Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Join the Choir

Whether because of or in spite of our education effort here, it was refreshing to see two Letters to the Editor published in the Hilliard Northwest News from people who 'get it':

Turning over funding to the State isn't a good thing (see also)

Impact Fees are the solution (see also)



  1. By making an agreement for 7% raises on the heels of a resounding levy defeat, the Board, the administration and the HEA gave the taxpayers the finger. Since 90% of the school district cost is labor, this says that the board expects us to approve 25% increases in our school taxes every 3 to 4 years forever. Impact fees and commercial tax base would make only a minor dent in funding the cost increases that are ahead for our district. We need to sharply reduce non-classroom staffing expenses and bring residential development to a screeching halt. Consultants recently advised the New Albany school district board that the best way to control growth in their district was for the district to buy farmland to keep it from being developed as residential. What does our district do? Buy farmland and sell it to a housing developer. Our school board's attitude is still "shut up and give us all the money we ask for". They have not demonstrated any intention of doing anything but business as usual. A November levy is not "for the children", it is for lining the pockets of teachers, administrators, and developers on the backs of working people in the community. Asking my family to cut back to give others a 7% annual raise is an outrage and an insult after the recent levy defeat. And lest I be accused of being "emotional", I can assure you it is purely a financial issue for my family. $4 gas. 20% increase in medical insurance premium. 15%+ increase in food prices. The school district must cut its expenses and make ends meet just like the rest of us.

  2. I'm having a hard time figuring out how impact fees are going to help in the long term. I mean, how much can they charge? If the average cost per pupil per year is $8000 or what ever, how is a one-time payment of $8000 per new build going to support 2 kids through 13 years? I know these are rough numbers but you get the point.
    We need more commercial development or things like Erikson which is not going to contribute to the schools population.

  3. Hillirdite:

    While we spend a lot of time talking about operating expenses, the other major cost element in running a school district is the construction of new schools and improvements and repair to the existing structures, which we now pay for via bond levies.

    My proposal for impact fees addresses the capital costs only, for two reasons: 1) it eliminates the option for someone to move into our community then vote against the bond levies; 2) it puts the burden of paying for and maintaining the buildings on the shoulders of the people who created the need, and by doing so, reduces the taxes of the folks who are already here and paying for the buildings that already exist.

    My full proposal can be found here, but the short version is that when a new house is built, about $20,000 in impact fees would be assessed, which could be added to the mortgage if the homeowner wishes. However, that homeowner would be excused from paying any bond levies already in force. The idea is that it creates offsetting penalties such that the total monthly payment to the new homeowner is about the same in either case.

    I can't think of a practical impact fee structure for dealing with operating expenses. As we've said ad nausem, operational expenses and personnel expenses are virtually the same thing, and as long as our school board keeps signing contracts with 7% raises for most employees, our costs are going to go up close to 7% annually without adding a single employee. When we have to add employees because of growth, it just compounds the problem. Exploding health insurance costs make for an almost unbearable situation.

    I've experienced what happens in business during a general economic downturn. While making a good profit is nice, the first priority is simply survival. You don't start by punishing your customers, because revenue from the customers is precious and completely voluntary. Our school leadership - both management and labor - fail to grasp this point; mostly because they don't perceive us as customers at all.

    And you have to make painful cuts on the expense side. The first stuff you have to examine are the "nice-to-have" things which provide comfort and reward to the team, but don't deliver much benefit to the customer. Such things creep into the system in good times, but come to feel like non-negotiable entitlements. Pensions are one such thing by the way. A century ago, few workers got meaningful pensions. The kind of pension benefits our school employees receive is a vestige of the post WWII economic boom when employers were competing for workers.

    Today, few private sector companies find they can compete in a global market and bear the cost of funding future pension liabilities. In fact, it's getting to the point that public sector employees are about the only ones being offered pensions. We talk a lot about equivalent working days, comparative salaries and all that, but this is the brass ring for a career teacher.

    The days of the "It's For The Kids" rhetoric is over. This next levy vote is a compensation negotiation between the community (the customers) and the school employees (the sellers).

    The sellers have set the price in their new union agreements. In November, the customers are going to decide how much to buy.

    I think the sellers might end up wishing they had set the price lower as a statement that they understand the situation. Instead they have the much harder task of convincing the customers that the perceived premium cost of their services is worth it.


  4. Why are cutbacks so "hard" for the schools? Most places I look at today and almost every company I have worked with in the past have had to cut back during hard times. Why does the school board always act like the sky is falling to have some cuts? Frankly, I am extremely disappointed in the "tactic" of them using certain cutbacks with an apparent intention of inflicting maximum expense and inconvenience to the parents (and maybe making them frustrated enough to vote the next levy in)? Sorry for those with friends / spouses who are teachers, but this is the way these "cutbacks" are viewed by many in the community.

    I have a friend who works for the state. They have been going through cutbacks and laying off staff, but you do not see the head of ODOT getting on the news and in the paper going on about how bad the snow plowing is going to be next year and how many road projects won't get done, etc. They seem to realize it is part of the cycle of things and move forward the best way they can. Maybe the BOE's hands are tied so much by the union that they are limited in what they can cut and how. My job (non-union, fortunately) allows the company to cut back on the lowest impact to customers and profit. It doesn't seem that the BOE has that same ability, or if they do, the same priority.

    I saw an article in the local paper about the levy kick-off committee being organized. They have a SIGNIFICANT amount of work to do if they have any hope of convincing me to pass this levy.

    Thanks for this forum Paul. I feel much more educated about school funding, and now make decisions based on the reality of what is going on, not just what the district tells me.

  5. The teachers are now going to be required to make contributions towards their medical insurance. What is the portion of their projected raises (in estimated dollars) that will be offset by these contributions?

  6. On the heals of the last question, paying a portion of their coverage is only one part of the picture. What is the new copay for office visits and prescriptions. Anyone know?

  7. The last two anon questions are good questions. The problem is a community member is that I dont know and I help pay the bill.! The agreement was signed about 3 weeks ago now. In typical fashion we have
    NOTHING but executive sessions.
    We continue business as usual with the HEA leadership and the district.

