30 Apr

No Surprise: MPS is Cutting Teachers Because of Out-Of-Control Employee Costs

Yesterday it was reported that Milwaukee Public Schools is cutting 684 jobs, which includes 260 teachers. The reason? Out-of-control employee costs, thanks to the teachers’ union.

The first thing you’ll hear is how the district doesn’t have money, and more tax money needs to be directed to MPS because it’s for the children. But the problem is not that the district doesn’t have enough money. I’ve reported several times on how the enrollment is declining while the budget keeps going up. The total budget gets increased year after year, and on a per student basis, the budget is skyrocketing. Witness:

The problem with MPS is the employee costs. In March it was reported that the average MPS teacher salary is $56,500, with an average benefits package of $43,505,  for total average compensation of $100,005 per teacher. I’m not saying teaching isn’t a tough job or that teachers aren’t important. But I do think the compensation package in MPS is way too high.  Remember that this is a 9 month job, so if you annualized the pay and benefits, that equals an annual compensation package of over $133,000.

Enrollment is going to go down again, but the district still wants more than $1.3 billion for the school year. The newspaper reports:

Generally, staffing reductions each year follow projected reductions in the number of students in the district. MPS expects enrollment to decline by 2.1% next year, but staff cuts will be three times that much, or 6.4% of its workforce. The proposed budget cuts 260.5 teaching positions, or 4.5% of the teaching staff.

The district is asking for $1,314,279,423, which would be a slight decrease from the prior school year. But with enrollment expected to fall 2.1%, that still means the district wants to spend $16,352 per student. And they’re telling us it’s impossible to provide a good education for that amount of money???

The problem again goes back to compensation and benefits. MPS is reporting that for every $1.00 it spends on wages in 2010-2011, it will spend $0.74 on benefits. In the real world (read: private industry which is self-sustaining), benefits typically cost about 30% of wages. MPS has a benefits cost nearly 2.5 times higher than the real world.

The only way MPS can deal with such high compensation costs is by reducing the number of employees. It’s simple math. (Not that I expect anyone in MPS to be able to do math.)

I’m sorry, but there are plenty of companies that offer very good benefits to their employees at a much lower cost than MPS offers them. It is time to face reality: We cannot afford the kind of pay and benefits demanded by the teacher’s union.

The teachers cry that there are too many children in each classroom, yet the teachers themselves have created this situation.  It would be simple to start cutting benefit costs. One way would be to put the employees in a more cost-effective health insurance option. But the union won’t allow it. By demanding such high pay and benefits, the teachers are effectively forcing the district to reduce the number of teachers.

MPS teachers could still have jobs with excellent pay and benefits if they were willing to be reasonable. They have the ability to force their union to work with the district to fix the budget problem. They simply won’t do it.

35 thoughts on “No Surprise: MPS is Cutting Teachers Because of Out-Of-Control Employee Costs

  1. The “beauty” of the situation is that the union can effectively hold the child’s education for ransom. Beyond that public school serves as daycare for may fully employed family units (I guess there is a chance that this will be less a worry with unemployment being what it is). This means that any disruption to school services which results in more days out of school is a direct pain to many of the people in the voting district. In short the union negotiates from a position with leverage which makes reclaiming any established overages painful and unsightly.

    I would love to see more districts pull the plug. Fire everyone, renegotiate contracts from scratch. Renegotiate with a vengence. There are plenty of people with education degrees and teaching licences who are currently unemployed – I’d be willing to bet they would work with out union representation for the opportunity to be employed. There was a time when unions were benificial. There will be a time when the power swings to far to the employers side…. that time is not now. Abandon your unions, because their leadership has lost sight of their purpose (and it is the members that will suffer not the leaders).

    -Drive By

  2. Average sala ray $56,000 per year. Poverty level at best. Benefit package which includes retirement and health insurance should not be the metric against which teachers are measured. This situation is no different than a private employer offering to pay 100% of health insurance costs for employees and fully fund a retirement package. This situation exists not only in Milwaukee but throughout the state. Every single school district is being forced to cut educational staff or eliminate programs within the district because of funding issues. State funding for schools is decreased; charter schools are pulling dollars away from the district; enrollment is down etc. Has anyone questioned why charter schools don’t have any special ed, emotioinally disturbed kids etc? They are all sitting in MPS as the charter schools are not required to take special ed kids. Has anyone looked at no-educational staffing at MPS? For example why does a school need a 2 boiler engineers and 2 apprentice boiler engineers? Why are these functions not outsourced to private contractors? Is it fair to the kids to have 35-38 kids in a class. No the teachers did not per se bring this upon themselves – more of a cram down. It’s just like the private industry mantra – does more, with less resources for less money.

