A Conservative View

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EDUCATION UNIONS-OKLAHOMA

 

Teachers unions in Oklahoma promoted a ballot proposal last year that would have forced the state to the average of all surrounding states spend on public education. Wisely the voters shot it down.

A typical Oklahoma school district spends about 80% of its total budget on labor costs. This includes many unnecessary “perks” spelled out in union collective bargaining agreements. Oklahoma also spends millions on automatic annual salary increases and more than generous paid sick and personal days. Teachers are reimbursed for unused sick and personal days, plus pay for “extra duty”. They also receive pay to attend professional conferences, health insurance and many other things.

The problem is not the amount of money that schools receive, but the constraints give the districts no flexibility on how they actually spend it. The unions control the spending of 90% of the budget. It appears the districts do get to buy and sharpen pencils.

The “Education Action Group” has been studying the situation and started with the “Jinks Public Schools” Below is a snapshot of what they found.

Out of a total budget for 2009-10 of $63,947,342.00, labor costs were $58,264,152.00 or 91% of the total. $749,000.00 of labor costs was automatic salary increases over the prior year. 

Jinks district has 678 teachers who took a total of 3412 sick days and 1,049 personal leave days in 2009-10. Their records do not capture the salary and benefits paid for sick and personal days. The records do show that the district paid out $481,632.00 for substitute teachers. The salary and benefits for the regular teachers is several times the cost of substitutes.

Teachers also receive “Extra Duty” pay for coaching, advising clubs, chairing academic departments, school bands and breakfast and lunch supervision. In the 2009-10 year this costs was $983,063.00.

The district also pays $300.00 annually to the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System for each teacher. This totaled $203,000.00 in 2009-10.

The Education Action Group recommended that sick days be cut to 5 and 2 paid personal time days which are more generous than most private companies today. The only figure that could be reduced, with any accuracy, would be the costs for substitutes that should be 50% less, a savings of $240,816. These must be really nice people as my recommendation would no paid personal time.

The Group also recommended that the teachers pay 50% of the $300.00 to the retirement system. Using the 2009-10 figures this would save $101,700.00 this year. Based on a business evaluation of these facts, I would require that the teachers pay the entire $300.00 themselves. This would obviously save the entire $203,400.00. Just think these cuts could be made without decreasing teacher’s base pay.  

The bottom line is that all of our education systems are in bad need of independent professional operational audits. Do they meet their stated mission objectives and where is the waste hidden?

I would come out of retirement and audit any school district for 10% of the real audited savings. On second thought, I could hire this done, make some money and keep fishing and playing golf. When I think about the U.S. government using the same, no cost, independent operational audits to find just the waste alone in healthcare, I get dizzy. When you audit yourself you will never have the power to change anything.

The deeper I get into the public sector unions, more facts surface. If we had a real Department of Education our success ratios would be well above current levels. Wait until you see how much money has been given to Wisconsin since Obama was elected. What will really make you want to throw up is what they did with it before the last election to cover up the past.

C Brewer

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