My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Amherst selectmen seek public's opinion on Prop. 2.5 override ballot question

Springfield Republican
By Diane Lederman
February 06, 2010

AMHERST – On Monday night, the Select Board wants to hear from residents about a proposed Proposition 2½ override question the board will place on the March 23 annual town election ballot.

The board will be discussing the language for the question, but will likely not set the dollar amount until Friday morning. The amount being discussed is $1.9 million.

Proposition 2½ overrides allow communities to raise property taxes above the annual 2.5 percent limit set by state law. The current budget is about $62 million.

Town officials say they need the override to restore deep budget cuts.

Last year, officials made drastic cuts with the idea they would ask for an override this year. “Fiscal year ’10 was all about paring back,” Finance Director and Assistant Town Manager John P. Musante said last fall. The plan was to cut as much as possible before bringing the Proposition 2½ override request to voters.

But others have concerns. The Jones Library Board of Trustees, which would like an additional $69,000 in revenue should an override pass, is not likely to take an official position, said trustee Patricia G. Holland. Some trustees feel that an override would “be an economic hardship for many of our patrons,” she said.

Some School Committee members have asked that the date of the override vote be postponed until April, when more budget information is available.

The committee is talking to school unions about possible cost-of-living concessions.

The police union has agreed to forgo cost-of-living raises, which has helped save two positions in the department. The schools, town and libraries have prepared lists of budget restorations should the override pass.

A successful override would allow the town to restore about $489,000 to its budget. The Select Board this week voted to cut $48,000 for streetlights from the restoration list, reducing the town’s need by the same amount.

The regional schools would receive $1.1 million for the town’s regional assessment and the elementary schools would receive $176,000.

The proposed budget was prepared based on a 5 percent reduction in state aid. The cuts come from a level-funded budget. Should the town not need to raise the full $1.9 million, officials would recommend not raising the levy limit as much.

Town Meeting member Nancy M. Gordon conducted a survey, polling voters on whether they would support an override. Based on the data, she told the Select Board on Monday that she believes voters would support a $2 million override.

She previously conducted override polls in 2007 and 2009. In her 2007 survey, 41 percent of respondents opposed the $2.5 million override request, which was about 10 percent below the number that ultimately defeated the measure.

Gordon said the most recent poll shows 35 percent oppose an override while 17 percent said they would support a $1 million override request. She did not specifically ask about a $2 million override, but 26 percent said they would support a $3 million override and 10 percent would approve a $6 million override.

In 2004, voters approved a $2 million override request, but rejected a $2.5 million override on the same ballot.

In June 2009, voters in Northampton approved a $2 million Proposition 2½ override.

David R. Coulombe is one resident who will not be supporting an override. He said he was appalled that his taxes rose by nearly 12 percent this year, $3,009 more than the last year – and that was before an override was considered.

“The economy is a bust,” he said. “One in 10 are out of work. I think there are hard choices. There are programs that have to be cut. How long before the pockets of people in town are empty?”

Musante has said a property owner with an average home price of $332,600 would see a tax increase of $298 should a $1.9 million override pass. The impact could be less, depending on whether people itemize their taxes.

The impact would be much greater for Coulombe, whose house is valued at $678,000.

The Select Board meeting Monday is at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. It will begin with an overview and status report, followed by public comment.

Use of money
If voters were to approve a $1.9 million override, this is how the money would be distributed:

Town: $489,000
Elementary schools: $176,000
Regional schools: $1.1 million
Libraries: $69,000
The cost to a homeowner with a house valued at $334,600 would be $298; the current tax bill for that home is $5,671.

30 comments:

TomG said...

The board will be discussing the language for the question, but will likely not set the dollar amount until Friday morning. The amount being discussed is $1.9 million.

The proposed budget was prepared based on a 5 percent reduction in state aid. The cuts come from a level-funded budget. Should the town not need to raise the full $1.9 million, officials would recommend not raising the levy limit as much.


I'd suggest the language for the override relate the levy limit amount to the 5% reduction in state aid and set the actual levy limit amount to not exceed (whatever 1.9 million) but also be be adjusted downward dollar for dollar for every dollar of state aid in excess of the 5% reduction.

