Public Watchdog.org

Taxpayers Just Dairy Cattle To D-64 Board, Administration (Updated)

09.27.12

Monday night in the Franklin School gymnasium, two Park Ridge-Niles Elementary School District members stood up for the taxpayers of this District. 

Only two.  Of the seven total Board members charged with looking out for the interests of the entire community – not just the students, not just their parents, not just the teachers, but the entire community – only two were willing to stand up for the people who pay the bills.

Board members Anthony Borrelli and Eric Uhlig courageously voted “no” on the new teachers union contract under the glare of a large number of Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA,” a/k/a the teachers union) members who showed up at that meeting despite knowing before the meeting even started that they had the votes of at least a four Board member majority – Pres. John Heyde, Pat Fioretto, Sharon Lawson and Scott Zimmerman – already locked up; and that the key was in the lock for the vote of a fifth Board member, Dan Collins.  

We can only surmise that the brigade of PREA teachers were deployed there for more than just the lack of something better to do that night, especially since they did nothing but let their presence be felt and their eyes do their talking – except when they broke into loud applause at the end of the remarks of Board member/PREA-lackey Pasquale “Pat” Fioretto.  Fioretto helped Heyde negotiate (hah!) the new contract and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to fluff and stroke the folks whose bidding he so readily and successfully undertook.

The mere presence of the teachers, however, may have been sufficient to keep all but one of the non-teacher attendees from speaking against the new contract that provides average raises characterized by the District and PREA as a “modest 2%” but which, when “step” (seniority) and “lane” (continuing education) increases are added in, reportedly run in the 4%+ range for each of the next 4 years – along with the taxpayer-guaranteed pension benefits substantially better than those enjoyed by the vast majority of the taxpayers who are footing the bill for them.  And did we mention that’s for an 8-9 month work year – with summers off, just like the rest of us had when we were in school.

While the assembled parents sat meekly silent through the contract discussion, they magically began chirping when the topic shifted to the District’s after-school program – or, as we call it, the District’s taxpayer-subsidized babysitting.   Several previously mute parents stood up to voice their concerns about a new plan to de-centralize the after-school program, which now buses approximately 280 children from their neighborhood schools to Jefferson School.  Under the new plan, after-school programs would be conducted at each of the “home” elementary schools.

The parents’ discussion of the after-school program, when compared to their non-discussion of the new PREA contract and teacher salary increases, could be viewed as a demonstration of why the chances for meaningful school and budgetary reform at D-64 are pathetic going on hopeless.

The special interests who dominate D-64’s operation don’t give a rat’s derriere about the taxpayers.

The teachers don’t.  Notwithstanding all their carefully-orchestrated “for the kids” propaganda, it appears that most teachers are in it for the money, just like most other workers in most other fieldsFrankly, that’s fine with us – if only they would just be up-front about it rather than adopting their faux-Mother Teresa personae while trying to improve on their reported 25th highest-paid teachers in the state ranking.  We also wish they’d stop hiding behind such shamelessly illusory and non-measurable “standards” of student performance as “educating the whole child” and developing “emotional intelligence.”  

The administrators don’t.   Almost all of them are former teachers who would rather maintain the status quo than demand better teacher and student performance, or improve cost controls.  They’re already the reportedly 4th highest-paid administrators in the state despite their students’ measurable performance being well south of that ranking.  And constantly-increasing teacher salaries just gives them a better argument for increases in their own compensation.

The parents of D-64 students generally don’t.  They’re kids are getting $12,000/year D-64 educations while they pay, on average, less than $4,000/year in property taxes to D-64. An extra $25, $50 or even $100 a year in taxes to D-64 barely moves the needle on that equation.  And those parents aren’t likely to risk crossing the very teachers who have the ability to subjectively grade their kids’ performance.

And most of our School Board members don’t.  Board members who are PREA sycophants can count on the political support of PREA members.  And those who have kids in the District are under the same influences as regular D-64 parents.   That makes Borrelli’s and Uhlig’s “no” votes even more courageous and commendable, given our understanding that they both have children in D-64 schools.  “Yes”-voting D-64 parents Heyde, Zimmerman and Collins took the easy way out.