    The point continues to be.....
    If we dont have the money? how can we
    finance forward and HOPE to pay for

    No doubt some of the raises will be offset by th medical and co pays
    What the district needs to remember is the regular folks have been going in the hole on medical and copays for some time now. This has been an on going challenge for most in the private sector for the past
    4 years.

    While the levy should be supported in a lesser form than last time, some increase will be necessary

    Many of us are still waiting to
    hear about how the HEA and the district is going to start allowing real communication and questions
    without retribution. Many of us also want to see the contract

    The bottom line is we are going to continue to hear

    Its about the kids
    You dont understand
    The same old same old

    That dog wont hunt anymore!

    The sooner the district and the HEA realizes that this thunderstorm is
    not going away and they need to
    step up to the plate, the better chance the levy will pass

    And new board members needed?
    We supposedly voted for some change and we got..........Zero
    Including the "financial expert"
    which everyone says we need.

    By addressing ALL of the SERIOus issues the levy can pass
    Otherwise, the levy committee will just be rolling the dice and hoping for a 7

  8. Office visits are $15 for in-network copays. ER visits have jumped to a $150 copay and Urgent Care is $50 per visit copay. Prescriptions are complicated: it's a three-tier system depending on whether it's a brand or generic. For families with those who need asthma or allergy meds, it's now VERY expensive as Advair (one of the most popular steroid and long-acting bronchodilator asthma meds) costs $50 a month copay and most prescription antihistamines are $30 or $50 per month, depending on the drug. Generally, newer meds are Tier 3 ($50/mo.), some are Tier 2 ($30/mo.) and the oldest, most readily available in generic meds are cheapest (some as low as $10/mo.), and of course some drugs fall on the $4.00 list that many pharmacies offer today.

    As far as what effect the new premium payments have on our raises, that's more complicated because everyone pays the same flat rate for insurance regardless of where they are on the pay scale. So obviously, for those who are newer teachers (or OAPSE members), that amount is a greater percentage of their increase; whereas for those who are near the top of the pay scale, it's a smaller percentage. And on a related note, while it is true that administrators now pay 10% of their monthly premiums, they also earn a lot more overall than the typical teacher, so that 10% is not a very high percentage of their pay. Hope this helps.

  9. Thank you to the last poster who
    has provided information that the district should have. Why is this so tough for the district to put out?

    So perhaps it is time for a new leadership team to run the district.?

  10. It seems to me the board can't fund the raises they just gave, plus account for student growth and inflation without asking for the same 9.5 mils as in March, or more. They snubbed the will of the taxpayers by making a contract for raises they can't afford without a levy. I believe they did this because they are still in "business as usual, the taxpayers will do what we tell them" mode. Their arrogance is astonishing. They must think they will get 9.5 mils or more in Nov.


  11. Paul, thanks for the clarification on impact fees. You are on the right track but I don't think it will ever come to pass - the developers have too much power in Hilliard (obviously!) And once again, the expense side has alwaysm been ignored by the HSB. My business has experienced a downturn in the last 3 years; profit is almost a pipe dream while we ride out the economic downturn. Fortunately, we saved our profits when we were making it instead of handing it out, or taking it ourselves, and that is why we are still around today. The HSB needs some serious lessons in how that works.
    To Anon May 30 - exactly! To cut programs and staff while handing out 7% to the rest is foolhardy at best, especially on the heels of a failed levy. My business partner and myself took pay cuts several years ago in order to avoid larger losses; meanwhile our staff is getting, at best, cost of living increases. They have remained loyal employees, for the most part; they realize that the pastures are NOT greener anywhere else. But they can't afford to support public employees to that degree when they are losing ground themselves.
    And once again, where is the voice of the Board through all of this? Cloistered in Executive Session. The levy stands no more chance in November than it did last time. I just hope I can ride it out for two more years until my child graduates
    and hope the housing market turns around by then so I don't take a bath on that end instead. Outrageous school taxes won't do much for me there either; a well run school district living within it's means might.

  12. Is the "7% raise" stuff really true? I thought we were all waiting for the fine print on the recent contract agreement.

    It's hard to square the fact that teachers think they are getting robbed in the latest contract with "7% annual raises".

    Teachers are likely spoiled, but not THAT spoiled.

  13. Yes, 3% "raises" plus 4% "step increases" for the majority (but not all) of the HEA. 6%, 8%,and 10% contributions to health benefit premiums in years 1-2-3. Pretty sweet, huh?

  14. Absolutely. The 3% you hear spoken about by the Board and the HEA is amount the entire pay grid is increased from year to year.

    However over 80% of our teachers also receive an additional 4.15% annual 'step increase' just for completing another year of service. Compounded (as specified in the contract), this adds up to a 7.27% annual increase.

    You never hear the Board or the HEA talk about step increases because step increases have come to be considered by them as something other than a pay raise, as bizarre as that sounds.

    Finally, perhaps in some part due to my persistent complaining to them about this, the weekly papers are starting to do a better job of mentioning the step increases in their reporting, and not just saying "the new contract includes 3% increases for the teachers."

    Here's a sobering piece of analysis I did over the weekend:


    1. A teacher with a Bachelor's degree and no additional credit hours is hired this year, the starting salary would be $35,107.
    2. Step increase rate remains at 4.15%
    3. Annual grid increase remains at 3%

    4. By the end of the 3rd year, the teacher completes an additional 150 credit hours. That teacher's pay would then become $45,137.
    5. By the end of the 5th year, the teacher completes a Master's degree. The salary would become $54.232
    6. By the end of the 10th year, the teacher adds 15 more credit hours. The salary would become $87,076.
    7. After completing 20 years of teaching, the salary would be $139,232.
    8. After completing 30 years of teaching, the salary would be $194,876.

    I admit to a little sensationalism in this calculation. The growth from $35,107 to $194,876 over 30 years is the equivalent of 5.88% compounded annually. None of us know whether that will be too much, too little, or about right.

    But these are only 3 year contracts. Both the HEA and the public need to accept that annual increases will need to up and down as dictated by external economic factors.

    It has been my position all along that failing to disclose and explain this step increase system would bite the HEA and the school board in the butt. More and more people are finding out about the step increase custom in teacher contracts, and realizing that this 3% number they've been hearing is only part of the picture. Now I fear a backlash from the community as they find out that the actual raises agreed to in the new contract are in excess of 7%.