Is it already clear that the override is authorized for one year only and would need to be re-approved next year? I would add that language to maximize support for the initiative.

Yet, I'm still not inclined to support the override until I have a better understanding of why our schools are so much more expensive and yet do not deliver superior results. The value proposition is way off.

To vote 'yes' on the override is to vote for the status quo with respect to fiscal management in the schools and town.

Anonymous said...

State law probably constrains what is allowed to be put forward as ballot language (as it constrains town government in so many ways).

It would be useful to get a pointer to the relevant statute.

LarryK4 said...

TomG,
A General Override is forever--it permanently raises the tax levy.

The only way to undo that is to have an Underride (which Amherst never has had.)

Anonymous said...

The override, if successful, is an authorization, not a mandate. And, as has been pointed out in some of the BCG meetings, on a past occasion in Amherst (2004?), that authorization created a limit for the tax levy (calculated on both the micro and macro level in town) that, believe it or not, was not reached here in Year One post-override. The limit was not reached until Year Two.

My understanding is Larry is correct: the authorization limit is forever, but we are not required to reach it right away. (I would be happy to be corrected if I have any of this wrong.)

Yes, folks, we can still push for continued fiscal conservatism EVEN WITH an override. We don't have to cut off our noses to spite our faces in order to see real efficiency. This is why I support enhanced accountability in the schools (the Sanderson/Rivkin train) AND Andy Churchill's override for them.

But you have to keep your head in the game. And, admittedly, that's not easy.

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

Come on now Mr. Prosecutor, previous history matters.

Amherst has only had two general operation Overrides over the past 30 years and BOTH of them are still generating extra revenue to the town.

And yes, in 2004 town officials actually held off the first year on collecting the full amount of that Pearl Harbor Override because extra state aid materialized, but the next year they took the FULL AMOUNT PLUS the 2.5% increase allowed by law.

And they have been taking it ever since.

Anonymous said...

I agree with TomG.

Of central importance is fiscal accountability currently in short supply in our "enlightened" town. I, who moved here for the education a number of years ago, am stunned by the willful ignorance in such an otherwise intelligent community.

I will be vocal in opposition to any override unless I know how my tax dollars are being applied in support of my kids' education. Perhaps I'll need those extra dollars for tutoring in the near future !

Abbie said...

I think there must be an error in the Gazette article. If Mr.Coulombe's prop taxes increased by 12% and he is paying $3009 more taxes than previously, this would mean his taxes the previous year were about $25,000!!! That's some house. And later the article says his house is assessed at around $678,000. I think a decimal point must have been dropped somewhere....

Ed said...

Interesting how the schools are listed in the override WITHOUT the required vote of support from the School Committee....

Oh my, how things change in a day...

LarryK4 said...

Come on Ed, the schools ARE the Override.

Although...it is rather odd the powers that be launched an Internet petition drives for school cheerleaders a month ago to support the (blank check) Override and to date has only generated 542 signatures.

Ed said...

As I read it, and I don't claim to be the brightest bulb, the UberSelectBoard had decreed that if the School Committee hadn't voted to endorse the override, the schools wouldn't be included in the proceeds.

And now the schools are to enjoy the override, notwithstanding this.

And hence, my point. And I still say it is time for a zero-based budget and for the hard fiscal realities that the rest of us painfully understand be applied to the municipal employees (including the teachers).

Anonymous said...

LarryK4 said...

Come on Ed, the schools ARE the Override.

Although...it is rather odd the powers that be launched an Internet petition drives for school cheerleaders a month ago to support the (blank check) Override and to date has only generated 542 signatures.


The guys who work in the truck barn next door to your house, Larry, do they know you talk like that?

And, how does feel to be the first person in town to get their street plowed.

Think they'll do your mailbox after this?

Oh, yeah, you live on a state highway, you get plowed before anyone.

You don't need them, either.

Just Confused said...

I am finding this all very weird. Town leaders (elected and self-appointed) launched an override movement where most of the money goes to the high school without talking to the Amherst School Committee first.

