‘First, Do No Harm’ Should Apply in Schools


Far, far too many times criticism of K-12 education is seen as an attack on teachers. In the vast majority of cases, it’s not the educators in the classroom (or anywhere in the school building for that matter) who are standing in the way of what is in the best interests of students.

Consider these recent cases from around the country (courtesy of the Education Action Group):

  • For one Michigan educator, the annual costs of “non-membership” in the local, state and national teacher unions total $544.28. Andrew Buikema has been trying to leave the union since last spring, when he realized that union leaders were uninterested in helping the district control costs, even in the face of a multi-million dollar deficit.

 
“They keep asking for more and more, even though the school district can’t afford it,” he told EAG. “They’re concerned about taking care of the adults and have no consideration for the kids. I don’t want to be part of an organization that says one thing and does another,” he said.   

The union responded to his resignation request last month by sending approximately 150 pages of documents. The upshot of all those documents is this: Buikema can technically quit both unions, but he must still pay them $544.28 in “service fees,” which equals 67.7 percent of a normal union membership.
 

  • These days a lot of school budgets are being held together by the accounting equivalents of bailing wire and duct tape. But one Pennsylvania school district is so broke that it needs the state to provide the wire and the tape.

The Chester Upland School District began this week with only $100,000 in its savings account, and had no way of meeting its $1 million payroll – that is, until a judge ordered the state to give the district a  $3.2 million advance in its allowance.

The money will allow the teachers to be paid and the lights to remain on, at least for a few more weeks. The district is on track to be $20 million in debt by the end of the school year.

Since 2006, Chester Upland’s enrollment has dropped by almost 1,000 students. During that same time, the district has increased its workforce by 145 employees and its budget by $28 million.

  • Florida’s Marion County school district drew national headlines last summer when it announced that it was switching to a four-day school week as a way to save money. 

Other school officials took a more conventional route by laying off teachers and cutting student programs, all the while blaming Gov. Rick Scott for underfunding Florida’s public schools.

Now comes a report that finds 946 school employees in the Sunshine State earned at least $100,000 in 2010. That’s up 818 percent from 2005, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability.

The foundation also finds the percentage of non-school employees who earn at least six-figures has increased by only 7 percent during that same period.

 “During these five years, you have flat student enrollment, the biggest recession since the Great Depression and skyrocketing six-figure salaries – that adds up to a raw deal for Florida parents and taxpayers,” says Foundation CEO Tarren Bragdon.

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