    But the school leadership never talks about this - they just want to complain about diminishing state funding. Well guess what, that isn't going to be fixed any time soon - not even by the amendment being pushed by the Getting It Right For Ohio's Future campaign, which has been officially endorsed by our Superintendent and Board.


  15. Paul, I too, have asked the local papers to report the step increases as a matter of being factual. But at least half of the articles in both papers still fail to mention it. I really cannot understand why. Now I can understand why the union head doesn't mention it when they quote him. He knows the backlash that will follow. What he does not realize apparently is that by not mentioning it, the backlash is even worse, as witnessed by comments on this blog.

  16. I just wanted to let you all know what Hilliard School Employess are seeing. First off, let me explain that I understand your frustration with everything that is plaguing our system currently. I too have to pay the same prices at the pump, the same costs at the supermarket etc. I know that there is a lot of talk about the damage the union causes with our negotiations proceedings. Please know that most of the issues that kept people from voting for a contract were language issues in the contract and non financial issues. Most of the HEA (atleast members I am in contact with) realize that times are changing and we need to contribute to our health care and face the realism of our economy. It is tough out there as I know first hand. I currently work a second job (not just through the summer - all the time) I own a house in the district (not $300,000 but half that with 3 bedrooms). I have three children who will attend Hilliard schools. I have to pay increased property taxes when a levy goes through as well. My wife also works full time and I really don't feel we live above our means. I don't feel that I am better than anyone else and I do feel that in today's economy we should not be receiving such raises. On the other hand, we have never had to pay for insurance (we are now - maybe not as much as others would like - but it is a start). We are also paying higher copays than in the past and I am personally paying about 7 times the cost of prescriptions under our older insurance. The HEA offered lower raises and a shorter contract which the board rejected. We were retroactively paid on May 30th back to March 15th. I ended up with about $10 extra after they retroactively also took out the insurance. My job is to go in and teach to the best of my ability. I enjoy my job and would continue regardless of raises. I am very offended that so many of you feel that we are there to line our own pockets and don't care about the children. I am sure many of you in the private sector do it only because you love it and you would be willing to do it for free - sarcasm. I think teaching is the best job in the world and it is unfortunate that teachers must rely on the community for our income. However, please stop putting the blame on the teachers. We are there to do our job and we are pawns in the grand scheme of the district. We do what we are told. I hope you consider that in most teachers' minds it is in fact for the kids. That is why we teach. By voting the levy down in the future we are condemning our kids. There will be far too many jobs lost that it will impact the education the children receive. And please realize I am not worried about my job. I will find my calling in another district if I am cut. Again it is my calling.

  17. Thanks for your comment. The purpose of this blog is to be a forum where information and ideas are exchanged regarding to the governance of our school system. The criticisms which appear here are aimed at the leadership - the School Board, the Superintendent, and the union leaders - not the corps of teachers and staff members who directly interact with our kids.

    Indeed, you and your fellow teachers are the reason people flock to the Hilliard School District. When I think of the years my kids were in school, it wasn't about the buildings or the grounds or the equipment in their classroom. It was the experience they had with their teachers and classmates. We got to know many of their teachers, and think highly of all of them.

    But we also know that our relationship with the teaching team is more complex than that - there's money involved. And two things have happened:

    1. The funding balance in our community has been broken. What was once an equal partnership of local homeowners, local businesses and the State of Ohio has distorted into a system where all new costs - whether due to growth or to your compensation increases - are funded by local homeowners.

    2. The economy has softened. When that happens, most of us in the private sector feel it pretty much in real time. If we don't get laid off, our salaries get frozen and increasingly our share of benefit costs goes up. But you guys are protected by a union contract with guaranteed raises of a magnitude which might have been appropriate in the boom years, but seem out of order right now.

    You and others have said that the union was willing to take a smaller raise and shorter contract duration, which makes it sound like the Board forced a better deal down your throat. I suspect this isn't the whole picture, and that the smaller/short contract also had differences in terms of insurance contributions that may have made it cost more, not less.

    And asking for a shorter term contract can just be a negotiating ploy when one side thinks conditions will be more favorable in the near future.

    Unfortunately this is only conjecture, because the public is never given any information about the how the negotiation progressed.

    Again, the key goal of this blog is information and the exchange of ideas. I hope you will continue reading and commenting so we all have a broader picture of the truth.


  18. To the individual (apparently a teacher in Hilliard):

    I found your comment interesting...

    "I am very offended that so many of you feel that we are there to line our own pockets and don't care about the children. "

    I personally do not feel that way about most teachers. I think that the majority of them are dedicated. The problem I have is that the union supports excessive raises and job rules that favor seniority over doing a good job. I don't dislike teachers; only the HEA "machine" that promotes practices that benefit them at the cost of our community.

    "We are there to do our job and we are pawns in the grand scheme of the district."

    Sorry, but that is a cop out. The raises you are receiving is directly because of the "muscle" of the union. If you don't feel they are deserved, why not stand up and say something? Probably because you are afraid of retribution by the union "brethren". I find it interesting that the teachers who supposedly support "diversity and the sharing of different ideas" come across that way in the union. Please understand that just as you are "a cog in the wheel" so to speak, so is the taxpayer. Your somewhat limited choices (short of openly telling the union leadership they are asking for too much) is to vote yes or no for the contract. I don't take that personally, per se. On the other hand, as a taxpayer, short of talking to the board (tried it, and it was a worthless clown show), there is little we can do than vote down the levy.

    " I ended up with about $10 extra after they retroactively also took out the insurance"

    Been there - done that. Sorry, but that has been going on at my company for several years, as it has been with my neighbors and friends. Think it's bad now? Try having that occur 3 years in a row (increased insurance, no raises, and no "step" increases). Personally, I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for that statement - welcome to the real world.

    "By voting the levy down in the future we are condemning our kids."

    What other option do we have? How can we say no to the raises that you yourself state are extreme? Tell you what; you give me as a taxpayer a way to vote / comment effectively on the way our district spends it's money (i.e raises, staffing), and I will look at supporting future levy's.