  3. Sorry, but $56,000 is NOT poverty level by any stretch, especially not when you consider that the employees only have to work 9 months out of the year. And yes, the overly generous benefits packages SHOULD be factored in when looking at compensation. The fact is that the health and retirement benefits are far beyond what is provided in the public sector, and that is why the cost is so high.

    People like you keep saying that there are “funding problems” with schools. That’s completely false. If there is a problem, it is a SPENDING problem. MPS gets more and more money each year, and the amount is SIGNIFICANTLY more when you look at it on a per-student basis. There is no funding problem, only a spending problem. So if the teachers continue to demand pay and benefits that are far beyond a reasonable level, then the only way to cut costs is by cutting teachers. If the teachers would be willing to accept pay and benefits at a reasonable level, then more teachers could be employed. The teachers have made their choice, and now they must live with the consequences.

    An you cite the “private industry mantra”.of do more with less… and you of course disregard reality. In MPS they are actually DOING LESS WITH MORE. And they still want even more and want to do even less.

  4. It’s obvious that you just don’t get it Tracy. You have not sat through school budget meetings, you have not observed 35-38 kids a a classroom. It’s not just MPS. Go visit the Shorewood School District website and you will read about the budget problems there –
    In Superintendent McCann’s remarks prior to the discussing the budget recommendations on March 15, he shared a list of possible budget cuts that were discussed but not included in the budget recommendations at that time for a variety of reasons. These included:

    • Begin band and orchestra in sixth grade
    • Eliminate Directorships for performing arts staff
    • Eliminate all budget support for athletics or ask students to pay full cost to play sport
    • Eliminate budget support of all clubs or ask students to pay full cost of club
    • Eliminate budget support for drama productions or ask students to pay cost of
    participation
    • Eliminate SIS librarian (.5)
    • Elementary art no longer taught by specialist and taught by classroom teacher under
    direction of SHS/SIS art teacher
    • Elementary music no longer taught by specialist and taught by classroom teacher
    under direction of SIS/SHS music teacher
    • Eliminate one elementary guidance counselor
    • Eliminate elementary world language grade 4-6
    • Reduce Director of Instruction by 30%
    • Reduce health aide positions by 20%
    Again please note, these items are not included in the current recommendations. The district still has an approximate $203,000 gap between revenue and expense for the 2010-2011 school year. The difference between this amount and the amount reflected in the budget recommendation packet is the district received notice at the end of March that we will have a $47,000 reduction in Title I funding for the 2010-2011 school year due to a large reduction in Title 1 federal funds to the state.

    I am sure that the same postings would apply to Nicolet, Glendale, Whitefish Bay, Wauwatosa, South Milwaukee etc. All these schools are going to do more with less. Get out of your Ivory Tower and come visit the trenches where the battles are being fought.

  5. I haven’t looked at the budgets for other schools. This article is about MPS. MPS is not doing “more with less.” They are doing less with MORE. The numbers don’t lie. MPS gets more and more money each year. Classroom sizes are growing, but it’s not because MPS doesn’t have enough money. It’s because of the way they spend it. They’re getting more money, but the only way to make the budget work is to reduce teachers and all sorts of “extras” so that the outrageous teacher salaries and benefits can be paid.

    There is no ivory tower. This is simple math. The cries of “we need more money” are simply crap. MPS is getting more money. It’s how they choose to spend it that’s the problem.

  6. The money is spent wrong wrong wrong.

    Thirty students per teacher equals around $500k per teach/class pair.

    Assume around $120k for teacher (salary $60k +benefits $40k + $20k defined pension contribution into an IRA, no guaranteed benefit pension.),

    That leaves $380k.

    Buy each kid 2 netbooks (1 for home, 1 for school)…$50k

    Buy each kid a set of books new each year…$10k.

    Buy each kid breakfast and a box lunch each school day…$50k

    Let the teacher sped $5k decorating/outfitting the room at the beginning of the school year and $500 every month afterward.

    So, we are now down to $260k.

    How much would it cost to rent a room for a class, along with tables, insurance, utilities, and high speed internet? Let’s say $50k (way too much, I think though).

    That still leaves $200k per teacher/class pair.

    Does anybody think the class I describe is worse off? It is clearly better off and at 60% of the current cost of educating a student.