Only Borrelli and Uhlig voiced any concerns about the taxpayers, which promptly got Borrelli barbecued  by retired D-64 teacher and PREA activist Fred Klonsky on his blog post.  In Klonsky’s world, teachers will always be underpaid and underappreciated, even as he enjoys (at the ripe old age of 64?) his taxpayer-guaranteed defined-benefit pension after a mere 30 years of service that we understand will pay him 80% of his final years’ salary for the rest of his life.

Oh, to be one of those poor deprived and disrespected teachers! 

But it took Fioretto’s six-minute ode to collective bargaining (from 1:27:44 to 1:33: 55 of Monday night’s meeting video) to really illustrate the abysmally low regard – bordering on contempt(?) – the majority of this D-64 Board and the administration have for the taxpayers.   During that six minute oration in which Fioretto extolled the new contract and its fairness to the teachers, he didn’t utter the word “taxpayers” once.  Not even once. 

That’s because to Board members Fioretto, Heyde, Zimmerman, Lawson and Collins, and to Supt. Phil Bender’s D-64 Administration, taxpayers are just a bunch of dairy cattle whose only purpose is to be milked as often and as much as possible until they run dry and wander off to some other lower-taxing pasture, to be replaced by newer, more productive stock – preferably in time for the next big tax-hike referendum already on the horizon. 

Can you say “Moo?”

UPDATED 09.27.12.  We have been advised that the “80%” pension we described for Mr. Klonsky should be 75% – of the average of his last four years salaries.  We don’t know if that’s accurate, either, because we can’t find any confirmation of the D-64 website (SURPRISE!). 

Using information gained from the Family Taxpayers Foundation website  (http://www.familytaxpayers.org/salary.php) because we couldn’t find such information on the D-64 website (SURPRISE!), however, we discovered that Mr. Klonsky’s reported last four full years’ salaries were: $102,143 in 2011, $96,361 in 2010, $94,505 in 2009, and $91,425 in 2008, which totals $384,434 and averages out to $96,108.50.  For an 8-9 month work year, which annualizes out to a tidy $120,000 – without the risk of the employer moving to another state, or another country; and with virtually no chance of being fired.

75% of that is a shade over $72,000/year, guaranteed by…wait for it…the taxpayers, while our rough calculation of what a private sector worker needs in his/her 401(k) to receive that same $72,000/year retirement benefit is a cool $1 million, so long as it’s generating a 4% minimum annual return. 

To read or post comments, click on title.

30 comments so far

PD:

Here is what facinates me. You act like this is such an obvious issue. Above you reference all of the intersted paries who “do not care about the taxpayer”. You (and those like you) paint this as such a crisis. OK….so if this is the case…..where was your team?!?!?!!? You have covered this ssue to death. You gave a heads up well inadvance that this vote was going to take place and yet there was no massive show of force from all the PR citizens who share your view…..what gives??

EDITOR’S NOTE: If this is what fascinates you, you need to get out more.

It IS an obvious issue – to anybody who (a) pays attention; (b) thinks about it; (c) expects results (a/k/a value) for money spent; and (d) isn’t one of the special interests that benefits from business as usual.

We can lead the horse to water, but we can’t make him drink. That might just take repeated trips and an increasingly thirsty horse.

Plus, our circulation is a whole lot less than the H-A and the Journal, although both of those papers do a horse-bleep job of covering governmental issues, especially D-64 – as evidenced by the fact that this week’s Journal had a fairly long article about the after-school babysitting but no mention of the ratification of the PREA contract; and as of 1 minute ago, the H-A had nothing about the PREA contract since it’s 9/12 story about the “tentative” agreement.

Finally, taxpayers who don’t want to be taxed to death aren’t as likely to group-protest as are those special interests who are looking to suck the money out of those taxpayers.

So we’ll just keep doing what we do and hope some competent, fiscally-responsible people run for office against the profligate-types who currently control the D-64 Board.

You hit all the nails square on the head, PW, which may be why Klonsky targeted Borrelli for attack (wonder why he didn’t also slap Uhlig?).