    I do believe that you care about kids and teaching. Good for you; the district needs teachers like you. However, the way the union has handled this contact and the raises given have made "teacher's union" (and by default "teachers") a dirty word in our development. Instead of asking "why do people not like us?", you should be asking "why did my union and the district agree on a contract that alienated us as teachers from many folks in our constituency".

    One last question......

    Why does the union hierarchy feel that the teachers deserve raises much more than those recieved by the majority of their constituency ? Why?

    Thanks for your service to our community.

  19. If most teachers are really only receiving about net $10 a pay increase after insurance costs with this contract, than that seems reasonable. That's what I meant in my comment above asking what the teachers are actually getting.

    The district can't be draconian and try to make up for all the past plump contracts by slashing pay/benefits with this one. Most companies have a wage freeze once in awhile but its not often there's a net decrease in purchasing power.

    Also, the previous commenter (the teacher) sounded a bit self-righteous in presuming teachers are the only ones with a "calling". Even if you limit yourself to the helping professions - such as social workers, nurses, physical therapists - many of them also consider there profession a calling, though usually without benefit of a powerful union and a fabulous vacation package.

  20. I can appreciate the recent comment
    by the teacher with some different perspectives

    I think in general, the community has supported the teachers and the
    district as a whole. It is very unfortunate how the levy, contract negotiations, and the districts communication abilities have quickly just turned a lot of people off. And it is snowballing. Believe it.

    The HEA leadership it is obvious
    is not concerned about the students or taxpayers or the well being of the district. The retribution in the classroom, athletics, extra curricullars is dispicable.
    Parents should have the right to
    ask legitmate questions. But the district and the HEA has chosen
    to treat the taxpayer with intimidation and a total lack of respect.

    I am not against raises, benefits,
    but they could have been lowered very easily. So the HEA and the school district will ask us to ante up every 3 years to pay for costs that can be controlled

    The district and the HEA have also
    supported current state office holders with big campaign contributions. Those representatives have failed this school distrit, votingfor more mandates, flat funding, while raking in big campaign contributions.

    It will take a lot of money for a new group to get on the board.
    The old interests will pump big money into the same old , same old
    with recognizable last names.
    Our newest board member with the financial background which is supposed to be important has joined
    in lock step. What a disappointment

    The debate, and I will include myself is the same old same old
    The economy is challenging, there
    are huge communication issues.
    More and more people are taking a closer look, and see a situation that is totally out of control.
    Paul predicted it, and hats off to him for creating this blog. We all may not agree, but alot of ideas have been shared. And for that
    we all should be happy we have a vehicle to express our thoughts.

    Perhaps some of our educators should explore some new blood in the leadership capacity in the HEA
    I can see that as being very difficult and risky however.

    The Hilliard School District has
    to become more inclusive and receptive to new thoughts, ideas,
    comments, and yes criticism.
    The current intolerance of any
    questioning of decision making will
    send this district south in a hurry. I feel for those who have young kids in the district. They are the most at risk.

  21. Paul - Have you seen the article in the Dispatch today about Canal Winchester. If not, here it is...
    Canal Winchester

  22. To anonymous "a fabulous vacation package".

    You're clueless. Teachers get paid for the days that they work. It is spread out over 12 months. We don't get paid for summer time. Most of us are taking courses to keep our licenses current.

    Try enlightening yourself before commenting and sounding less than educated.

    And no, I'm not a teacher in Hilliard. Its sad that they have a community that is so unsupportive.

  23. Wow, I would say to last poster that
    we have well equipped buildings,
    well maintained, a consistent level of support over the years from the community

    We also just handed out a great contract and for just the first time their has been a change in the medical program which is still, when compared to most, a very attractive package.

    Obviously your children, if you dont live in our district did not have to endure the staff talking about the contract unfairness within the building, and putting graduating senior students on the spot with their comments about
    not having graduation.

    It is supposed to be about the kids
    is what we here the teachers union leaderships allways say.

    Somehow that one has gotten lost in this district and is no longer prevalent and meaningful.

    My school tax bill would say otherwise also as I prepare for
    a 20% increase in my school tax with this levy

  24. To the last post. It is indeed unfortunate that the contract negotiations were brought into the classroom. However, most teachers were able to keep things out of the classroom. You are holding a whole district accountable for the actions of few (or maybe even one). I find it disheartening that based on the experience with this educator at the high school level, now all teachers in the district that teach elementary and middle school are not thinking of the kids. Kind of a sad generality to make.

  25. Anon,so what is the alternative.
    You are not allowed to ask questions because of the retribution factor.
    And it was more than one ! Taxpayers should have the right to ask question
    professionally. To have graduation brought into the equation, and performance affected in the classroom whether it is 10 educators or 100

    Obviously the HEA Leadership supported this, otherwise it would not have happenend.

    For the last few years indeed I think we have all looked the otherway and said OH well. Now we are in a tough situation, as has been predicted here on this site and before.

  26. Anon. at 3:45 p.m. wrote:

    "Obviously the HEA Leadership supported this, otherwise it would not have happened."

    I'm not the one who responded before, but just to make sure I understand your point, you're saying that because 10 (or even 100) teachers in one building shot their mouths off about graduation, that means the HEA leadership must have supported that? Please, let's use some logic here. The HEA is an organization of 1,200 members. The leadership cannot control the actions of everyone, and at all times this year, we were urged to be professionals by the leadership (and I am NOT one of the leaders). As I have said before, you are right that it is inappropriate that some teachers chose to bring negotiations into the classroom. But if you want those who do not already agree with you to truly listen to your point of view, you are going to have to let go of the generalizing and constant harping on the same points. If you only want to "preach to the choir," such lack of logic is fine. But if you truly want change, you need to change your assumptions. As painful as that can be, it is a simple fact of persuasion that the minute you demonstrate a logical fallacy, you will lose your argument.

  27. I will agree with your thoughts on
    not all of the teachers engaged
    in the type of behavior indicated.

    The challenge that comes out consistently is, that is the way it is. We have the right to disagree with that. As much as my one vote yes for the levy might mean something, think of those who
    are allready feeling disinfranchised,dont say a word and
    just say no.

