Wednesday, August 24, 2011

After Obama Stimulus and One Time Savings from Walker’s “Tools” are Gone this year, Public Education Headed for Perfect Storm…

This Cap Times piece by Susan Troller explains perfectly where public education is headed:

The rosy picture proclaimed by the governor’s office press releases and right-leaning interest groups like the MacIver Institute and the Education Action Group — a fierce opponent of teacher unions — does not match the depressing scenario Superintendent Bruce Quinton sees for public schools in tiny Pepin, Wisconsin.

Anecdotal evidence, backed up by a recent survey (74 surveys were returned, or 17.5 percent) The Capital Times sent to school superintendents across the state, shows: Many responding districts report that savings savings of these “tools” only provides a big boost once.

The following comments should be a warning about the disaster Walker has created for the future:

Miles Turner, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators explains, “After you use these tools, they are blunted for big savings in the future.” Turner and others predict things could get even worse next year for several reasons. Many districts saw a huge exodus of retiring teachers … those retirees have not been replaced, which has provided big salary savings for the coming year, a factor unlikely to be replicated in future years.

Monona Grove School Board President Susan Fox says staff contributions … are one-time savings that won’t help next year. “I’m hearing that the second year of this budget is going to be extremely challenging for many school districts. In Monona Grove, we’ll be at least $2 million short. It’s not good.”

Stephen Schiell, superintendent in Amery, says “Next year will again be a challenge without the federal jobs money (federal stimulus money from the Obama administration) ... Not having to bargain with the union will make it easier … we can always have our employees pay more for their benefits. The law does not have a cap.”

Jim Jones is superintendent of the Stanley-Boyd schools says … “A 12 percent contribution to insurance premiums from your employees doesn’t work? How about 15 percent, or 20? How about more? Anybody can do it,” he says. That said, Jones steps back and says a scorched earth policy toward employees doesn’t make a district a good employer.

Miles Turner (says) by fiscal year 2012, most administrators, school boards and employees — even those that extended their contracts will be facing off to balance their budgets in a new, post-collective bargaining era. “I’m afraid there could be a perfect storm brewing,” Turner predicts. “The financial picture looks dismal, many districts have already made deep cuts and initial savings from the tools will have been exhausted. Districts will be dealing with their budgets without union rules. If the districts choose to use their options in a draconian way (toward their employees), it could get ugly. It could harm everyone, and be especially hurtful to students.”

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