Several School Committee members aren't convinced an override is needed this year but may want money next year for the elementary schools which won't benefit much from this override.

And now the override push continues without the support of the School Committee itself -- or the majority of the School Committee members individually.

And then School Committee members are being criticized for not supporting an override they weren't asked to support, didn't ask for, may not need and doesn't pay for the programs they want.

What's up with all this?

Ken said...

Teachers are--and certainly on this blog have been at times, from some people--a convenient target in times like this. Not to mention, a stationary and large target, easy to hit. We all want to pay less in taxes (even teachers, I might add). The calculus is simple--if teachers didn't make so much, taxes would be lower and schools would be more fully funded. We wouldn't have to talk about an override.

But there is a certain degree of schizophrenia built into any conversation about teachers, through both bad times AND good. I've felt/seen it all over the state, but in Amherst we might be even more susceptible to it. That is, when discussing teachers and the work they do, we see them as very talented professionals. Our expectations for them only rise. They have to reach all kinds of learners (we get angry if our own learner is not taught well, or bored...); they are accountable for high MCAS scores for all groups of students, for teaching an ever more complicated curriculum, with ever more added to their plates and nothing removed. Teachers even have to take on quasi-parenting responsibilities in this day and age. We respect yet DEMAND our teachers' expertise.

But then when we talk about teachers and the compensation they should have, they suddenly become overpaid union hacks. I mean, come on, they're just municipal employees, (to paraphrase Larry 4K). The only public conversation about teacher salaries is about how much they are NOT worth. This schizophrenic dialog frustrates teachers. As professionals, teachers are fairly unique in this situation. Doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc, just charge what they charge.

Ironically, it's quite possible that especially with overtime, Amherst police officers, for example, make more than the average teacher. Yet we don't hear a lot of talk about how police are overpaid. The difference is that there are a lot more teachers, not that individual teacher salaries are overly high. (I am not advocating that the police get paid less, lest anyone want to twist my words.)

Whatever one's view of teachers and what you expect of them financially during these hard economic times, please keep in mind that there are varying, quite legitimate perspectives that may differ from your own. Pointing fingers and blaming help nothing. I should add in the interest of full disclosure, that I was a teacher in Amherst, tho not anymore. And I will be supporting the override.

kevin said...

What's up is last time they got burned. These are people who genuinely want to make a difference. And they cannot do so if they are made to look like fools, again. They simply refuse to be publicly humiliated, again.

In 2007, the override was defeated by 267 people, the number of people who go into Rao's every morning, who could not be bothered to walk across the street and vote.

This time, they are going to be careful to the extreme. Trust me when I say that an override will not go on the ballot unless it is absolutely necessary, unless there is no other way, and unless there is a true need.

How do I know this? Because I started an online petition, complete with Amherst Bulletin headline and article, with the goal of getting 2,500 voters' signatures. For the purpose of showing our leaders that they could vote with a clear conscience, knowing they have our support. And what did they get? 500 signatures. Don't I look smart?

What does that tell them? Why is anyone surprised? Why do you even ask?

Okay, open your eyes, here it is. We already lost 55 FTE's in the schools, 14 in the town, and more to go. Is this how you repay your town employees, your friends, people who worked hard for you, who created value for you? With flip remarks about "weird"?

Do you even know who they are?

You better read this list. All of it.

Pools Helper
Senior Center Asst
LSSE Registrar
Labor Relations Negotiator
Dispatcher
Customer Assistant
DPW Laborer
Parks & Rec Laborer
Animal Welfare Officer
Data Processing Specialist
Fire Fighter
EMT
Admin Asst
Inspection Services Clerk
Communications Director
Outreach Worker
Tree Maintenance Supervisor
Public Health Nurse
Aquatic Program Coordinator
Police Officer
Building Maint Supervisor
Associate Planner
Assistant Sanitarian
Asst Superintendent for Curriculum
Central Office Administrator
District Outreach person
Central Office Receptionist
Business Office Staff
HR Secretary
Special Ed Teacher(S)
IT Administrator
Spec Ed Secretary
Cafeteria Paraprofessional(S)
Guidance Counselor
Classroom Teachers
Custodian
Office Paraprofessional
Asst Principal
Instrumental Music Teacher(S)
Computer Teacher(s)
Classroom Teacher
Math Coach
ELA
Intervention
Specialist Teacher
Library Paraprofessional
ELA Paraprofessional
Librarian
Instrumental Music Teacher
Asst Principal
Music Teacher
Computer Teacher
Classroom Teacher
Art Teacher
PE Teacher
Classroom Teacher(s)
Admin Assistant

And the ones I missed?