    Wouldn’t something like this [1] be better for students, taxpayers and teachers? I think so. Bureaucrats and administrators won’t like it though.

    [1]
    http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2007/06/06/my-dream-for-a-21st-century-us-educational-system/

  7. Did you happen to take a look at administrative expenses relative to student enrollment? I would be interested to see if there was a comparable reduction in this expense. I am guessing not.

    Incidently I did take a look at some of the Shorewood School District budget information. It appears enrollment has gone down by 20 students but they are requesting a budget increase of $795,000. Sound to me like doing less with more is the mantra there as well.

  8. Let me correct myself a budget gap of $795,000, and overall budget increase of $100,000 despite student reductions.

  9. Oh, Education Maven,

    This is such a hot button with me, because I see about 20-30 school district budgets per year. I respond to questions about appropriations and spending. I read board minutes for the entire year and am very involved in the financial reporting (I can tell you exactly what the difference is between fund balance and net assets as an example). I think it’s safe to say – I’m in the trenches (just not on your side).

    See, I think your disconnect comes at line one of your first post. Average salary of $56,000 (last census had $52k as median household income) being poverty level is insane. If you said – “thats the median household income for the state” I might believe that.. but certainly wouldn’t have sympathy. What your saying is that the average teacher makes in 9 months more money than half the households (some dual income) in the state. And has a nice benifit package to boot… (thanks unions). Seriously – what % of the private sector has 100% paid for health insurance and a defined benifit retirement plan paid for? Poverty level… if there is white tower thinking here I believe I know where it is occuring.

    I know I know.. the budget process is a pain in the butt. Every year that you don’t have substantial teacher turnover that pesky payroll cost line increases (manditory step increase? pay for seniority over perfromance? Thanks unions?). Even when then number of students enrolled decreases. Did your district enact emergency salary freezes or eliminate COLA adjustments? Or are you saying that nobody in administration thought that the revenue number used in the budget was subject to changing with the real world changes. I think it’s more likely that you have competent people involved in the planning it’s just that their hands are tied on 90%(or greater) of the budget which is required for matching federal funding, paying debt service, and union contracts. None of those three items base themselves on real world conditions.

    The impact is that when the real world seeps into your cozy public sector education corp, (which is what a SD is) by way of decreased state tax collections which impact funding levels, 90% of your budget is locked in and unable to adjust. You laundry list of potential cuts… that is your fight for 10% of the budget that remains.

    Want to fix this? Break the system. Federal funding for schools is an abomination in educational impact and administrative upkeep – kill it. States can collect and distribute tax just as well as the feds. Debt service, disallow special governmental districts from issuing bonds (up financing the new building is going to get more interesting). Payroll – break the union stranglehold. I know plenty of newly minted hungry teachers that would love an opportunity to do the job. I bet they would work for less and maybe even accept a defined contribution retirement plan.

    Oh, and I’m not soft on administrative overhead either. We need fewer school districts with more schools. Lets get some economies of scale going in this information age. We dont need a finance director and superintendent for every 4-6 schools. We know that teacher to student ratios are getting worse… I bet admin to school ratio is getting “better” over time.

    Yes it’s broken – I wait for the comming colapse so we can rebuild. And looking at state budgets and income projections… it is an issue of when not if.

  10. To Education Maven:

    Number 1:
    I go to a Private University and my master degree full time classes do not come anywhere near 16,000/year!!!
    Number 2: $56,000/year (180 days of actual work as required by state law) equates to $38.89/hr. Maybe you feel that is poverty, but I for one wished I made that much. (Average wage in WI is only 38,500 in 2009). If they actually worked 48 weeks (240 days or a 50% increase) they would pull in a $84,000/year which is hardly poverty (less than $22,500/year with a family of 4) see http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/09poverty.shtml
    If you extrapolate out to just 56K that would mean a family of 13!!!
    Number 3: Show me a classroom of 35-38. Name the school and which class is taught… You’ll be hard pressed to find one without at least 1 most likely 2 aides!!! For the most part the grades 1-6 averaged just 22 according to WEAC!!! If you look at the private high schools vs public high schools you’ll find that they are about 2-3 times larger in the private than public. (see http://www.trulia.com/school-district/WI-Milwaukee_County/Milwaukee_Public_Schools/ this lists all High Schools in Milwaukee)!!!
    I suggest you go back to MPS and learn that (oops sorry less than 50% graduation, that would be difficult for you to do), basic econ101.

