I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Working Together to Help With Budget Shortfalls, Part II

As the budget picture for the rest of this year and next year in Florida (and Escambia County) continues to devolve, I find it interesting how "groups" associated with education begin to "eat their own". from the Miami Herald:

"Three Miami-Dade schools labor unions are voicing opposition to a bill that would require Florida school districts to pay teachers first. Their qualm: The proposed legislation ignores ''essential'' school-district employees, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, police officers, accountants and technical staff. ''I understand teachers are special people,'' said Chuck Burdeen, executive director of the Dade County School Administrators' Association. ``But the rest of us do a good job. We shouldn't have to wait in line for the crumbs.''..Still, Fraternal Order of Police President Howard Giraldo called the proposal ''irresponsible'' -- especially because police officers did not receive raises last year, either.'You cannot say `Pay the teachers first,' and forget about everybody else,'' Giraldo said. ``You need police officers. You need bus drivers and custodians. Without us, there's no school system.''

full article here:

Interesting, in the above article, that students and their priorities get little to no mention..

I also found this next article interesting...Union and Legislators versus other Unions.... from MSNBC:

Two South Florida lawmakers say they'll introduce a bill that would give teachers priority over other school employees when it comes to pay raises..The lawmakers, backed by union, have unveiled legislation called "Pay Teachers First.""This places classrooms at the center of funding," said UTD President Karen Aronowitz. "When you start a budget, you start with what's essential, and teachers are essential."

Full article here:

The bottom line is this(in this Escambia County board member's opinion)---children should come first, taxpayers second, and everyone else (including board members like me, administrators, teachers, and support staff) should come next. It's funny how when the chips are down and times are tough, like they are now,---everyone wants to say they are for the "children"---but ask any "group" to take a pay cut, furlough, or pay more for their fringe benefits--and they immediately run for the bunker and start to play the blame game and point fingers. Ask for a combined group wage concession in lieu of laying off of staff (as I did last year at this time) and you will be laughed out of the room and made fun of. Ask for top end administrative positions to be cut instead of student programs (like music and sports) as I have done and will continue to do-- and you, too, can become a pariah. When the education special interests are not mollified to their complete satisfaction-- They then resort to crying to Tallahassee for more money--knowing there is none in the budget due to the DEPRESSION we are entering--and when not immediately gratified like a newborn with the fresh milk bottle, these groups take on the demeanor of pit vipers. Then come the money draining ULP's and Lawsuits. It is enough to make me sick. Something is wrong with our priorities--and the ones who are in the thick of it do not seem to be able to see the forest through the trees!

To parapharase a recent political candidate (speaking on national issues)--I believe the education financing program in Florida is broken--and it needs to be torn apart and rebuilt. The same could be said for spending PRIORITIES. It has to be about KIDS first----and that does not automatically mean teachers' priorities first. Unlike the Teacher's unions, I do not believe that what teacher's unions want is necessarily what students need. An example-- I think a lot more needs to be devoted to virtual/distance learning. A well operating virtual education program gives the taxpayers more bang for the buck--as a well trained virtual eucator can effectively teach many more students than a traditional in-the classroom teacher. Florida is #1 in the nation in virtual education--but I bet you did not know that. (see this article: If it deals with becoming more efficient and cutting labor(teacher) costs while improving learning delivery to students, the issue/concept will be ignored by the media and demonized by the organized teachers unions that CONTROL the education agenda in our state.

Another example--paying for tenure-time in service- versus skill, ability and merit. I am in favor of Merit Pay, Paying High salaries to excellent teachers combined with finding an easier mechanism for showing incompetent educators the door. It should not take months and months (or years) and tens of thousands of dollars each to fire poor teachers. See this Article:

And I'm not a kool aid drinking type that feels that all teachers are "great". From Kindergarden through 12th Grade, I attended 17 different schools (my dad was in the military). I was fortunate to have some excellent teachers in that span---but I also had to endure many substandard ones. Not all teachers are created equally--so why do they all enjoy the same universal protections? Why can they not be judged on their individual merits and abilities like the rest of us are judged in real life? This is the question I want answered.

Student needs and Teachers' priorities are not mutually exclusive, in my opinion. Taxpayers are becomming more savvy and are demanding more. Taxpayers see public education in a negative light---even though expenditures for per-pupil education nationwide have grown exponentially since the early part of the 2oth century. The current system is inefficient and needs to be fixed. Reforms need to take priority over entrenched special interests, and priorities need to be clearly delineated. The silver lining in the current economic downturn---It will force some groups' positions out into the "light" to the point that everyone will see who the real priorities are with respect to education in Florida. The million dollar question---who will be at the top of that priority list,--TEACHERS or STUDENTS?

For my part I will always vote on the side of this state's students.


Lighthouse Ladybug (Donna) said...

Unfortunately, merit pay is often an instrument of discrimination. Too many bosses prefer to give merit pay to their white male golfing buddies, perpetuating the "good ole boy" network. Then there are women who get merit pay by getting involved with the boss, and other women who are denied merit pay because they rebuffed their supervisor's advances.

I also feel that merit pay discourages teamwork because many employees will not co-operate with their co-workers, or mentor new employees, if they are competing with them for a pool of merit pay money.

I have also seen supervisors who take credit for the work done by their subordinates, and the supervisor ends up getting a merit raise rather than those who actually did the work.

I am not a teacher. I work in IT, and have seen all of the above in my 26-year career.

Here is an article in Financial Week entitled Merit Pay Produces Pay Discrimination -

Jeff Bergosh said...


I read the article you linked on your post. It was interesting and I'd love to know what company it was (INTEL, SUN Microsystems?, Google?) Anyway--Surprise--I agree with some aspects of the premise of that article. If only the supervisor is making the call on which employee gets the Merit Pay-then that sytem could be ripe for abuse.
Our system is data driven, with more than 30 different data sources used (including student achievement) to distill the the top performers. It is not a perfect system but it is a good system--and I hope it continues to be funded by the legislature.