Monday, March 29, 2010

Furlough Days or Pink Slips?

In the zero-sum game of school district budgets, there's only so much money to go around. If a district's budget is slashed, cuts have to be made somewhere. Should there be pay cuts? Should employees work for free a few days? Should there be furlough days? Should health insurance plans be restructured, perhaps by increasing co-payments? How about layoffs?

The teachers in the Sacramento City Unified School District don't want to bargain any of these things until next summer, when their contract runs out. Correction, the Sac City union doesn't want to bargain any of these things until next summer, when their contract runs out.

Dozens of teachers expressed to (the major Sacramento newspaper) a willingness to accept furlough days and/or higher co-pays but feel their union leadership is ignoring their pleas to save jobs.

While those teachers talked passionately about this issue, nearly all shied away from having their name printed. They said they feared retribution from the union should they need representation...

Non-tenured, young teachers are typically the ones most affected by layoffs because seniority rules dictate pink slips...

With so many teachers saying they're willing to accept concessions, (pink-slipped teacher) Taylor wonders why the union isn't listening to its members.

"It feels like the union only speaks for the people who aren't going to be affected by layoffs, the people who have been teaching 25 years," Taylor said. "There seems to be a real division in the union between the teachers who have been teaching a long time and those who are new." link

He who has eyes to see, let him see. Young Mr. Taylor is getting his eyes opened early in his career.


Anonymous said...

Just for some perspective, I work in the semiconductor industry (my company builds equipment, not the actual chips). The last few years up until about 9 months ago were pretty brutal. Some of the things my company did:

*) No raises.
*) Cut in benefits like 401(k) match (not health coverage).
*) Layoffs (30% of the workforce ... in bits over about two years)
*) "Forced Time Off" ... one week per quarter we get to stay home, but they don't pay us.

When the money isn't there, it just isn't there. I sympathize with people going through this ... but raising the taxes of the people going through this in the private sector to pay for the public sector to *NOT* go through this seems unfeasible. I'm not arguing morality or fairness ... I just can't see getting through enough taxes to matter when the people *paying* those taxes are going through stuff like the list above.

-Mark Roulo

allen (in Michigan) said...

Consult an optometrist then because the likelihood of tax increases is a function of political influence and the teacher's unions and public education in general has a lot of that stuff.

Whether the money's being spent wisely, whether the public's getting its money's worth, whether the kids are getting educated are all secondary considerations since none of those considerations have powerful and interested constituencies.

Anonymous said...

"Consult an optometrist then because the likelihood of tax increases is a function of political influence and the teacher's unions and public education in general has a lot of that stuff."

They do, but there *ARE* limits. If there weren't, our tax rates would be higher than they are.

Right now California marginal income tax rates top out at about 10% (I think it is something like 9.3% + 1.0%). And this rate kicks in at a fairly low (for California) rate. Sales tax rates can approach 10% in some areas.

I'm sure that the teacher's unions would be in favor of 15% marginal income tax rate, but at some point even *more* people leave the state and you just lose.

In addition, the people being taxed *DO* vote. We voted down a slew of tax measures a bit over one year ago (and it wasn't even close). So, yeah, our state assembly could try to raise the income tax rates ... but it isn't clear that it would help. And it could hurt quite a bit.

Then there is the small issue that the state is going (or already *IS*...) bankrupt, so any tax increases may well get diverted to things other than current educational expenditures (like paying pension benefits for people who taught years ago ... we didn't set aside enough for these costs and the bills are coming due...)

I don't think that 15% marginal income tax rates work, when people can move to Texas (or Arizona, I think) and escape them. But our legislature may try anyway ...

-Mark Roulo

Ellen K said...

As property taxes continue to slump along with lower property values districts, towns, counties and states are all cutting budgets. The easiest way is layoffs. That's why it is somewhat noble for people during an already brutal economy to be willing to take pay cuts to save other people's jobs. It's an honorable thing, a charitable thing. This is why it's no surprise that the union leadership ignores the pleas of the rank and file. Unions are all about political and financial power. Unions see the possibility of reaping huge gains if Obama's Labor Czar pushes a leftist agenda in Washington-so they have no interest in backing down. It's a sad state of affairs, and I don't see things getting better any time soon.

Treehopper said...

Our local dues are $21 a month. I have always vouched for temps to pay $10 for they don't get the same representation. It's like paying for a major tune up, but only getting a basic oil change.

Quality over seniority is the only solution. Soon it will be that way, for more a more young teachers are fed up with the union structure.

maxutils said...

Teachers are already underpaid. Thank heavens the unions ia holding a hard line . . .the fact is, with the exception of eliminating class size reduction (a move which got a lot of teachers hired in the first place) districts can't really lay off teachers, since staffing ratios are fairly static elsewhere. Most of those pinkslipped are hired back. Accepting furlough days would be a horrendously bad precedent.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Mark, don't assume the limits have been reached.

Union leadership has a very strong incentive to ignore even the most urgent and credible claims of budgetary crisis. There's always someone waiting in the wings to try to convince the membership that they've been sold out by the current leadership and that the membership ought to be making 50% more if only there were someone courageous and tough at the helm.

The UAW forced American car companies to divest significant chunks of themselves due to the unsustainable nature of contracts the car companies signed when they held a de facto monopoly on the American car market. Long after it was clear that those contracts were unsustainable, were driving the car companies towards bankruptcy, the UAW fought tooth-and-nail to hang onto to those contracts. I don't see teacher's unions being one little bit more flexible or appreciative of the fiscal realities.

In the same vein the teacher's unions won't have any hesitation trying to raise taxes, divert budget dollars from other areas or both regardless of the damage or repercussions. Keep in mind that for the teacher's unions, or any group that sups at the government trough, increasing the size of the pie or getting a bigger slice are equally attractive so if a substantial tax increase isn't possible then a cut in revenue-sharing to the municipalities or laying off half the state cops will do just as well. If those functions are so important then maybe they ought to be represented more effectively. Everyone has their own problems.

(Apologies if this is a double post but Google decided to go crazy when I clicked "PUBLISH YOUR COMMENT")