I read several other posts on his blog and you are right: teachers cannot be overpaid or overappreciated. With that kind of attitude, no wonder the teachers’ Democratic operatives have helped spend this state into bankruptcy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Up until Monday night, Uhlig never really showed us much. Hopefully, he’s either seen the light or has acquired a stiffer spine.

We’re big fans of teachers, but not to the point where we buy into the Klonsky gospel that they can do no wrong and are entitled to feed at the very head of the public trough.

Dear Anon. 8:07 am: Come on over to my house and pay as much of my property taxes as you darn well please.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m sure he/she doesn’t want to deprive you of the honor and privilege of generally overpaying for general underperformance – notwithstanding that there are some teachers in the system who probably earn and deserve every penny they get, if not more.

I think your 80% pension number is wrong. It should be 75% of the average of the last four years’ salaries.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s what we heard from a couple other sources as well, but we could not get any authoritative confirmation, including on the D-64 website (SURPRISE!).

We did, however, check out the Family Taxpayers Foundation website (http://www.familytaxpayers.org/salary.php) because we couldn’t find this information on the D-64 website (SURPRISE!) and discovered that Mr. Klonsky’s reported last four full years’ salaries were: $102,143 in 2011, $96,361 in 2010, $94,505 in 2009, and $91,425 in 2008, which totals $384,434 and averages out to $96,108.50 – for an 8-9 month work year.

At 75% of that, he’s pulling in over $72,000/year. Guaranteed. By the taxpayers.

How much does the private sector worker have to have socked away in a 401(k) to pull in that kind of annual retirement benefit? We don’t know, but our back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest $1 million generating a 4% annual return. And none of that is guaranteed.

I am genuinely astonished at Klonsky’s attitude. At best he is an ungracious winner. The Board votes in a +3.6% raise by 5-2 and he attacks personally one of the “nay” votes. His pension is 75% of recent salaries — that’s more than enough to live on. Except he’s living on something else: Resentment. I have never read a blog more angry and less gracious than Klonsky’s. I can’t imagine what effect he had on his students with that kind of attitude.

Interestingly, though, I learned something new from Klonsky’s blog: The ballot on Nov. 6th features General Amendment 49, a chance for voters to allow the state government to limit future increases in public employee pension plans.

I’d like to know what others know or think about this referendum. It *sounds* good, and Klonsky’s against it, but I also see that Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored it, which is reason alone to approach with extreme caution.

Here are some relevant links:

A simple description:
http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Illinois_Public_Pension_Amendment,_HJRCA_49_(2012)

League of Women Voters analysis:
http://www.lwvil.org/Cons_Amend_%20Nov.6.2012.pdf
(This week they came out against it, however.)

Klonsky’s POV:
http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/the-most-important-post-you-will-read-today-constitutional-amendment-49-must-be-defeated/

Opposite Klonsky we have the Tea Party:
http://illinoisteaparty.net/tag/amendment-49/

Anyone have a view on this one?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We sure hope so, because this problem has been ignored far too long by the politicians – primarily Democrats – who share the teachers unions’ king-size bed.

To your point about D-64 squelching information, I still can’t find any mention of the D-64 Board’s adoption of the new PREA contract on either the online Herald Advocate or the online Journal. I guess B. Tramm is working her public relations magic once again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: She can stonewall information with the best/worst of them.

I’ll bet Klonsky’s pension (why not? He’s betting on my pension…) that when D-64 issues a press release it will (a) claim they raised salaries “only” 2% when it was really an average of +3.6% and (b) be printed almost verbatim by the lame local press.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re not getting any of our money on that sucker’s bet, FWT!

But you don’t need the H-A’s or the Journal’s reporting – just replay Fioretto’s ode to collective bargaining and you’ll know all you need to know about what a great job he and Heyde did “negotiating” the new contract.

I too clicked on the link provided and read some of Mr. Klonsky’s writings. It seems to me he is very typical of the blogosphere…..some fact mixed with in with some analysis of said facts and, yes, even some opinion. It is kind of like this blog actually (and like most cable “news” programs). They all have some value if properly put in context and if not accepted as gospel fact – at least not without some due diligence.