See anyone you know? Remember seeing them around? Is this how we repay them, with a coin toss?

Last call:

http://voteyesforamherst.org/

The reason they are all over the place, really? They are just tired. Get a life.

Kevin Collins
---

kevin said...

What's up is last time they got burned. These are people who genuinely want to make a difference. And they cannot do so if they are made to look like fools, again. They simply refuse to be publicly humiliated, again.

In 2007, the override was defeated by 267 people, the number of people who go into Rao's every morning, who could not be bothered to walk across the street and vote.

This time, they are going to be careful to the extreme. Trust me when I say that an override will not go on the ballot unless it is absolutely necessary, unless there is no other way, and unless there is a true need.

How do I know this? Because I started an online petition, complete with Amherst Bulletin headline and article, with the goal of getting 2,500 voters' signatures. For the purpose of showing our leaders that they could vote with a clear conscience, knowing they have our support. And what did they get? 500 signatures. Don't I look smart?

What does that tell them? Why is anyone surprised? Why do you even ask?

Okay, open your eyes, here it is. We already lost 55 FTE's in the schools, 14 in the town, and more to go. Is this how you repay your town employees, your friends, people who worked hard for you, who created value for you? With flip remarks about "weird"?

Do you even know who they are?

You better read this list. All of it.

Pools Helper
Senior Center Asst
LSSE Registrar
Labor Relations Negotiator
Dispatcher
Customer Assistant
DPW Laborer
Parks & Rec Laborer
Animal Welfare Officer
Data Processing Specialist
Fire Fighter
EMT
Admin Asst
Inspection Services Clerk
Communications Director
Outreach Worker
Tree Maintenance Supervisor
Public Health Nurse
Aquatic Program Coordinator
Police Officer
Building Maint Supervisor
Associate Planner
Assistant Sanitarian
Asst Superintendent for Curriculum
Central Office Administrator
District Outreach person
Central Office Receptionist
Business Office Staff
HR Secretary
Special Ed Teacher(S)
IT Administrator
Spec Ed Secretary
Cafeteria Paraprofessional(S)
Guidance Counselor
Classroom Teachers
Custodian
Office Paraprofessional
Asst Principal
Instrumental Music Teacher(S)
Computer Teacher(s)
Classroom Teacher
Math Coach
ELA
Intervention
Specialist Teacher
Library Paraprofessional
ELA Paraprofessional
Librarian
Instrumental Music Teacher
Asst Principal
Music Teacher
Computer Teacher
Classroom Teacher
Art Teacher
PE Teacher
Classroom Teacher(s)
Admin Assistant

And the ones I missed?

See anyone you know? Remember seeing them around? Is this how we repay them, with a coin toss?

Last call:

http://voteyesforamherst.org/

The reason they are all over the place, really? They are just tired. Get a life.

Kevin Collins
---

kevin said...

sorry, didn't mean to send it twice, we are all tired.

Kevin
---

LarryK4 said...

Actually there Kevin your stated goal is "1,000 signatures"--or at least that is what shows on the site. And yes, I found a few with 2,500 so the software would have allowed it.

But then, rather than now being barely halfway to you goal you would only be barely 20% of the way.

Either way, going to be hard--even for a PR flack--to Spin it positively.

Anonymous said...

I say let's add to that list kevin- how about all of the FTE's eliminated from the schools since FY2002? How about a list of all the changes- bigger classes, loss of electives. scaled back instructional and curriculum support, scaled back music, arts and PE ever higher fees for sports, fewer clubs. Then just maybe people will see the slow but very steady erosion that's happening. Especially those school committee members who don't think the schools have suffered enough.