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  14. Hmmm… observations from Canada here.

    Yes, the real question is – what on earth costs $43,000? Of course, in Canada, basic health care comes out of taxes (which are not much worse that the USofA), so that is a moot point. The school districts are being taken to the cleaners by their health care provider. What’s their profit?

    A class of 20 is about normal. When I was a kid, 30 to 35 was normal and there were no “aides”, but there were not the demands to individually plan a dozen “special needs”. Retards flunked and went to “special schools” harsh as it may sound.

    The disingenuous headline is the $100,000. A salary of $56,000 for soomeone who spent sevral years in University (the de facto requirement in Canada) and p[robaly has 15 or 20 years seniority is not unusual, in fact I bet it’s low compared to engineers, architects, or accountants with equivalent education. Comparing them with high school droupouts and grads – the “city average” – is misleading.

    Why the “9 months”? Everywhere else I’ve seen school goes from Sept to June, which works out to 10 months if a blogger or commenter can do math. Most people who’ve worked a while get almost a month off (3 or 4 weeks); where I used to work computer programming, I was up to 6 weeks/year. I would never do teaching, it’s too stressful – but 2 months vacation does not sound extremely unreasonable.

    Does anybody wonder after a diatribe picking on teachers that the initial statistic was that there were 684 cuts, but they were cutting 424 non-teacher jobs. Are there that many aides and janitors? Are those positions paid about the same? Or is it a matter that there are too many head office jobs? The lady reading the numbers and the superintendant commenting on it probably are worth as much as 2 to 4 teachers, but I doubt they see any cuts.

    There are only so many Mother Teresa’s – and she wasn’t qualified to teach. If you want good teachers, you have to pay a decent wage (and benefits). $56,000 is not a lot to herd a bunch of kids, half of whom are spoiled rotten and don’t want to be there.

  15. The headline of $100,000 is important because public school teachers get benefits that are much more generous than most in the private sector. I would have less of a problem with pay of $50,000 to $65,000 if the benefits were not so lavish. The fact is that teachers retire at age 55 with full pensions that those in the private sector could never hope to get. Further, those in the private sector can’t possibly save enough to retire at age 55 and have savings to provide a lifestyle equivalent to the pension benefits the teachers get.

    In the U.S., teachers indeed do work 9 months. They work from September through May, and some may put in a week in June and a week in August. (If they put in additional time, they get additional pay above their contracted amount.) They get generous holidays throughout the school year as well.

    All this must also be considered in light of the fact that the children in the school district are not learning. They cannot read, write, and do math. Why should any employee be compensated for not doing their job?

  16. First of all, it really is more like ten months, starting a week before the kids go back in August and ending after the kids leave in June. Less the winter break of course, but the several teachers I know more than make up the hours during the school year.

    But I do have a question: How the hell does MPS spend $.74 in benefits per dollar in salary? I have looked all over to find a breakout of this and I’m beginning to think that Google might not actually know everything. Does this include retiree benefits? It just doesn’t seem possible to spend that much given that the retirement contribution is (I think) about 10% and the most expensive healthcare option (according to the Journal) is a pricey $24K. What gives?
    Jim

  17. Jim – One week in June and one week in August equals 2 weeks, otherwise known as 1/2 a month. When you add in the weeks for Christmas, spring break, and many other instances of one or two days, the amount of work indeed equals 9 months.

    Or you can look at it like this: There are 180 school days per year in Wisconsin. Divide by 5, and that equals 36 weeks. There are an average of 4.3 weeks per month (52 weeks divided by 12 months), which means those 36 weeks are equal to 8.5 months. Add your 2 weeks on, and we’re back at 9 months.

    And this 9 months of work doesn’t even address the fact that teachers work fewer hours per week than private sector professionals.

    The retirement contribution is far more than 10%.

  18. Curious about the difference in a teacher’s year and a corporate year, I assumed 261 work days and subtracted vacation, holidays, and the Christmas -> New Year shutdown in my last job. (I did that since I was there >7 years and maxed out at 5 weeks vacation. I’m in a new job and starting over at two weeks now.) I worked 221 days or 44.2 weeks/year.

    Talked to a grade school teacher who added up her year at 194 days ignoring some staff days she led plus continuing ed. – 194 days or 38.8 weeks.

