Monday, August 27, 2012

Using My Public School Education to Do a Little Math


I decided that after taking the summer off, it was time to dive back in to the school board project.  Part of the motivation is due to the fact that school is traditionally supposed to start 10 days from now but due to this being a contract negotiation year, we have heard NADA about the first day of school.  This has happened several times since my kids entered the Everett Schools.  It is not unheard of to hear nothing about the first day of school until the end of August, which means we also don't know when any days off are or when any of the extended breaks are.  We finally bought plane tickets for December during the time we KNOW there will be no school.  We simply couldn't plan and couldn't wait any longer to get a good price on airfare.  

So, I started wading through the budget - just for fun!  Lots of questions about it - especially given the fact that there continues to be a concern about a lack of funds.  I started wondering where in the world the money is going.  

First, let's talk about teacher salaries.  I know that teachers work hard, but I don't buy the continual chip-on-the-shoulder attitude about "we're SO UNDERPAID!"  Math proves otherwise.  In the Everett School District according to THIS table (ESD is district number 31002), the average base salary for an Everett School Teacher is $56,680.  As soon as you say that, you will get 15 teachers who angrily proclaim "I DON'T MAKE THAT MUCH!!!"  Well, that's the AVERAGE salary, boys and girls.  Due to additional duties, classes, activities, etc. the average teacher can bump their base salary over $19,000 a year to a total of $77,511 per year.  By the way - Everett has the HIGHEST additional average salary per individual in the ENTIRE STATE.  Seattle is second at $16,000 and Bellevue comes in at $12,000 and most of the districts don't even break $5,000.  I have to ask why? That salary amount is BEFORE any benefits - which are about 30% additional.  Now, before you start thinking that's REALLY LOW, let's keep doing the math.  Teachers are contracted to work about 1,350 hours each year.  The private sector worker in a full-time job works about 1,900 hours a year.  If you divide the average teacher salaries into that 1,350 hour work year, they make $42/hour base and $57/hour with the additional duties.  Do YOU make that much per hour???  

Now, let's take those numbers and plug them in to a private sector work year.  That means that if a teacher were to be contracted to work a normal 1900 hours year, they would make $79,800 on the bottom end and up to $108,300 on average at the top.  Is THAT enough for teaching???

Before you start leaving angry comments about, "Well, Teachers work MORE than 1,350 hours!!!  I don't know ANY who work just what they are supposed to," let me say, "That's life!"  Most salaried professionals who have work with deadlines end up doing work at home.  My husband has never worked just the 40 hours a week he's "contracted" to work.  He works probably closer to 50 hours each week without any additional compensation.  

I am not "anti-teacher", but I am not buying the whining any more.  Sorry, you're paid well for the job you do.  



My next observation in the Everett School District budget is the table shown here.  Notice that from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year that there is an additional $2.5 million for supplies - a 41% increase!  I'm assuming this budget covers paper, staples, pens, paper towels, toilet paper, copier toner, etc.  During that same period, the district had a 1% DECREASE in the number of full-time students, a 7% DECREASE in certificated staff (teachers) and a 1% DECREASE in classified staff (lunch room, crossing guards, teaching assistants, office help).  So, we had a 9% DECREASE in the number of people who might use supplies but a 41% INCREASE in money for supplies. Could someone explain that math to me?  

The final nugget I uncovered in the budget is a boat-load of Federal Stimulus Dollars from the 2010-2011 budget.  



Note that in that year, the district got nearly $7.5 million in stimulus funds.  Later on in the budget, we see that most of it went to Title 1 and IDEA - both Special Ed programs.  However, those dollars obviously didn't show up the next year or this coming year.  So, the question begs to be asked - is that part of the "fiscal crisis" we are facing?  Were those short-term dollars used to hire people and set up additional programs that have become long-tern obligations?  I suspect the answer is "yes".  Instead of buying equipment or updating facilities - which would have been the smart use of money you knew you were getting only once, the district probably set up long-term financial obligations with it and we are now unable to support those without "robbing Peter to pay Paul" as the saying goes.  

These budgets are laid out in categories, but I would honestly love to see the itemized list of expenditures.  I suppose I could go through what is essentially the district's checkbook in the form of vouchers, but who has that kind of time?  And, that's what they are banking on, I'm sure.  Don't question our use of your money, just know that we always need more.... 

My question is... when is it ever enough?