    Reality is 57% to 43%

    Does the District and HEA leadership bear some responsibility for the current situation?

    Change in the Board will not occur until 2009. Trust that the HEA will pour major dollars into the same candidates, as will local
    leaders, etc to maintain the status quo.
    The status quo is what got us into this situation. To blame it only
    on the individual taxpayer gives the HEA leadership and board a free ride.

    I am hopeful this levy passes.
    but to continue to ignore the
    sensitivity of the electorate
    fair or not fair, means failure at the ballot box.

    To effect change yes, you must be involved. But when it negatively affects your students performance in the classroom, what is the safe
    play ?

  28. Anon. at 7:35 writes:

    "Trust that the HEA will pour major dollars into the same candidates, as will local
    leaders, etc to maintain the status quo.
    The status quo is what got us into this situation. To blame it only
    on the individual taxpayer gives the HEA leadership and board a free ride."

    Again, I have a problem with your assumptions. Let's be logical here. Do you really think the HEA is going to support the SAME people after the way we were treated by them during this year's negotiations, both privately and in the press? If I were a betting person, I'd put all my money on "No." My sense is that no one outside of the BOE--neither the community nor the teachers--wants to maintain the status quo. Please give us a little more credit than that! And when I say "the way we were treated," I'm not referring to the contract results, since those are due to the federal mediator's efforts. And I'm NOT referring to the fact that we have to contribute to our health coverage. We knew that would be necessary. I'm referring to the way we were literally treated in the negotiations process, which the public didn't see, but could possibly have inferred from the comments in the paper that first violated negotiations procedures and then portrayed our position inaccurately.

    You also wrote that "To effect change yes, you must be involved. But when it negatively affects your students performance in the classroom, what is the safe

    First of all, to express such a fatalistic attitude concerns me. If I remember your earlier posts correctly, your child graduated this year, right? So what do you have left to lose at this point? Why give up? And why assume, just because your child had a negative experience with teachers bringing negotiations into the classroom, that this means everyone's will? As KJ has written, that has not been his experience, though I noticed you were quick to discredit him since his wife teaches in the district. And to discredit his experience for that reason was another logical error--if anything, he theoretically had MORE to lose than the average community member. Having a wife who is a member of HEA is not some kind of free pass. We are not the mafia, for heaven's sake! Perhaps your negative experience has more to do with HOW you are expressing your ideas than what you are actually saying. Just food for thought. I just think to keep saying "Nothing will change" is a cop-out, frankly. A better choice is to roll up your sleeves and get to work, as Paul, KJ, and others have done. I don't even agree with everything they say; however, I respect their efforts and keep reading this blog because their more reasoned approaches often make me stop and think. And I know that as a teacher and parent in the district who cares about our community deeply, I need to understand all voters' positions. But to be brutally honest, posts like yours make me want to stop reading at all. Which result do you want to happen?

  29. Anon, you make some good points and I respect your opionions.
    The experiences that we and other families experienced are valuable.
    As a group we were not confrontive but simply did not want the disruption in the classroom. The principal acknowledged our questions as positive. With the political nature of our school system these things seem to be acceptable, and I am simply stating
    that there is a problem with it.

    You also assume one not to be involved which is not correct.
    The question which you answered is it worth the risk to your students well being in the classroom and at school if a parent asks questions.

    While I have supported levys
    and continue to do so the fact remains that the levy failed by a huge margin. I dont think I am the only one who has concerns.

    My point on the campaign contributions is a valid one.
    It takes huge amounts of money to get elected to anything. Witness
    our currrent failure in our state government to come up with an equitable funding plan. All of these representatives are elected via big campaign war chests.
    I dont see this changing.

    This is a good forum because it lays all the cards on the table in whatever fashion. Everyone gets a chance to ask questions and get information.

    I dont think it is new news that there is frustration in the community and it is not based on one individuals opinion. If all of the concerns are addressed in the fall campaign then the levy will have a better chance of approval.

  30. Teachers obviously receive a fabulous vacation package, but no one begrudges them that. (I can't imagine working with kids year-round.) Studies show that teachers make a very good salary, comparable to engineers when adjusted for number of hours worked.

  31. Anon. at 12:28: What do you mean by "adjusted for hours worked"? Does that include all the time I spend at home and at the library grading papers and preparing lesson plans and assessments, on weekends (especially Sundays) as well as weeknights? Does it include the hour I typically arrive early at school to be ready for my day, or the two hours I typically stay late after the kids leave? Just curious.

    Either way, I agree teaching provides a good salary. In fact, tonight's ABC World News identified teaching as one of the best job prospects in the near future, which means we need more teachers nationwide. I would seriously suggest that many of you who read this blog consider switching careers. It is hard to imagine a more rewarding job experience than seeing a kid's face light up when you help them learn something new. It can certainly be stressful at times, but so are most jobs, and I am never bored! I'd be happy to send you information about becoming licensed. It's not that hard to switch careers, believe it or not, particularly if you already have a college degree and just need the licensure courses. Of course, if you want to teach in a district like Hilliard, it can take a while to get your foot in the door because jobs here are understandably super-competitive. But it's worth it; I wouldn't go anywhere else now, and as a parent, I see how having a good contract translates into having mostly very high-quality teachers who are not "stuck here" due to geography or lack of other options, but who choose to stay here for their careers, even if it means driving across the city.

    And I do look forward to my summer break, especially this year as I get to spend at least four weeks of it extending my learning in ways that will immediately benefit kids in the fall. I love the fact that summer gives me the chance to be a student again -- as you might guess, many of us who teach love going to school, and it really is amazing how fast things change in fields you wouldn't expect.

  32. I would like to say that it is unfortunate that teachers are made to feel they need to defend their profession. For me, the issue is purely economic. I cannot afford to take $600 + higher taxes out of my pocket and put it in yours.( 90% of a new levy would go to labor cost) I pay 100% of my medical insurance plus a $2000 deductible, and the premium has gone up 50% in 3 years. No raise, $4 gas. The taxpayers said "no" in March, and the board made a contract with the HEA that we can't afford without the levy. 3% raise +4% step increase adds up to a 25% school tax increase every 3 years. In this economy, this community cannot sustain those kind of cost increases. Members of the teachers union should look at what has happened to the UAW. I believe that is your future. Just like the shareholders at GM and Ford said "enough", so too will the taxpayers in Hilliard. If a levy fails in Nov and 200 teachers lose their jobs, I don't think you can blame the taxpayers because we said no.