    I’m supplying this without comment, I just like to work with actual numbers.
    Jim W

  19. Odd… OK, in Canada school is usually out the last day of June, unless it’s Monday or Tuesday. If you’re going to count school breaks, what do you propose- teachers can collect unemployment when there’s no work for them? Yes, they might get a month extra off work. Try teaching 25 kids all day and dealing with their parents, see if you need the stress relief.

    I liked JOhn Stewart’s comment on the daily show, about one of the Fox commentator’s “My mom was a teacher and we were out shopping by 3PM any day.” Stewart says, “Yeah, well my mom was a teacher too and she didn’t have the time to go shopping at 3PM. Maybe your mom was just a S*** teacher.” This is part of the problem – I know a lot of teachers, and a teacher can pour their heart into the job (many do) or do the least to get by, and there’s no differential. However, if you try to implement merit pay or test pay, office politics will turn it into a game of kiss-the-principal’s-a**.

    The math is simple – $16,000/student? 6 students pay for your teacher including benefits. What the heck do the other 13 to 20 students pay for? Do buildings, libraries, gyms, coaches and equipment cost that much extra?

    And finally – as I said, health care is paid in Canada out of taxes, for everyone, and does not figure into such an equation; the most expensive benefit usually is prescription drug coverage. A 30-and-out pension typically only cost about 15% of salary, according to my Pension Adjustment number. If you are paying 75% of salary in benefits – most to health care, I assume – then it’s the health care HMO that’s the problem not teachers or their salaries. If that’s what health care costs, then the rest of you are also paying as much, just out of take-home pay. Do YOU typically pay half your pay to the dotor? No? Then your SD’s health care provided is taking the taxpayers for a long ride on a very uncomfortably-shaped perch.

  20. I don’t buy the argument that teaching is soooooooo stressful compared to other jobs. They already work a shorter day than most professional jobs. There are lots of hard jobs that people work all year long.

    There are 3 problems:

    1. Pay of $56k per year for working a partial year is probably too much. If they were getting good results, I doubt many people would complain about it however.
    2. Health care costs too much- Their plan is way more generous than most and probably costs more than it should because of how it’s purchased.
    3. Retirement costs too much – Retire at 55 with full pension for life is ridiculous. Plus full healthcare. This is unreasonable and unsustainable, esp when you consider that people in the private sector retire at 65, most with little or no pensions.

  21. Huh?
    Dealing with 20 to 30 kids is not stressful? Obviously you don’t. I went into computers so I would not have to deal with people.

    1) Pay of $56K per year is probably reasonable for a qualified professional with a college degree. Found this with google ”
    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Surveys, March 1998, 1999, and 2000, the average salary of someone with a high school diploma is $30,400 while the average salary of someone with a Bachelor’s Degree is $52,200.” Pay is not out of line.

    The school year and breaks were set long before unions came into the picture. If anything, boards have been nibbling away at that with things like starting a week before school starts. Besides, what’s your suggestion, other than “take less pay”? Collect unemployment pay those extra weeks? Serve in a soup kitchen?

    2. Yes, health care costs too much, if a teacher pays close to $47000 in health care (or even at $32,000, if we allow $15,000 for retirement benefits). Not the union’s fault. What would you suggest, toss the teachers out of the hospital onto the street when they’ve used up their lifetime quota of medical care? Make them go bankrupt? Or… maybe even Rolls Royce health care should not cost $30,000 a year. Maybe the school board is being taken for a ride by their HMO.

    3. $15,000 a year for 30 years is $450,000. Seriously, with actual investment growth, there’s a fund for a teacher of probably over a million dollars – if the school board paid up what it was supposed to. Most pension problems, from Social Security to airline bankruptcies, are caused because the employer always plans to make up a shortfall of contributions later. Then when later hits, they claim poverty and try to get out of ever paying. BTW, I retired from private industry at 54, with 47% of pay. The pension was inspired by a union plan, but since I was non-union it was actually more generous – and from an old smokestack industry. And although my teacher friends made more than me at first, with a plain degree and no teacher’s college I quickly out-earned them, plus a profit-sharing bonus.

    The real question that needs to be addressed – how do you create a merit pay based system that does not allow office politics to fiddle the results so it is just pay for the principal’s pet?

  22. You create a merit pay system the same way the rest of the working world does. Simple.

  23. $56,000 is certainly out of line for someone working 9 months per year. That annualizes to $84k. FAR out of line.

    The cost of teacher benefits is not the union’s fault however, it is still the fault of the system. School boards are (generally speaking) filled with….wait for it…former teachers! Sometimes even teachers from other districts. There is no advocate for the taxpayer (the employer) in the contract negotiations (it’s actually “collusion”) between the district and the union.

