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Who benefits?

Who benefits?

Mitch Coffman
April 29, 2010

A school district trustee’s job is to administer for the benefit of a school district. That is not the same thing as administering for the benefit of students.

A trustee in Rexburg said too much in the Rexburg Standard Journal’s “Madison School District cuts school year by one week, saving $100,000” on April 24:

Madison School District made its first major cost-cutting decisions, and the first item on the chopping block is the final week of this school year.

The last day of the 2009-2010 school year is now May 27, after a unanimous vote by the Madison School Board of Trustees to cut the school year by five days on Thursday.

District officials say that buildings will be powered down and locked, and all district buses will be parked.

The district hopes to save about $100,000 with the date change. District Business Manager Varr Snedaker said with the reduction of classified wages, benefits, utilities and supplies, the district will save about $20,000 each day.

"The decision to shorten the present school year will bring a lot of savings, money that can be used to offset next year's revenue reductions," said Tim Anderson, a member of the Madison School Board of Trustees. "Any money that we save right now is going to help as we start the next school year."

A little further down we learn,

Teachers are contracted through the end of the school year, so the change will not affect them. But classified staff, such as teacher's aides, bus drivers, etc., will take an approximately 2.8 percent cut in overall hourly wages, according to Snedaker.

The bus drivers and teachers aides – those making $7.42 - $18 hourly – will take it in the shorts while Madison School District pays teachers not to teach for a week. The median teacher’s salary is $44,099, plus benefits, plus two to three months per year to make some mad money painting houses or building fences or writing the Great American Novel.

Not everyone was pleased:

(T)he board's move had opposition. According to Thursday's meeting minutes, Teresa Preston of Rexburg, a classified employee at Kennedy Elementary, spoke in opposition to the decision on behalf of district classified staff. Attempts by the Standard Journal to contact Preston were unsuccessful.
Good for Ms. Preston. More people in Rexburg should ask why teachers’ salaries are sacrosanct and why they can’t take a furlough week with their fellow employees.

Then, the stunner:

Anderson said that he believes the move will have a negative impact on the student's (sic) education. "I think it will, (but) we are doing everything we can so that it doesn't," said Anderson. "Some students will miss some instruction (and) some teachers are going to have to try and cover as much material as possible between now and then."

Breathtaking. Assuming he wasn’t misquoted, a trustee of the Madison School Board admitted they are protecting teachers at the expense of students; the Trustees voted to do so unanimously.

Why are teachers’ salaries so inflexible they can’t be asked to share cuts along with their fellow district employees? In the rest of the world, a proposal like that would be on the table. Not so in the alternative universe of school district and teachers union negotiations.

Trustees are volunteers who are genuinely interested in community service and children. We ask them to negotiate with the people who have the power to give their children failing grades or otherwise make their school experiences unpleasant. It can be a tough, thankless task. However, a trustee with courage to forthrightly tell Madison School District patrons why students get to miss a week of school this year would be a trustee who started loosening the chokehold teachers’ contracts have on kids.

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