  33. I think it is important to note that many people in the district realize the time out of classroom that the great teachers of the district put in. I am a firm believer that combined with involved parents, students that are ready and prepared to learn, and great teachers that the results produce top academic success.
    Until recently I have been willing to provide a blank check, and a no questions asked policy to the district, the HEA, and the educators.

    I think anyone with areas of responsibility are working more hours.

    The district is in trouble for the following reasons.
    1. Unrestricted residential growth by big time developers who have big campaign war chests that support our status quo in this district and city and Central Ohio,
    2. Unrealistic compensation and benefit increases given the economic challenges.
    3.Poor communication by the district and the alienation of more and more voters every day with the attitude of they "dont get it"
    Any question about anything that goes on in the district is greeted
    as has been on this site, is get over it, you asked the wrong way
    why dont you care about the kids
    etc. So why is anyone suprised with the KEY REALITY check that the last levy lost 57% to 43%
    The goal should be to win voters over.

    4. The failure to have an equitable funding plan from our state government

    5. While our school systems, Union leaderships, local city officials moan about #4 above, they have contributed millions of dollars to support the status quo. So why is
    it just the individual taxpayers fault only ?

    Over the last few weeks I have tried to engage many people whom I come into contact with about the need for a levy and to find out
    what their real challenges are with district.

    People I think know we need a levy.
    But they feel they have lost control over their district, and that the HEA leadership and district is running roughshod overthem with the way the individual taxpayer is treated.
    You cant ask questions or you are
    viewed as being negative.

    So right or wrong,many, and in increasing numbers are saying no.!

    We need people to say yes in Nov
    but the attitude of the district and the HEA needs to change or
    we are headed for some serious
    problems in the district.

  34. Paul,have you heard anything on when the new contract will be made available to the public. I called this past week, and apparently there is no firm date yet?

  35. The last update I have is from Carrie Bartunek on June 3:

    The HEA contract is going to print next week if all goes as expected with proofing. So, I will contact you as soon as it is complete. The "me-too" provision of the OAPSE contract is implemented by the addition of a memorandum of understanding and takes effect immediately.


  36. To the teachers defending the idea of the "extended summer vacation" as being just paid over 12 months for 9-10 months work, I call bologna. If that is the case, Hilliard teachers are paid far above the normal reference rate for similar occupations. And before I hear the question about me "stepping in the classroom", though I am not a teacher, I have several friends and relatives that are and think I know enough about the job to comment.

    If it were a time where all teachers were truly spending 40+ hours on professional development (less a reasonable vaction time comparable to other professional jobs), I would say OK. But for every teacher working on their Master's over the summer, there are many others sipping ice tea on their back porch or double dipping as summer school teachers, Walmart greeters, etc. Hardly necessary "professional development".

    Additionally, if teachers feel that the "stress" of the job is too much and they need the break, I suggest they look at many of the other jobs around them and realize that many folks have it as bad if not tougher than they do without any such sabbatical every summer. How about the ER nurse that sees life and death every day, or the police officer working third shift in a part of town you specifically avoid driving in? I think many teachers would crumble under real stress like that. BTW - those jobs do not come with multi-week summer stress breaks. Maybe instead of crying about your "raw deal" with 3% raises and 4% step, you should be thankful you have such a good job that pays so well and gives you summers off.

    Finally, it bothers me and many of my neighbors to hear teachers or supporters justify summers off because of all the time spent at night and on weekends grading papers, working on lesson plans, etc. Do us all a favor and get over yourselves. Many of the families who support YOUR salaries and raises do work at home and on the weekends as part of their normal job. It's called doing what you have to do to stay employed. It's not that unusual, nor should anyone expect a "gold star" for it.

    Sorry to sound harsh, but I have sensed a real undercurrent of frustration within a large part of our community to the teaching profession in Hilliard. Many feel the "muscle" of the HEA is keeping teachers from feeling the pain of the economy many taxpayers are experiencing. It sure seems that Joe Taxpayer is being asked to dig deeper than the teachers are. And before I get the first posting back attacking me on this point, understand that the majority of taxpayers would not see your contract as "pain". Try decreasing take home pay every year for 3+ years and then maybe you will understand the pain many of your students parents are feeling.

    Should be an interesting November....

  37. You wrote:

    "Maybe instead of crying about your 'raw deal' with 3% raises and 4% step, you should be thankful you have such a good job that pays so well and gives you summers off."

    Funny...I don't recall anyone who sounded like a teacher on this blog "crying" over our final contract settlement. I recall saying myself that it's a good deal and, in my opinion, fair. Many of us fully expected to start contributing to our health plan. So before you tell me to "get over myself," maybe you should try reading a bit more carefully!

    And I think it's hysterical to blame us for the summer break and snow days (which I've heard others do on this blog), as if we created them. It's not like teachers came up with the current school calendar, which originally had an extended summer break because we were a primarily agrarian society. Many states and districts DO feature year-round school today, and I am not opposed to it. And we surely do not have any control over whether it snows or not!

    I've tried hard not to "attack" you here, but it's hard when you post is written in such a disdainful attitude and tone. Again, please realize that comments such as yours build fences more than bridges. What is your goal here?

  38. I think we are seeing exactly what I predicted would happen as more information about the finances of our school district came to light.

    For many years, people outside the education community have been operating under the impression that teaching is a low-paying profession, and that benefits such as summers off was a reasonable trade-off for the meager pay.

    Now the people are finding out that the compensation for teachers is better than they thought, and the benefits, way better. It's a surprise, and not a good one in our present economic conditions.

    While I agree that going into attack mode isn't helpful, I prefer that people vent a little here and now while there is still time to gain an understanding of why an additional operating levy is needed. We don't want to be having these conversations in the Fall.