    It is not an issue of the school board paying for teacher pension, it is the taxpayer. Which brings us to my earlier comment.

    “Office politics” enters into the private sector merit pay systems as well. It needs to be dealt with in the same manner in which the private sector deals. In the system under which I work, we have “metrics” I must meet and in addition, there are mutually agreed upon goals (in my case, projects to improve productivity in a manufacturing environment and goals for development of my staff.). If I do what I am supposed to do, I get more money. If not, I don’t. If I do really bad, I get to find another job. Simple.

  24. Actually, it annualizes to 56+(56/3)= $74,666; but still nobody has answered “what do you expect teachers to do the other 2 months they have free?” It’s not like there is a line-up of employers willing to pay them the same rate for July and August, or a weeek in March or December. Oddly enough, few teachers work those days.

    So do you suggest we tell teachers “sorry, but you’ll only get 3/4 of a college wage, $39,000 is the best you can hope for after 10 to 20 years seniority, plus minimal benefits and pension…” That should attract the best and brightest for sure. They’ll have their student loans paid off several months before retirement if they don’t have kids of their own…

    Also, nobody’s answered my question. What the heck costs $44,000 of benefits. Pardon my ignorance. During the Obamacare debate, $5,000 to $12,000 was tossed around as the cost of family medical insurance. Here in Canada, I pay approximately $15,000 tax on $80,000 income (fed and province). Taxes 18%, marginal rate 35%. Sales taxes are about 12% in most provinces. If I was Joe the Plumber, I could easily save to buy the business. Until Bush destroyed the world economy, the Canadian government was operating at a surplus; yet we get full health care with no deductibles. I still think someone’s HMO is taking the school boards to the cleaners.

  25. The issue is NOT what teachers get paid. (My annualizing is correct. In the states, they work a maximum of 9 months. Not only 9 weeks at summer, but 2 weeks-plus at Christmas, a week at Easter, upwards of a dozen holidays – most Americans get 9 – and various ”
    other” days to attend Conventions, etc).

    As I said, the issue is not what teachers make. It is the collusion between teachers and school boards. In my own experience, school boards will do what the teachers want, regardless of what the taxpayers (read that as “bosses”) demand. We have been taken to the cleaners by this collusion for too many years.

    The $44,000 number includes all benefits for which the teacher pays nothing. Zip, zero, zilch, nada. Not just healthcare.

    I make substantially less than you and pay about double in taxes. Plus I pay my own healthcare. OTOH, the United States covers the Western World’s defense cost, so you don’t have large amounts of taxes going to that.

    So, exactly how did Bush ruin the economy…from the perspective of a Canadian?

  26. Two things:

    -PENSIONS
    -Free Health Care for Life

    Both have to come to a grinding halt NOW.

    A $50,000 per year pension + $10,000 in free healthcare benefits for 30 years of retirement = $1,800,000 benefit!!!!!

    All paid by you and me. Does your 4001(k) account look like this?

    WAKE UP PEOPLE, YOU ARE BEING FLEECED!

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  28. Bush destroyed the world economy by allowing the mortgage crisis. People who could see warned it was coming. Polyannas who profited from the Wall Street Gravy Train said no, all was fine. The administration’s job is to be smart and see problems coming, not to ignore them because intervention in markets is ideologically antithecal.

    As I said, the school year was set long before unions. Unless you have a better plan what to do with the school year – 10 months is it. Last week in August to June 20th is what I see as a school year around here. You can whine about that 10th month all you want, but there’s no job out there that needs a million college graduates for a week at Christmas, a week at spring break, and 8 months in the summer. So you have to pay teachers a 12-month wage for what they do. Do you want good teachers? Then it has to be competitive. As I said, I’ve known teachers who went home when the bell rang, and ones who stayed up to midnight grading and making lesson plans. They got paid the same… It’s a profession, you can put your soul into it or sit back.

    Bad job evaluation processes in business cause bad morale, poor productivity, high turnover – disgruntled and qualified people go elsewhere; the bosses notice when production falls off; customers will stop coming with the merchandise is shoddy. Which of these consequences applies to School Boards and teachers (or any civil servants) in a tight job market?

    I double-checked and yes, in 2012 I made about $80,000 and paid about a quarter in income tax. That financed almost everything for my governments (except education – that’s property tax). I have no special deductions, but $20,000 included my share of “free” Health Care.

