It is interesting to note that readers of this blog who communicate with me include those inside and outside of the educational profession. A friend of mine recently told me “I don’t know how you’ll survive in politics; you’re too honest and transparent”. I took that as a compliment…sort of. I do believe in transparency and I do not maintain a hidden agenda.
Tenure Reform – I submitted a letter to Senator Pittman (sponsor of SB310) on Thursday of last week. The letter compiles comments from emails concerning tenure reform. I wanted to share this letter and email comments with readers. I will continue to work with him and others to refine our tenure laws into a balanced solution. I will post updates as they become available.
One question posed to me concerning tenure reform – “what does tenure reform have to do with saving schools money?” The answer - a lot when I’m told a school system has spent $40,000 in arbitration costs defending the move of a teacher from one school to another, within the same system. Yes, there needs to be limits to moving a teacher from one school to another (i.e. only at the start of the school year or within a certain mileage radius, not across the county) but this is one of the many reasons we are debating tenure reform.
HB414 - I will continue to provide reader’s access to the same information circulated to legislators that I use in the decision making process. One of which is a 2009 report concerning teacher pay. This report is based on the 2008 school year by the John Locke Institute for the North Carolina Schools and included a review of every state in the nation. A subset of the report includes a focus on southern regional states. Alabama was ranked 28th in teacher pay according to the National Education Association. The Locke Institute report overlays additional factors such as cost of living, into the NEA ranking. When salary is adjusted, according to the John Locke report, Alabama teacher pay is ranked number 4 nationally and number 3 on the southern regional board states. While this report is almost three years old, I’ve searched several sites but am unable to find a more recent study. I will gladly share a link to a more recent report if someone knows of one.
Some information that needs to be considered; what is the current rate of pension and health care costs for public employees and how long the rate has been at that level. This leads into the debate of the public vs. private sector and the ongoing recession. As I’ve previously pointed out on this blog, the private sector has seen significant job losses (see chart below). Those in the private sector have also seen increased cost in health care and retirement matches and, in some cases, a reduction or complete stop in employer match to 401Ks.
Job losses in the private sector impact the public sector as the public sector is supported through taxation from everyone (both public and private sector pays sales tax, property tax, etc) but as consumer spending is reduced, so is sales tax, income tax, etc and thus the state (and nation for that matter) sees a reduction in funds available to pay for government supported programs. We simply cannot tax our way out of the budget hole we are in.
Additional information I’ve been provided reflects that state employee match for PEEHIP (Public Education Employee Health Insurance Plan) from 2001 through 2010 was $132 monthly for an employee with dependants and $2 monthly for a single coverage employee. In 2011 the rates rose to $162 and $15 respectively. Employee contribution rate for teachers in the retirement program has been at 5% since 1987. HB414 proposes to increase the retirement match by a total of 2.5% phased in over the next two years.
Following is an excerpt from the Fiscal Office on H414: The reduced employer contribution rates will result in total savings to TRS state agencies of an estimated $116.5 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, of which an estimated $81.6 million would be employer costs normally funded by the Education Trust Fund. The additional savings to TRS agencies for fiscal year 2013 would be an estimated total of $29.1 million, of which an estimated $20.4 million would be employer costs normally funded by the Education Trust Fund.
Legislative Pay – as I’ve previously shared, I will reduce my legislative pay in step with any legislation that I support that reduces pay of any state employee. I returned the 1.9% consumer price index to legislative pay that was a part of the 2007 legislative pay raise. Should HB414 pass, I will reduce my legislative pay in a phased approach as well.
Emails - as you might imagine, I've been inundated with emails on several bills. The most popular include SB310 and HB414 as they have pretty much consumed my inbox. I'm reading and responding as best possible. Thank you for understanding if I've not responded to your email yet.