    113 days until Absentee voting begins

  39. I don't think people are going to get it out of their system, realize we need a levy, and vote yes in November. The more I learn about the district's expenses, the more annoyed I become with the board and the teachers union, and by reading here, I know I am not alone. The levy funds the 7% increases the board gave the teachers even after a resounding levy defeat in March. The only way we have to express our dissatisfaction with the board is to vote no. I believe if we vote yes in November, it will be business as usual for the next 3 years, and they will be back in 2012 asking for another 20-25%. I think a lot of parents are hoping to delay the pain of cutbacks until their children are through school and have reaped the benefits of the "champagne taste" system we have today. I think we need to bite the bullet now and for the future.

  40. As KJ has been saying over and over, we need to separate the need for the levy from our feelings about the Board. The decisions that have led to our current financial situation happened in the past and there's little we can change in the next year.

    But in 2009, we can vote in a new majority on the Board. And in the meantime we help our fellow voters by talking to them about the true situation, writing letters to the editor in Northwest News, and inviting them to this blog.

    We can also show up at School Board meetings and keep the pressure on those guys to be more open - which includes listening better.

  41. Paul, again this blog has opened a lot dialog. I will be the first to admit to venting, but also trying to understand all the details. This communication piece has really become the only way
    to get good information.
    And when you started this blog you gave the warning first hand
    where we were headed and guess what !
    We have a situation - again
    perhaps not the appropriate one -
    where the electorate is extremely frustrated. Frustration, like it or not, turns negative, and guess what turns into 57 to 43.
    The HEA and the district can say "you dont get it" all they want but the result might possibly be the same again.
    If there is an economic challenge out there in Nov. like we have now, given the contract,
    it is going to be a challenging sell
    If the HEA continues to support bringing negotiations into the classroom, then Nov will be a challenging sell. After all, the situation was brought up and the district and HEA chose NOT to address it. Just because it happenend to just a "few" -
    awfully big graduation classes these day so I question the "few"
    doesnt make it right. Guess what
    in the private sector if you
    disrupt the workplace you get

    I think this reappraisal news will also get people up in arms.

    Yes, we need new people on the board, but how do you combat
    the campaign dollar infusion from the powers. An individual taxpayers we dont have the financial ability like the HEA and the developers to contribute.

    Paul, like yourself we need
    others who dont have ties to the school system via employment, spouses employed by the District,
    etc who will ask some tough questions. Hopefully some people who do not have kids in school and dont have to worry about reprisals
    to students will be able to run
    I will support them by informing as many people as I can about where they can help by voting for people like Paul.

    It is really a shame that the
    field is limited due tothe attitude of the District and HEA

    I remember the post Paul put on during the interview process for
    HEA endorsements about keeping the
    "friendly " relationship.
    With thattype of campaign clout
    it is a wonder more people arent

  42. Paul.... please leave this version and delete the previous version. Thanks...

    I've had some bad luck on this site lately. I've written 2 very long responses only to lose them do to a computer glitch. I don't have the patience to write it again. So here is a snapshot for consumption.


    1) Paul did a "sensationalized" analysis of an atypical teaching career. The result was a 5.88% annual increase. What would an annual increase for a "typical or non-sensationalized" teaching career be? It would be interesting to begin to talk about an aggregate increase instead of the "7%" number. Some teachers (and according to Paul it's a large majority) receive the 7% increase, is that the real aggregate annual increase?

    2) Just a thought... many of us (yes me too) complain about growth in residential housing in Hilliard. However, I've built 2 houses in Hilliard since 1995. I wonder how many of us that want the developers to go away are living in a relatively new house located on old farmland? Meaning, how many of us that complain about growth actually contributed to the problem. Just a different perspective on the topic.

    3) Has the blame we put on the HEA/BOE for lack of communication and/or poor decisions been disproportionate?? What role does or has the administration played in the current financial "crisis? Lack of communication to the public? Identification of cuts? (oops, I just spoke out against the administration.... guess I'll have a horse-head in my bed soon)

    Lately, I’ve been talking with district officials, the campaign committee, and other parent groups to try to better understand the WHOLE picture of our schools. It’s easy to focus on the bill placed on taxpayers and complain. But it’s been very productive and informative to learn the story behind the story. There are some good explanations for why certain things are the way they are. For instance, I’ve been very hard on the district for the large number of ELL teachers. When the facts are learned, it’s easily realized why we have so many and what true service they offer the district. I’ve also learned a lot about NCLB and its impact on the district. I’ve also learned that one of the largest portions of our tax bill for the schools for to infrastructure ( we tend to forget that the 90% number is actually the operating fund. But that number is reduced to less than 75% of our tax bill when the capital expenses are added in). That doesn’t make the increases any easier, nor does it reduce the impact of the HEA contract. However, its eye opening to see how much our infrastructure actually costs us.

    I say all this to say…. It’s great to have our eyes opened. And I understand there are many levels of the discovery process. In many cases it starts with ignorance (not really understanding what the facts are or how those facts impact the bottom line). It then may go from ignorance to anger/frustration. And I’m sure there are many other levels involved. But unless we actually get to the solution level (cooperation, contribution, communication) then this entire discovery is useless. Eventually we have to get to a point where we take this knowledge and newly found motivation and convert it into kinetic energy that will result in positive change and contribution to the series of problem the ENTIRE district (taxpayers, students, teachers, administrators, and BOE) are facing. Otherwise, we are going to be no better off….. just more people know about it….. and it’s much louder from all the outcries. But other than that, that is all we will have unless we join the team and convert this energy to problem-solving mode.

  43. KJ:

    Sorry about the difficulty you've been having with Blogger. I've noticed a more generalized network problem in our area lately, and suspect something is screwed up in one of the big hubs or interconnects around here. Maybe the big storms and flooding in Indiana have something to do with it, since that's between here and a Chicago - a huge peering point in the Internet. Having been a part of the Internet community, I've seen some pretty huge network congestion events, and this is what they feel like. I sometimes write my comments in a Notepad window and paste it into the blog when done (since I'm apt to get a little long-winded too, like now).

    I wanted to respond to your comment that the teacher's pay progression I modeled was atypical. It may be off a little, but it is true that new teachers must complete their Masters by their 5th year to retain their license, which is what I built into the scenario. I then assumed that this teacher would complete an additional 15 hours over the next 5 years to jump to the next pay level. Finally, the teacher would continue on to teach for 30 years.

