Thursday, June 30, 2011

Inside the Kaukauna School District's alleged (but probably nonexistent) $1.5 million surplus.

Some conservatives are already crowing that Gov. Scott (Patsy) Walker's collective bargaining bill --which, remember, was allowed to be passed without full quorum because it wasn't a fiscal bill -- is saving tons of money and helping the children. They're pointing to the fact that the Kaukauna School District just announced that instead of an expected $400,000 deficit, they will likely have a $1.5 million surplus!

How? How? How can a nonfiscal measure result in a $1.9 million dollar swing in a school budget? the schools be saving money? That's what I asked. And then I read that story.

Here's how it works:

First, cut teacher pay by 17%. That is, reduce what you pay your employees by just over 7%. That's what Kaukauna did, requiring that all teachers pay 12.6% of their health insurance (previously it was 10%) and contribute 5.8% of their wages to the state pension.

(My private employer, by the way, does not require that I contribute anything to my retirement. I can save as much as I want for retirement. It's my choice. They also match anything I contribute, up to 3% of my wages. So paying 5.8%, mandatorily, is a worse deal than the private sector gets.)

The average teacher in Kaukauna makes $46,390. Oops! I mean made. The average teacher in Kaukauna now makes $43,142.70.

(How would you like to suddenly make $250 less per month than you did before?)(Or, in your case, reduce your next paycheck by 5%. The teachers have it worse.)

Then reduce benefits further: Benefits are a form of pay; so teachers actually got a further cut:
The new rules also cut sick days from 10 to five, eliminate teacher pay for emergency school closings, such as snow days
(I get unlimited sick days at work.)

I know that many teachers have no formal responsibilities during the summer, but the district doesn't expect them to only get sick in June, July and August, do they? That's about one sick day per two months. And teachers will not get paid when they are told not to come in to work for reasons beyond their control: even if a teacher wants to work on a snow day, she will not be paid.

(On the last snow emergency, I went into my office and worked 9 hours. But I'm on salary.)

Then lie.

Estimating savings from not paying teachers for five extra sick days, and not paying them for snow days, is a lie. The district doesn't know how many of its 252 teachers would have used all 10 sick days; it's simply saying "now they can only use five, so we'll save money." The district doesn't know how many snow days it will have in the next budget period. They're just guessing.

Then ignore what you just said about saving money and make plans to spend more anyway. (I.e., lie again.):

"These impacts will allow the district to hire additional teachers (and) reduce projected class sizes," School Board President Todd Arnoldussen wrote in a statement Monday. "In addition, time will be available for staff to identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences."

So you're going to save money by spending more money? And how will more time be available? Are you assuming that on those extra five days the teachers might have called in sick, they'll bring their runny noses to school and "identify and support students?"

(You may wonder why the reporter did not ask these questions. I wonder it, too.)

Then give credit to the Collective Bargaining bill even though it didn't really do anything. (I.e.: keep them lies a comin'!)

The school board eliminated 14.49 full-time equivalent positions last month to help close a projected $3 million budget gap. At the time, Arnoldussen said several staff members could be called back if Act 10 took effect

So how, exactly, did the collective bargaining bill help save money... before it was in effect?

Then, make assumptions without backing them up with facts:

In the past, Kaukauna's agreement with the teachers union required the school district to purchase health insurance coverage from something called WEA Trust -- a company created by the Wisconsin teachers union.... This year, WEA Trust told Kaukauna that it would face a significant increase in premiums.
Now, the collective bargaining agreement is gone, and the school district is free to shop around for coverage. And all of a sudden, WEA Trust has changed its position. "With these changes, the schools could go out for bids, and lo and behold, WEA Trust said, 'We can match the lowest bid,'" says Republican state Rep. Jim Steineke, who represents the area and supports the Walker changes. At least for the moment, Kaukauna is staying with WEA Trust, but saving substantial amounts of money

(Source.) In 2005, a study pointed out that on average, WEA Trust's premium increases were less than the state plan's increases, and that the top five school districts with the most expensive premiums were not WEA Trust members. But conservatives cite a "MacIver Institute" report, a report issued by what is essentially a lobbying group, a report that itself said it was not "scientific," to support their claims of large increases. And in May of this year, the Shorewood School District announced that not only was WEA Trust the lower cost option, but premiums would actually go down.

