The proposal to contract out school maintenance services is interesting and understandable in the light of the skyrocketing school budget. Far better, I think, would be to contract out school administration services, which could very well ensure that business-wise managers can defuse and forestall disgruntled reaction from the work force and that competent, cost-conscious administrators can have an opportunity to trim the fat.
It was interesting to read Service Association Leader Sue Levine’s lament in this newspaper over the school board’s gift of “healthy salary increases to the central office administration and the central office employees.” Yet, we also read that, in the face of a dropping axe, the custodian union still insists on a 19 percent salary raise over four years. (In the 18 years I’ve been working for my present employer, as a professional engineer, I’ve gotten only two raises, 3 percent each.) Interesting that we didn’t read of an offer for an across-the-board cut in salary. It seems administrators and service workers would rather jostle for key position at the public trough.
It was also interesting to see Levine’s version of how budgets are developed: Take the previous budget and add to it what “increase is necessary” to cover new expenses. Is that so? The sad thing is that this irresponsible procedure is probably true, instead of rational budget development that starts from zero, with renewed justification for all expenses. Apparently, it doesn’t even occur to Levine that some items can be removed from the budget. From Levine’s statement, it’s easy to see that union backers don’t give a hang about the taxpayers who foot the bills.
The public school system operation in much of this country, including WW-P, is in dire need of reform. It has gotten this way because parents are extremely concerned about the education of their children and the money involved is “someone else’s.” The responsibility for this sad affair, which has taken years to develop, spreads wide, from the administration and teacher/worker unions and members, to the school board, and ultimately to the taxpayers, who for some reason in this consumer society whose government has become exceedingly corrupt, appear to enjoy being abused.
We have administrations, teachers and service unions negotiating contracts, extracting benefits guaranteed every year for years and into retirement, with an elected school board, which time and again gives into demands. Then, with every increasing budget, we hear that there’s nothing we (the board) could do about it, because of “existing contracts,” trying to give the impression that it was someone else who approved the increases. It illustrates how elected officials become irresponsible when spending taxpayer money.
It’s not that the school board favors anyone; it just caves in, time and again, to whomever. But the teachers will strike! So what? We often hear that if teachers aren’t paid well, we won’t have good teachers. Is that so? How long will such a simple-minded theory dominate rational and fair negotiations? Do we really believe that a fair contract will chase good people away from teaching or stop good teachers from doing a good job? Is the profession of teaching dominated by people who only go after the money? I don’t think so.
I submit that salaries, benefits, and pensions, from contracts years old will attract many capable people who enjoy teaching and who are willing and able to teach well. With a change to more realistic benefits packages and the ability to fire incompetent teachers, science teachers with graduate degrees (real science degrees) become affordable. We taxpayers don’t have to tolerate the high salaries, abused tenure, wasteful perks, and ever-increasing sky-high benefits. It’s interesting that the health benefits of teachers and union leaders are among the so-called “Cadillac Plans” that not even many truly rich people could afford. And they don’t pay tax on it!
On top of all this we see that the school board just gave the go-ahead for a WW-P Athletic Foundation, a private group, to raise money to pay for the installation of lights at the two high schools. What is the need for this? Does energy usage mean anything to the school board? Would the members want such nighttime pandemonium in their own neighborhood? It’s my understanding that all NJ public school property is state-owned. Thus, is it even legal for private groups to buy and install part of the school physical plant? I see a big conflict of interest here, should the leaders of the WW-P Athletic Foundation want to use the field at night for private sports use, as a return favor for providing the lights. Why can’t this school board just say no?
To the administration, teachers, and worker: Why not show a little concern for us taxpayers — your boss — and back off a few percent on your salary and perk demands and opt for benefit packages that the rest of us get, with for example, reasonable health care and a 401(k)?
To the school board: Why not show a little more respect for us taxpayers — your boss — and stop assuming that money grows on trees?
To my fellow taxpayers, I say, put down the remote and get involved with how your money is spent. Populate the school board with people who have some respect for us all. Vote “no” for the budget, until the school board makes a genuine effort to take our money seriously and explain to us exactly what we’re paying for, preferably by publishing the budget on the web. Don’t you regard it insulting to be asked for a $160 million budget approval based on a few slides in a Power Point file? Give me a break!