    Given those assumptions, if the steps remained 4.15% and the annual base increase 3%, the numbers I gave are how it would turn out, and it works out to be the equivalent of 5.88% annual increases for the entire teacher's career.

    The point I went on to make was that HEA members need to accept that this 4.15/3% program can't be thought of as a permanent fixture. It needs to adjust both up and down to reflect general economic and market conditions. The new contract most certainly did not do that.

    And that will make this levy very hard to get passed.


  44. Kj, will try this from a different angle.

    The scenario of buying multiple times in new developments would not apply to a vast majority of the electorate, and those folks
    are experiencing many fiscal challenges.

    The accountability factor encompasses the district as a whole. HEA< board, admin. taxpayers
    equally. The final answer will
    be in November. Will the electorate vote to increase their taxes 20% in the fall, knowing that
    a similar increase will happen
    in 2011. The debate about percentages, costs, salaries can go on, but my fear given the current circumstances and the
    attitudes coming from the district whether it be the HEA< Board, Admin. is that people are going to dig their heels in and say no, given some of the perceptions that have been communicated to the public on this blog and other avenues.

    Thank goodness Paul started this
    to facilitate discussion.

  45. Just in Hilliard alone over 13,000 new people have moved in since 1990. In 1990, Hilliard's population was 11,794. In 2004, the population was 26,449. Therfore, over half of the people that lived in Hilliard have moved here since 1990. Most of those live in newly built homes or bought an existing home from someone else who built a new home. I'd say it's fair to say that most of the electorate are living in a home that would be considered a part of the growth boom in Hilliard. the townships have remained largely the same, but Hilliard and the Columbus portion of the school district has grown incredible fast with new builds being a large portion of that growth.

    Paul, 5.88 it is. I was basing my question off of your words that the analysis was partly "sensationalized". If you say it is more typical of a teacher starting today, I'll believe it.

    I do agree, unfortunately, that the levy will likely face a miserable death in the fall. I hope I'm wrong, but I do think the tides have turned and the district is underestimating the condition and of the electorate. I'm hopeful, but guardedly so.

  46. KJ:

    The analysis was sensationalized in the sense that I didn't try to do inflation-adjusted dollars or anything like that. Take your own salary and crank it by 5.88% annually for 30 years, and you get an eye-popping number.

    And gas would cost $20/gal and a typical Hilliard home about $1 million.

    Such is life. My first management job paid $9,600/yr, my first new car cost $1,950, and I could fill it up for about $10.

    Now it costs nearly $25 to put 5 gals of diesel in my lawn tractor.



  47. That's good with me. Like I said, I was just wondering what a typical annual increase would be. I misunderstood your original definition. but 5.88% it is.

    I'll be the first to admit that I've been very fortunate in my career. So,my "reality" is likely different than others reality. I've been in a profession that has enjoyed steady growth and many opportunities for advancement. I actually expect 3 to 5% average increase annually over my career. But I realize that may not be normal. But looking at youtrstarting salaray and where I assume you finished, I'd say you had a similar experience. But I agree that isn't typical.

    Any idea what a "typical" average increase for professionals has been the last 15 to 20 years? I'm sure it's not 5.88%. And it hasn't been 5.88% for HEA members either up until a few contracts ago. But as I said in earlier posts, such is the issue with collective bargaining. Once something is added to a contract, it's hard to remove. Likewise, once its taken out, it rarely comes back. I'm sure there was a time when the step+COL increases were warranted. But salaries seem to be in the right range with other professional professions and the rate of increase should be reduced. I'm hopeful that this latest contract was Step 1 of salary correction, and that Step 2 will occur in the next one. Meaning, first step was to "correct" medical payments and the second step will be to slow the rate of salary increase. My thinking has always been that too big of a correction all at once would not have been a good choice and that the "sting" of correction is a multi-phase process. I know it's not what many constituents would want but I've always felt that was a realistic approach. Guess we'll see if I'm right in 3 years.

    I think this topic has been chewed, and re-chewed, enough. Where do we go from here? I know the campaign committee is looking for parent volunteers to help with the Levy campaign. I also know that Paul is considering a grass-roots effort to effect change in the district. What other efforts are ongoing that we can participate in the positively impact the district? I'd love to see a list of ideas on how we can become more engaged in the district. We now have more interest, it seems we should put it to use.

  48. I still think we're in the education phase of this effort. Until many more folks understand the basic economics - where money comes from and where it goes - it will be difficult to implement much in the way of solutions.

    For many years, the levy campaign mantra has been "it's for the kids" - making it a purely emotional choice. That might work in a time of high prosperity and optimism, but not when folks are feeling stressed about their own economic survival.

    Bobbi Mueller and her team made some shift to a data-based analytic campaign this Spring, but they stopped short of connecting all the dots.

    The school officials just want to keep blaming the state, apparently oblivious to the indicators that the state doesn't mean to help us at all.

    I thinking that the next step is an independent public communications effort that takes what has been started with this blog, the website and the e-newsletter and extends it into a well-coordinated effort involving things like drop outs in the weekly papers, passing out literature door to door, and an effort to get air time in all kinds of community meetings - like neighborhood associations, the Kiwanis Club, quilting circles - whatever.

    Who's up for being part of the kick-off team for such an effort?


  49. My thoughts would be no matter how much things get rehashed it is better
    than we have received until Paul but this blog on. I am not much in favor of sliding the tough questions
    and everyday peoples opionion to the sideline which is what we have had all along It is tough enough to get the education process started. The independent communication is not a bad thing and given Pauls feedback on the number of hits one has to believe it has educated a good number of new participants. And that is a good thing.

    Paul, I could be interested in
    a group focused on the educational part of school funding. But I thought that the ACT group was
    going to be incharge of this.
    What type of conflicts will occur
    if a new group doesnt go lock step with the ACT committee and the district. Or do we really care?
    Just a question.

    Paul, you go for it, you have put out some great information and it would help you with your campaign for board
    Myself would be more comfortable
    with an independent PAC without the district influence and just information. I still believe the major challenge is convincing
    people to vote yes while on the one hand saying the district needs the funds or their will be cuts, while handing out increased compensation