    Where do you get a $50,000 pension?? I looked up Minnesota and Indiana, who have simple calculators, and about 40%, or les than $3,000 a month, seems to be the going rate for a pension (1.1% per year service, benefits reduced if you retire before 60). (Wisconsin’s calculator is too complicated now…)

    The people who want to CUT, CUT, CUT will show things are gravy train for the teachers. Reality is a bit more down to earth.

  29. The people above ranting about the gravy salaries/benefits of us non-deserving teachers crack me up. The whole bit about their tax dollars being drained by a fiscally irresponsible education system is also giggle-worthy. I pay taxes for education, too…and I don’t even have kids…but I do it without complaint because I prefer an educated population. Please remember that teachers are not the only public servants paid by taxes. I have yet to find a whole forum bashing the eight city workers standing around a man hole watching the one person down below doing the actual work, or garbage men parked on the side of the street sleeping or reading a magazine while neglecting to empty the trash for two weeks straight, or fifteen guys finally filling the four potholes that claimed two of my hubcaps, or the five people at City Hall, two of whom are working to help the crowd of people waiting while the other three have a coffee clutch. Get real. The time wasted by employees in both the public and private sector means that there are plenty of non-teaching types enjoying a cushy schedule.

    Here is a breakdown from Forbes regarding time wasted during the work week. This is based on private sector employees…
    Sixty four percent of employees visit non-work related websites each day. In this category, the amount of time wasted per week on non-work related websites is as follows:

    Time Wasted Pct of Employees
    <1 hour 39%
    1-2 hours 29%
    2-5 hours 21%
    6-10 hours 8%
    10+ hours 3%

    Contributing to these percentages are social media networks. The winners for the time-loss warp are Tumblr (57%), Facebook (52%), Twitter (17%), Instagram (11%) and SnapChat (4%).

    I can't speak for my fellow employees, but I can speak for myself. My work week is a required 39.5 hours…we can leave at 3:00 on Friday. Since I spend my ENTIRE day working and come in at 7:00 instead of 7:30, my work week is actually over forty hours, not including bi-weekly meetings after school. In addition, I spend an average of fifteen to twenty hours a week planning, correcting work, and doing research to improve my practice. My job doesn't just stop when I get home. Going to the bathroom is a luxury…if I can find another teacher to watch my room so I can take care of business. If not, I get to hold it because between classes, it is my responsibility to be in the hall during the three minute passing periods. I can't remember the last time I had a lunch with no students in my room receiving extra help.

    Most teachers I know DO work summers. Many teach summer school or tutor. I personally work light construction because I need the brain break, and even though I'm female, tearing up flooring, setting tile and building cabinets is a great way to unwind after my 190 days of 'work' in the classroom. I know several teachers who also work second jobs DURING the school year. I personally have over 80,000.00 in school loans to pay off…and I've been paying on them for more than ten years. And my MSED, which is completely useless since Act 10, DID cost me almost 20,000.00.

    And here is the kicker! After fourteen years in my district, my position is being cut…not one negative mark on my record, no reprimands of any kind, extra time and effort voluntarily put into committees, curriculum writing, providing professional development for colleagues, and an excellent track record of student success…unfortunately, I'm nearing the top of the pay scale. I, along with several others in my situation, am losing my job because of 'budget constraints' and 'restructuring'. Meanwhile, administrators are making six figures and enjoying considerable raises each year…they are contracted for 220 days with six weeks vacation. Chances are very good, in this post Act 10 market, I will be hard pressed to find another teaching job…I'm too 'expensive' and English teachers are a dime a dozen. I could try for an administrative position, but I have to get up and look at myself in the mirror every morning. Maybe I should join the private sector and find out what it's really like to earn a paycheck…what a crock.

    If you're not a teacher, you have no room to point fingers. There are turds in EVERY profession, but the majority of teachers I know EARN every penny they make…salary AND benefits. Ineffective districts are ineffective because of poor management…kudos to the person who stated this further up in the comments. To all of the teacher bashers above, you must understand your sentiments are heard loud and clear by the kids I teach…your lack of respect for education and educators is contagious, and it has become mighty rough teaching kids who now see us as ineffective tax-sucking slackers…why in the world should they listen to us? FYI – homeschooling is perfectly legal in Wisconsin. Have at it!

  30. Yes, non-teachers are more than welcome to point fingers at an educational system that completely fails to educate our children. If MPS was actually educating children, the cushy pay and benefits would be a lot easier to accept.