Ed said...

As professionals, teachers are fairly unique in this situation. Doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc, just charge what they charge.

Ummmmm... They may charge what they charge, but they don't *get* it...

My doctor "charges" $130 for an office visit, but the insurance gives him $34 and I give him $15 which means he gets $49 or less than half of what he charged. And perhaps someone may care to comment on the difference between what lawyers claim and what judges allow in lawyer's fees....

And do you have any idea how many unemployed lawyers there are right now???

Ironically, it's quite possible that especially with overtime, Amherst police officers, for example, make more than the average teacher

I have LONG supported paying teachers by the hour (like cops and doctors and lawyers and such). This would do three things -- first, it would give a more realistic perspective of what teacher salaries actually are relative to the hours/days of employment. Second, it would differentiate between those teachers who do the bare minimum and those who are there after school until dark every night.

And third, as we go into summer remedial programs, it would enable those who want (need) to earn a decent salary to have 12 months of employment while those who prefer the 9 month schedule can have the time off (and pay for it with less money earned).

Anyone care to ask a police officer how much he would give up in pay to have three months every summer to spend with his family? Anyone care to ask him how much he would take in a pay cut to know that he could spend Thanksgiving *and* Christmas with his kids?

We have to be objective in all of this. We have to look at teachers like we do other professionals -- and further look at what the union featherbedding has done to salaries. Pioneer is clear, but for the increase in number of teachers, the starting salary for a teacher in Massachusetts would be about $78K. But because we have more teachers (etc) than we used to have, each earns less...

Anonymous said...

Ed, you do have a point. Teachers are receiving their average salary of $62,000 for working nine months out of the year. Plus they get the same vacations as their own children (or roughly) so they can save a lot in child care costs many of the rest of us have to pay for. (Not to mention, as you pointed out, the having to miss spending some holidays with our kids. And have to scramble for someone to watch our kids on snow days!) I think our teachers do work hard, but most do not work a typical 40 hour week and only have a nine month work year.

Anonymous said...

"Teachers" encompasses a lot of different sorts of people at different stages of their career cycle.

A 40 hour work week? You've got to be kidding. Let's see, arrive at 8 am, leave at 4 pm, with a 1/2 hour for lunch. That's 7.5 hours/day x 5 = 37.5 hours/week. BUT then there's the time spent at home or in the school building grading, calling parents, writing notes, planning, doing prep, meetings, conferences, report cards, informal meetings, professional development (beyond in-service days)...looks like a lot more than a 40 hour workweek to me. More accurately, 50 hours or more.

With the exception of the usual handful of deadbeats you find in every work setting, I'd say Amherst taxpayers are getting their moneysworth.

Abbie said...

I haven’t posted because I have been trying to formulate my position on the override and trying to understand CS (and Rivkin’s) position. I unreservedly support an override. I think CS’s and SR’s current position has reduced the chances of it passing this year and if it doesn’t pass this year then next year’s opportunity will be scuppered. This is my reading of the tea leaves. So as this train is already steamed and ready to head out the door, CS and SR are essentially killing the opportunity for an override this year AND next year.

I think I understand CS’s position in that she doesn’t want to ask for money which is earmarked for certain things IF that is where it HAS to go. If I understand correctly, CS doesn’t want to get locked into the distribution of $1.1 million to MS/HS and $176,000 to the ESs. They think that we need more time to consider the zero budget (how we WANT our schools to be instead of how do we keep them as exactly as they are now).

As I understand it, override allocations only stand for FY11 and the increase in the budget (or rather less of a cut) can be allocated HOWEVER in subsequent years. I understand that this year has been brutally busy for the schools and administrators (at least the ESs) and maybe this could account for some of the slowness in examining the HS and best practices, as well as the ongoing current SPED review. I fear, however, that CS and SR are using the override as some sort of leverage to FORCE the schools (MS/HS) to consider the changes that they desire (some of which I agree with). I think this is playing hardball where the losers are kids.