Funny how we seem to love activism unless it happens to be activism we disagree with. As to the personal attacks, I read both of his pieces on Mr. Borelli and I fail to see any egregious attack. Certainly no worse then what I have read on any other blog. As is often said on this site, if he has a problem with some criticism (legit or not) he should get out of the way and let someone else serve.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can’t speak for our readers, but we here at PublicWatchdog love Klonsky’s activism. These issues need to be debated vigorously by people who aren’t afraid to ruffle some feathers.

We don’t see Borrelli running away and hiding anytime soon. And, hopefully, Uhlig won’t turn out to be a one-hit wonder. Those two do not a majority make, but it’s a start – and we’re guessing it’s scaring the hell out of the other 5 board members, Bender and his merry band of bureaucrats, and the PREA.

We wonder if it will cause enough concern from the tax-and-spend status quo to revive the recently dormant School Caucus for the April 2013 D-64 board elections, when the seats of Fioretto, Zimmerman, Lawson and Uhlig will be up for grabs.

PD:

Exactly what is the School Caucus if not activism?!?!!? These people are not hand picked by god. They are a group that interviews and endorses candidates. What is preventing another group (maybe you and 5th ward) from coming up with a fancy name and interviewing and selecting their own candidates???

Which brings me back to a questions I asked in a prior psot….where is your team??? If you and others really believe what you have been saying now is the time to go for the kill rather than wondering if the caucus will be revivied. There has never been a better climate for your ideas having a chance to be passed. As the economy improves (VERY SLOWLY), the percentage of folks who find this contract offensive will begin to shrink and your chance will go away.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Exactly what is the School Caucus if not activism?!?!!?”

Actually, it’s more of a political party, but without definitive principles, policies, or distinct positions on specific issues. As we described it in our 12.28.07 post of 2008 New Year’s resolutions: “For the Dist. 64/Dist. 207 School Caucus: Stay gone. You’ve never been anything more than a purely political organization run by a handful or two of “insiders” who cynically manipulate an ever-changing cast of well-meaning but generally clueless “delegates” from various community organizations to endorse and help elect what has consistently been the most financially inept governing body in our community – the D-64 Board of Education. And at the same time you regularly scare off any challengers, thereby producing the fewest contested races – and the fewest choices for the voters – of any local government.”

Since the Caucus and its hand-picked PREA-sycophants disappeared a few years ago, in 2011 District 64 had what looks to have been its most competitive election in 20+ years, with 5 candidates for the three 4-year seats and two candidates for the 2-year seat.

We here at PublicWatchdog don’t have a “team” and don’t want one – because we think the community is best served with NO PARTIES (or “teams” as you put it), just well-informed, motivated individual citizens whose main agenda is to to represent the greater good of their constituencies and the community as a whole, along the lines of how Madison described elected representatives on a national level in Federalist No. 10.

And because we’re striving for organic, structural, sustainable long-term change, we’re not looking for any single “chance” to create some temporary blip on the radar. The folly of that “strategy” was demonstrated in the City Council by the “Anderson Four” (Mark Anderson, Jeff Cox, Don Crampton and Rex Parker ) elected in 2003, and then by the “Gang of Nine” formed in 2005 when the Anderson Four were joined by Jeannie Markech, Kim Jones, Jim Radermacher, Mary Wynn Ryan and Frank Wsol. That led to the successful 2006 cut-the Council referendum of then-mayor Howard Frimark that ended up banishing all but one of the Gang of Nine by May 2007.

But if a majority of District 64 voters/taxpayers want to keep paying top shelf prices for “well”-quality student performance, they can keep on electing the Heyde’s, Fiorettos, Zimmermans and Lawsons; keep giving raises to Bender-style bureaucrats; and keep letting Bernadette Tramm make a mockery of transparency – like by not yet posting the new teachers contract on the D-64 website.

I think you’re forgetting a couple of very important facts here:

1. Teachers are taxpayers, too. In fact, some of us pay quite a bit in taxes. The past two years, I’ve had my savings wiped because of the exorbitant amount of taxes I’ve paid and I make a smaller salary than all of my friends with the same level of education in the private sector.