Well, down, that is, until after the collective bargaining bill passed:

Because Shorewood is in the WEA Trust, employees could be subject to paying 12.6 percent of the premiums in Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill.

Then take advantage of a little luck:

The district anticipates elementary class size projections for next year will shrink from 26 students to 23 students.

Did Gov. Patsy manage to legislate that?

Then, forget that you could have saved just as much without firing people.
In April, the school board rejected a proposal from the Kaukauna Education Association to extend the union's contract and incorporate pension and healthcare concessions along with a wage freeze, a move the union projected could save the district about $1.8 million next year.

The surplus under that proposal would have been $1.4 million.

Then, just keep saying things in hopes that people won't question them:

State Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Vandenbroek, ... issued a statement Tuesday heralding Act 10's impact on the school district's budget."When (Act 10) was being passed, there was so much misinformation about how this bill would hurt schools," Steineke wrote. 'But, as time has passed, it is becoming clearer that this bill gives schools the tools they need to create a better learning environment for the children of Wisconsin."

Conservatives, it seems, are not so much using ALEC to set their legislative goals as they are using The Secret.


Anonymous said...

A shift from paying 10% of health insurance to 12.6% is not a 2.6% cut in pay. If the average teacher in Kaukauna earns $46,390, a 2.6% cut in pay would be about $1,200. But, even if the health insurance premium were $20,000 per year (probably a high number), the additional 2.6% payment would only be $520. It is a cut, and probably painful for many of the teachers, but you are exaggerating the impact.

Anonymous said...

You're comparing apples and oranges....

First, your 17% pay cust isn't accurate. The employees are now required to contribute 12.6% of the health insurance premium cost. It does not say 12.6% of their salary. The employee pays 12.6% the employer is paying 87.4%. This is pretty typical in the private sector.

Second, just because you aren't required to contribute to your retirement isn't a valid comparison. Although the school board is requiring employees to contribute 5.8% the article doesn't indicate the local board contribution. Also, your contribution to retirement and employer's match is most likely not a defined benefit plan. In other words, no matter what the return on the invest of the pension dollars the teacher is guaranteed a defined benefit for the remainder of their life. You are not. This defined benefit is rarely found in non-union industries or outside the government.

Third, very few companies give unlimited sick days to their rank and file. Maybe to Sr Mgmt, generally in the private sector it's between 0 - 10 days.

Fourth, ask the waitress where you get your coffee every morning or the auto mechanic who fixes your car if they get paid when they can't make it to work because of "things that are out of their control"?

Your comments sound like you're an elitist who believes that government workers are entitled to what those who pay their salary are not.

Anonymous said...

Brianne you didn't compare Kaukauna to the "Private sector" you compared it to YOUR job/ employer..which can freely choose to contribute to your pension but is under no obligation to do so. Kaukauna's taxpayers have been contributing the entire pension contribution of 11.6% for every eligible employee in the school district. This is not only crazy it's unsustainable and must end. I think in the next few years we should stop all contributions towards retirement or better yet cancel the policy and switch these folks over to 401 K's and put them in charge of their own accounts.

Anonymous said...

There are so many falsehoods in your post it is hard to know what to say. Lets start with this: You attribute it to luck that elementary class size is going from 26 to 23 students. This is not due to luck. It is a result of the fact Kaukauna can hire more teachers with the savings from the new law. In other words, they are spending a little less on teacher compensation allowing them to hire more teachers. That's not luck. It's arithmetic.

Also, you failed to mention the savings individual teachers can realize by no longer paying union dues. This will help to offset the increased contributions to healthcare premiums/pensions.

Anonymous said...

This blog post is so full of distortions it is ridiculous. I would attempt to address all the inconsistencies but it's not really worth the trouble.

Anonymous said...

Sick day policies vary by district. Even calling them sick days is not standard practice at some districts. But the point is, ask any teacher what it's like to take a sick day/personal day, the prep and loss of student contact time just isn't worth it.
And my waitress doesn't have to be licensed and earn a degree.

Dave Martucci said...

Wow, Anonymous sure seems smart! Too bad he (she?) missed the point...