Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Post Card From Albany

Throwing Good Money After Bad

Many readers will recognize the name George Rand from his frequent Letters to the Editors of our local papers, as well as his regular column in the Tribune. Today, George's rant graces the cyberpages of The Community Alliance blog in what we hope will be the first of many such Guest Blogs. George calls this piece, A Post Card From Albany. We'll simply refer to this and other opinion pieces yet to come from George as, Rand-om Thoughts. :-)

I received a multicolored post card from my representative in Albany, State Senator Dean Skelos, in which he wrote that he tried to ease the burden of high property taxes by providing record levels of state aid to the Franklin Square school district.

Franklin Square schools now receive $3.7 million more each year than they did a decade ago. "This 156% increase," Sen. Skelos wrote, "is over six times the rate of inflation. This year, I provided $282,000 more for the Franklin Square District than the amount first proposed."

So why are school administrators always complaining about being shortchanged on state aid? Because Senator Skelos has not attacked the real problem: Instead of pouring more of our tax money into the public schools from a state budget that is in a fiscal crisis, he should force school districts to cut costs and put a lid on skyrocketing teachers' salaries.Thanks to their powerful union, public school teachers on Long Island are among the highest paid in the nation.

In the Lawrence school district, more than 32 percent of teachers have salaries of over $100,000 even though Lawrence is on a contingency budget. Most teachers receive extra pay for tasks that persons in the business sector would normally be expected to perform. Why should a teacher with a salary of $104,000 for about a nine month school year get paid extra for supervising kids in the cafeteria?

Senator Skelos shouldn't be surprised to find a first grade teacher in Franklin Square earning $101,374 plus an extra $801 for acting as grade chair. By union contract, this teacher's paycheck will soar in two years to $108,000. Since teachers work 182 days a year compared to the 234 days the average business sector employee puts in, that $108,000 is equivalent to about $139,000 in private business. Our high school superintendent with a salary of $240,000 is paid more than the vice president of the United States and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. And now the Franklin Square School District is projecting a whopping 8.6 percent rise in the next school budget.

Does this make any sense to Senator Skelos or to anyone else? Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi said recently, "School taxes here on Long Island are no longer a mere hardship; they are a destructive burden, devastating families."

George Rand
Franklin Square, NY
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Today's e-Poll:

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  1. My vote in today's e-Poll is no secret: "In my next life I'm coming back as a teacher!"

    Here on Long Island, it's more than generous salary and benefits that our teachers and administrators garner, and every time their contracts come up for renewal, it's "Gimme, gimme, gimme!"

    I don't begrudge our educators. They work hard. So do the rest of us. They deserve a decent wage. So do the rest of us. They have to live on Long Island, with its high cost of living and outrageous property taxes. So do the rest of us.

    How much blood can you squeeze out of a stone?

    Sure, teachers have it tough. In Bed-Stuy, maybe, but not in most of Long Island's cushy school districts. And even if they do have difficult jobs, for which it would appear they believe themselves deserving of combat pay, look at all the vacation time they have to recuperate. I wish I could stay home from work whenever school was out, and take summers off to boot!

    I read reacently that in NYC, where starting salaries are somewhere around $45,000, the Board of Ed recently sought to recruit new teachers and received something like 30,000 applications.

    I'm sure that many of those applicants (at least a few of whom must be qualified) would be delighted to come out to Long Island, and for half of what we're paying many of our teachers.

    Please don't misunderstand. Teachers are invaluable in our society. Good teachers, that is. Not the ones to squeak by, get tenure, then hang around for twenty years just so they can collect top-dollar pensions. But please, enough already with the yearly 8%+ increases. We can no longer afford such excesses. Give us a break!

  2. Again the problem is not the Teachers it is the system. No One knows how much is enough when it comes to per student spending. Is it 10 20 30 thousand a year, and no matter how much we spend it never seems to be enough. Second there is no competion between private charter and public schools so you have a monopoly where by money just keep pouring in no matter what. Now don't go running to show me those scores because they are just smoke and mirrors.We know this by now, I would hope so.Third we are stuck in this system because politicians don't have the back bone to change Finally we keep spending and the educated work force keeps leaving telling me that we a failing to help the long island economy therefore the tax burden will only get worst. Do we need changes and reforms, You bet we do, the question remains, Do politicians have the spine to change this?