2. Teachers pay into their pensions in addition to the district. Pension problems are not about teachers wanting exorbitant amounts of money, but rather the constant mismanagement of money by the bureaucracies which exist to prevent that.

3. Teachers don’t receive social security. If you are for pension reform, then you should also be for social security reform, but my guess is you’re not. Frankly, they are the same thing. People pay into them, the government controls that money and invests it accordingly in order to pay out the recipient at the time of retirement.

4. Teachers do not have 401K programs. They can sign up for 403B programs, but there is no employee contribution because the understanding is that the pension is the retirement account. You don’t seem to have a problem with people having their employers contribute to 401Ks. That drains corporations of funds which could be used to hire people and have more jobs in a time in our economy when jobs are scarce. So why pick on public agencies contributing to and paying out on pensions?

I understand the need for reform, but it shouldn’t come in the form of punishment to teachers. Why does that teacher not deserve that amount of money in a yearly pension? Why should they suffer? Did they not work hard for that money over their career? Did they not pay their end of that retirement fund? You seem to just be disgusted by any public employee having a right to a comfortable retirement. We should care about all the citizens in this country and their workers’ rights…not just those who work in the private sector. Public employees are important to a society. They make it so that you are protected, you can have basic things such as a driver’s license, and your children are well educated. Public sector employees should not be punished in their old age as a result of choosing a career of service.

And quite frankly, even if that $72K figure was correct (and I don’t believe it is based on your shoddy research and poor mathematics based on assumption and not fact, and your initial reporting of incorrect facts), I don’t understand why that teacher doesn’t deserve that much money. Many people in the private sector make that type of salary, especially in the Chicagoland area. It is not exorbitant or undeserved.

Your dismissal of someone’s right to a perfectly fair, perhaps even a merited, salary in their retirement which comes from their retirement account is quite frankly part of the problem nowadays. We vilify the workers, in this case (and in this day and age in general) the teachers, but who we should be holding accountable are the politicians who have gotten us into these situations through their mismanagement of funds.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nobody forgets that taxpayers are teachers. But what teachers seem to forget is that when all of us get charged the $1, $5, $10 or whatever their new contract will end up costing us in extra property taxes, only the teachers get the extra $100, $500 or $1,000 in salary increases from those tax increases.

If you don’t like the salary, do something else. Of course, then you’d have to walk away from that sweet pension guaranteed by the state’s taxpayers that dwarfs our paltry social security benefits and many/most of our non-guaranteed 401(k)s.

The “constant mismanagement of money by the bureaucrats” occurred in no small measure because the teachers unions looked the other way while pension contributions were deferred by their friendly “bureaucrats” and politicians – here in Illinois, almost exclusively Democrats – knowing full well that the state constitutional guarantee of those pensions means they would get their benefits no matter what.

Potential collusion between public sector unions and pandering politicians was the principal reason FDR opposed public sector collective bargaining. FDR was right, and the taxpayers of this state are now reaping that whirlwind, even as the teachers in Park Ridge enjoy increasing salaries and benefits that often meet or exceed the private sector despite an 8-9 month work year, and with basically none of the risks that come with private-sector employment.

1. Your $72,000 figure is incorrect. The state Teacher Retirement System pays state teachers 2.2% of the average of the teacher’s final four years of salary after the age of 60, 20 years of service up to 35 years. In my case that is 28 years or roughly $63,000. This is a matter of public record if you bothered to look.
2. The funding of TRS is supposed to come from three sources: Each teacher pays 9.4% of their salary into TRS. This is significantly higher than those in the private sector pay into Social Security (which teachers do not pay into, nor do they receive as a retirement benefit. Nor do they receive any spousal death benefits even if their spouse was enrolled in Social Security.)
The state of Illinois, which has failed to fund their share, was to pay 6%. This is roughly the same amount a private employer would pay into Social Security. As you have pointed out, the state has failed to fund their share for over 50 years. If a private employer had failed to pay into Social Security, they would be charged with a crime. You can blame Democrats, Republicans, union leadership, or whoever you like. There is plenty of blame to go around. Teachers are not among them.
The third source is the return on investments from TRS. The failure of the state to carry out their constitutional responsibility to fund the system, leaving it only 40% funded, means that the system has not earned what it could have on its investments.
The local school district pays a tiny amount into TRS.
3. Whether or not you think I deserve my pension is another matter. But this was the contract I signed on to when I left the private sector, gave up most of my Social Security benefits and became a teacher at the age of 38.
I chose to earn less than I would have in the private sector in exchange for deferred compensation in retirement.
Whether one believes that the terms of a contract and the language of the state Constitution which guarantees that public employee pensions may not be “diminished or impaired,” should be ignored or changed after the fact is up to you.
I obviously don’t. And I believe the courts will agree with me.
-Fred Klonsky
PREA Retired

