49/38=1.29 to make the comparison? If so, that makes the starting pay of $35,107 equivalent to $45,288 - which is in the ballpark of the starting salary of an accountant or an engineer.

    Seems fair.

    But some teachers will make the argument that they work much more than 38 weeks - some even claim it's already a year-round job.

    But if that is the case, why do teachers get extra money for teaching summer school? Or why isn't asking them to teach year-round at the current pay acceptable?

    Again, I'm not complaining that teachers get paid too much - I'm just trying to understand the rhetoric.

  8. I searched at random in Central Ohio - here's a staff accountant position open - 1 yrs experience - 30-40K salary! First position I saw.

    The 45K starting salary might for CPAs and the high GPA'rs but as a true, common starting salary in Ohio color me skeptical. There's hype amid professionals who want to encourage people to enter the field.