Next year I believe negotiations open with the teachers union. I think its critical to understand (at much as possible) what kind of money will be in the budget going into those negotiations. If the override was to be postponed until next year (or fail this year and be resurrected next year), we wouldn’t have clue. This would make negotiations really difficult. Am I wrong in the timing?

I, personally, can say that our experience has been that the budget cut to the ES was devastating but won’t speak more to it publically. When Meg Rosa says that it has been devastating to her child’s experience, I take big notice. Meg has always shown herself to be a loyal school supporter, when she says cuts are unsupportable for her child, then I believe it. Could some of these problems be avoided without an override? Maybe, but the fact is, they haven’t and they are a DIRECT consequence of last years cuts. So I take issue with CS’s view that the cuts have been painless. Maybe her kids were lucky, but believe me, a sizable number weren’t.

It will take time to make structural/programmatic changes. An override will buy some time and potentially (after FY11) pay for some of the new programs on CS and SR want.

A question, where does the 1:10 ES:MS/HS number come from CS? I can’t come up with anything close to that ratio... 170,000:1.1mill isn’t 1:10 (its 1:6.4) and the ES budget vs the MS/HS budget also isn’t close...

I suggest, as others have, that we seriously consider the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. It seems, however, that CS and SR positions are immutable, which is sad because I fear that it makes impossible an override this year or the next. The override horse is heading out the door, next year the stall will be empty.

Nina Koch said...

thoughtful post, Abbie. (also thanks for catching the math error in the news article. that was bugging me too!)

I am thinking about things already lost. I think it's bad that kids aren't taking PE in grades 10-12. I think nearly everybody would agree that we should be cultivating habits of fitness in our kids.

I think it's bad that the elementary schools lost technology teachers. Each school should have one if we are going to integrate technology meaningfully into all subject areas. It's not just about teaching kids how to use a computer. It's about using technology to deliver curriculum. Education has come a long way since the days of chalk and we need to keep up.

I think it's bad that kids can't take as many electives as they would like to. They should be able to sign up for 14 blocks if not 15 blocks. Now we are down to 13 and we can't really afford that without giving up something else.

I think it's bad that the parents had to raise all of the money for clubs. We happen to have a particularly effective group of parent volunteers right now, but what if we don't one year? Do we just not have clubs that year?

And these are just a few examples of what is already gone. You could justify the need for the override on the basis of the things we have already lost. Saying that we don't know yet whether or not we will need the money is unfathomable. We already need the money.

Anonymous said...

There are more homes in town. More high end homes, and the census in the schools has gone down. Why is it costing more? There is no way in hell I'd support an override.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you why- how about higher health insurance costs- in 2007 it was up 28% over 2001. How about higher gas/fuel costs. I paid 5 times more a gallon for heating oil last year than I did in 1999. How about level or reduced state aid.

Ken said...

Ed,

In an informal poll of teachers leading up to contract negotiations several years ago, since I collated the results I know that Amherst teachers reported working on an average of about 10-15 hours of unpaid time per week per 36-week school year. That is roughly 350-500 hours per year per teacher. Just valuing it at the teachers' paltry contractual overtime rate for any after hours work "required" by the district, ($22 per hour last I knew), that comes out to nearly $2 million of unpaid work teachers do for the children of the town. Each year. That "labor of love" is what has made our schools so good. That's what it would cost the town MORE to pay teachers under your hourly rate plan, Ed. But I would ask--would anyone want teachers NOT to do that work, unpaid or not? I didn't think so. But doesn't it deserve acknowledgement more than just saying there's union
"featherbedding" in teacher contracts, or accusations about how "easy" teachers have it?

By the way, having served on 4 negotiating committees, being negotiating committee chairperson twice, I'd really like to know what I missed in the way of featherbedding, Ed. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

I didn't ask for any agreement at all in my previous post. I asked for understanding that there is more to the discussion than people might think (whatever one's point of view), to understand the schizophrenic nature of discussions about teachers/salaries, and to ask people to stop finger pointing and making accusations.

Apparently that request didn't get through to everyone.

Ed said...

In an informal poll of teachers leading up to contract negotiations several years ago

This is not objective research.

