Tuesday, March 22, 2011

School Disctricts Should Look Inward on Budget Cuts

In today's difficult economic times (Ed Rendell left Pennsylvania with a $4-billion deficit), it takes leadership and courage to tackle the problem. Enter the superintendent of the Sharon City School District, John Sarandrea.

Hat tip to The Herald (Sharon, PA):
Sharon City School District Superintendent John Sarandrea announced Monday that he and business manager Tresa Templeton will voluntarily take a pay freeze for 2011-2012.

Sarandrea’s salary will remain at $117,000 and hers at $85,591.

With the state of the economy and the impending state funding cuts to education, Sarandrea said they’ll ask building principals to agree to a freeze as well.
This is a fantastic first step - but it is only one little step. A pay freeze looks good and will save several thousand dollars. But if school districts are losing millions of dollars each, it's just a start.

Here are some ways to save some serious cash:
- Have all employees contribute more to their bennies. The real world employees contribute up to 30% of the cost. If any of the "public servants" whine about moving from 3% to 5%, remind them how good they have it. Make them pay at least 15%. If they want to strike, show them the door.
- Eliminate half of the administrators. There is simply no need to have hordes of principals and vice principals. Especially when you factor in the sheer cost of these bureaucratic positions.
- Freeze pay for the next several years. The concept of "teachers aren't paid enough" simply isn't true any longer. Teacher salaries are available online in PA. Some of the salaries are appalling. And when you factor in the Mercedes Benz-benefits, it really jumps. You can easily add $25,000 to each instructor to find out what they cost each taxpayer.
- Eliminate all educational reimbursements for teachers. We should not be paying them to obtain higher degrees, then paying them jacked-up salaries when they are finished. If they want a higher education, let them pursue it like everyone else - on their own dime.
- Make sports "pay to play." This won't be fun since football is far more important than education in western PA. But you shouldn't spend millions on athletic complexes, then threaten to remove educational curricula.
- Cut wasteful spending. Private schools have been turning out better students for far less for a long time. Throwing cash at schools does not make them better - and that's been proven.
- Stop building new buildings that you don't need. Sure you want them and you can make up a million excuses why you think you need them, but you don't need a 2011 building to educate students in 2011. And if the state is throwing piles of cash at you, reject it!
- Finally (and this one SHOULD be a no-brainer) think of the taxpayers for once. You're killing them with your bloated budgets and you're making the case for school district consolidation more appealing each day. Instead of local control with a million bureaucrats, we could have regional control with a few bureaucrats. Tempting, isn't it?

The truth is that school districts have NOT been good stewards of tax dollars. There is a terrible culture of "We won the lottery!" in every school district. That money was never theirs in the first place. They did nothing to produce it or earn it. It was seized and spent without concern.

Remember that when you vote for school board members this spring.


Anonymous said...

It's about time someone spelled this out!
very well said.

Jason said...

I guess this is what frustrates me most about Grove City's school board: there just isn't any transparency.

With the borough council, we know your plan: balance the budget while still providing services to the public.

With the school board, the message is so mixed: we want to build a new school, including a fancy music auditorium, but we won't be replacing Dave Barron, the middle school music teacher. Wouldn't kids be better off with the perfectly good school they already have, plus a music teacher to boot? What is the cheapest and best option? These are questions never asked.

Your points are all well-said and badly-needed, Rich. Too bad we can't get the same kind of transparency from school board members and candidates.

NOTSMALL said...

You NAILED it on every front...We in Grove City need to get info like this out. I am in public service, I make a TON less than teachers and pay allot into my benefits. I am not complaining though. I am blessed to be where I am at. They should take a look at how cushie they have it.
The schools (teacher's unions) are demonizing Gov. Corbett for what he is trying to do. We need to make cuts in areas where it has shown no appreciable difference. We cannot continue to raise taxes, etc. Cuts HAVE to be made!

Sorry to be a "Johnnie come lately on this post"!