    As it is 16% of students in MPS are proficient in reading. Did you hear that? 84% of students in MPS cannot read. That type of result is why I believe we are flushing our money down the drain with that system. You may prefer an educated society, but that’s not happening in MPS. Those kids deserve better.

    I do urge you to get a job in the private sector to see what it’s like. No, I don’t believe that you put in 60 hours a week. But even if you did, you still work a part time job compared to the professionals who work their jobs year round.

  31. Thank you for your sentiments, and just as you urge me to work in the private sector, I urge you to take on a teaching position in public education so you can reap the benefits of the cushy job you rebuke with such venom. In saying that, I ask you this…in the private sector, if poor leadership plagues a company, is it the fault of the employees?

    It is clear you did not read the entirety of my response and that your focus fell on two things…the fact that I am a teacher, which means I work part time, and the ‘fact’ that I am being untruthful about how many hours per week I actually work. I have no reason to lie to anyone regarding the hours I work. I don’t know you or any of your followers, nor am I seeking any undue accolades, as I know I won’t get them from those who agree with you. I’m merely stating the facts about my own situation, which is equally as fair as you stating your opinion regarding public school teachers on a public forum. If you can come up with a way of grading 120 research papers in a timely manner during the school day rather than on your own time, you would be highly regarded in the education profession, and you’d definitely be making more than you are currently. I can assure you that. After more than a decade teaching, I can’t figure it out. I do know there are new programs that check for plagiarism and some other basics, but I prefer to give my students personalized feedback and conference with them regarding their work. This requires me to work on their work. Even if I spent five minutes per paper and wrote one comment on each, it would equal ten extra hours of work in one week…just on the papers. How much time would you expect me to spend on your child’s research paper…or would you rather I feed it into a computer program for feedback?

    I don’t work for MPS, and I never have. I agree kids deserve better than what they are receiving as far as education goes, but it is ridiculous to solely blame teachers and their cushy situation for the problems that plague the educational system. My district is no better than MPS, and it isn’t solely the fault of the teachers who work part time…

    Do your kids attend MPS? If they do, and you are so disenchanted with the system, why don’t you send them to a different district or a different school if you aren’t pleased with the one they currently attend? Do you live in the city of Milwaukee? You can move if you don’t like paying the taxes for the city’s sub-par education. You have choices! Like I mentioned, home schooling is okay here in Wisconsin. In fact, the rules and regulations of home schooling in this state are fairly lax. There is also on-line schooling and it is completely free of charge. Of course, you will still be required to pay those taxes, but maybe your kids will get the better they deserve.

    I have never made a mockery of anyone’s job. I believe that most people work hard for their money. I don’t look for a scapegoat on which to blame anything. My debt is my debt. My choices are my own. I am concerned about myself and what I contribute while I’m alive. For anyone to judge me based on what I do for a living and group me into a small populace of individuals who may not do enough to make a difference is incomprehensible. When I went into teaching, I did not do it to have my summers off or to take advantage of tax paying citizens…I’m pretty sure most of us didn’t have such intentions. Is your ire toward teaching media driven, or are you personally experiencing something (other than taxes for MPS) that gives your argument validity?

  32. Kimberly – I don’t know what you mean by “media driven.” And I don’t have an “ire toward teaching.” This article is about MPS and what is happening there. One of the biggest problems in MPS is the employee costs. The cushy pay and benefits that I was referring to are within MPS. And I’m not sure why calling out the MPS teachers with the facts (the facts on how much they’re paid, how much their benefits cost, and how much they work) qualifies as “venom.” You’re right.. the problem in MPS isn’t just with the teachers, it is with the administration too and the setup of the whole system.

    I haven’t made a mockery of anyone’s job. I just put the situation of the MPS teachers in perspective. I think it’s helpful to understand how much they’re being compensated, how much they work, and how that compares to other professional jobs. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinion that MPS teachers are over compensated. But the facts are still the facts.

    No one judged you. You are trying to make yourself a victim.

  33. Also Kimberly – The Cudahy school district is somewhat better than MPS, in that 27% in Cudahy are proficient in reading, while only 16% are proficient in Milwaukee. I do put some of the blame on English teachers like you. You are supposed to teach children to read and write, so you have a huge responsibility in that regard. Of course, there are factors at play outside of your control, but you are the person in the kids’ lives with the second greatest responsibility for teaching those children to read. (The people with more responsibility than you are the parents.) If we can’t hold teachers accountable to teach, who can we hold accountable to teach?

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