Amherst teachers reported working on an average of about 10-15 hours of unpaid time per week per 36-week school year.

Which, of course raises one other issue - who authorizes the additional time to do the work? And how much of the prep work is identical to the other unpaid time that other professionals spend?

My doctor does not bill for the time he spends with the Pharmacy rep discussing new drugs, or the time spent reading professional journals.

That's what it would cost the town MORE to pay teachers under your hourly rate plan, Ed.

I don't have a problem with that - but understand that management would also be MANAGING - there would be some limits on who spends time on what.

By the way, having served on 4 negotiating committees, being negotiating committee chairperson twice, one might say that I have a very clear bias to my perspective... Unions always want more, unions have a fiduciary duty to seek more much like defense lawyers want to see defendants found innocent. I am not saying this is bad, advocacy is necessary in a confrontation situation, but recognize it for what it is.

I'd really like to know what I missed in the way of featherbedding, Ed. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

Simple: if you have more employees and fewer students than you had in, say, 1975, then you have "featherbedding." What was the per-child cost in 1975 and what is it today (in 1975 dollars)?

It costs Amherst more per child than other similarly situated districts (Northampton, Longmeadow, B'Town anyone?) and this raises two questions. First, the public policy issues of deciding to pay more per child (which ought to be expressed as such). And second, the apparent lack of a return on the extra investment.

In other words, if Amherst pays more, Amherst ought to GET more. Amherst children ought not just be doing as good as those of other communities, Amherst children ought to be head & shoulders above them. And the latter isn't happening. So where is the value from the extra expenditure?

I didn't ask for any agreement at all in my previous post. I asked for understanding that there is more to the discussion than people might think (whatever one's point of view), to understand the schizophrenic nature of discussions about teachers/salaries, and to ask people to stop finger pointing and making accusations.

This is a logical fallacy. Anyone who disagrees with you is either ignorant or crazy. George W. Bush used to use such logic with frequency - which is why many had such fond affection for him.

A list of fallacious arguments: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html

Apparently that request didn't get through to everyone.

Non Sequitur Ad Hominem

Ed said...

Teachers are receiving their average salary of $62,000 for working nine months out of the year.

That is $85,750 if you calculate it on the basis of the week everyone else works, less holidays and (much shorter) vacation time.

Remember that the median HOUSEHOLD income in the Commonwealth is about $55K and that includes two-employee households....

Ken said...

It's too exhausting to keep up with you Ed. The point has already been made, not just by me, that you can't compare demographically dissimilar towns' school budgets because it doesn't cost to educate all children equally. Or in this case, now to 35 years ago, either. For example, in 1975 there were 0% ESL students, and SPED was not nearly as developed as now, and the % of low income students was very low. Now, the Amherst elementary schools are 13% ESL, 32% low income and there's a very large SPED mandate around staffing and programs that need to be followed. That's just for starters. In spite of all the Latin, Ed--with all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about.

In fact, your "featherbedding" charge is much more untrue and "not research" than the poll results I mentioned, which can also be checked out just by monitoring the ebb and flow of teachers in one of our schools. You're just making yours up, or resorting to that VERY UNHELPFUL anti-teacher's-union charge that--guess what--is the very kind of thing most people refrain from resorting to, and that would be nice to avoid altogether.

And by the way, I can understand the perspective of those who oppose an override and yet don't call them cheapskates who hate education. So I guess I don't think that everyone who disagrees with me is either ignorant or crazy.

But I do think your description applies very directly to--you.

kevin said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also - I thought it was interesting that Kevin admitted that he could only dig up 500 signatures on the petition supporting the override.


Got you there.

The goal of the petition was to support our elected representatives, while they are making hard decisions in a sea of despair.

It seems to have worked, drawing out the best in everyone, illuminating the way. Not to mention some brilliant performances by our students, musical and oratorical.

It gave us a deadline, something to focus on; attracted 115 volunteers and 550 people who put their names on the override; and it helped us raise thousands of dollars.

And a great party.

Yeah, the petition worked, got us in the paper, got things going. No complaints. :-))

Kevin
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