EDITOR’S NOTE: 1. We did bother to look. But, not surprisingly, D-64 doesn’t post either the salary or pension benefits for each of its employees or retirees on its web page; and we couldn’t find the pension benefits for individual retirees on the TRS web page, either.

2. We blame Democrats, Republicans, union leadership AND all of the teachers who elected and empowered their union leadership and supported the Democrats and Republicans who or whoever you like.

3. Obviously you made a choice that appears to have worked out for you far better that social security would have – and maybe better than social security and a 401(k), since that’s not guaranteed by “the language of the state Constitution which guarantees that public employee pensions may not be ‘diminished or impaired.’

Well played, sir.

A teacher with 27 years of experience in TRS as Mr. Klonsky has as reported by the Familytaxpayers.org site would receive a 59.4% pension not 75% as you have been reporting. A TRS pension is earned at 2.2% per year. His pension is more like $57,088.00 and he is not eligible for Social Security.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Klonsky reports that his pension is around $63,000 – which once again demonstrates how the taxpayers are kept in the dark about the amount of pension benefits retired teachers are receiving. But compared to even $57,000, Social Security benefits suck.

Glad to see the teachers getting engaged in this discussion. They were awfully quiet last Monday night.

Mr. Klonsky is correct that he signed a contract with the understanding he would get paid something during the years he worked, and then something else in the years after he retired. Only a court could overturn that. Thus there’s no point debating whether teachers “deserve” the pensions, because they have them. There’s equally no point in comparing them to Social Security or 401(k) plans. Teachers could have negotiated to be included in those programs instead of the pension if they wanted. No one wants to punish anyone, including teachers. What for? Everyone tries to make a living and negotiates their compensation for the effort they put forth.

I can’t speak for the publisher of this blog, but my concern is about the future. The school board continues to operate on the same assumptions as in rosier economic times, i.e., expanding the district’s budget by the maximum allowable percentage, and adding more generous salary increases to teachers and administrators alike. That’s a problem because then the combined effect of salaries and pension payments will be more than the taxpayers can afford.

For now, the teachers have their average +3.6% annual salary increase locked in for the next four years. But the district budget still has to be reconciled in December. That leaves plenty of time to freeze administrators’ salaries, eliminate some positions and/or programs, and take a sharp pencil to the capital budget. Maybe the parents who take advantage of the after-school program can shoulder the entire cost of it (i.e. make it a self-funding program).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our concern is the same as yours, FWT: the future. But our concern isn’t a function of harsh times or rosier times but of public policy.

So long as increases in compensation and benefits are based on cost of living or factors other than teacher and student performance, the compensation system remains irretrievably flawed. Cost of living increases are nothing short of the taxpayers ensuring the teachers’ purchasing power, not rewarding performance.

But so long as the same majority remains in control of the D-64 Board, nothing will change. Which means the cost of education will keep on going up while performance remains mediocre for the price.

PD:

If you want to compare a teachers pension to social security in a rant and as a way to make your point that is certainly your right but I do not think that is a valid comparison. Aside from the fact that teachers pay more into the pension fund than I do to SS, you focus on only one point and ignore the big picture.

You rage about your tax dollars going to pensions but you say nothing about 401Ks. The market has bounced back rather nicely over the last 3 years adn my 401K has improved dramatically. I started my post college career about the same time Klonsky started teaching. I followed my fathers advice and started contributing even early on when I was not making much but there was always matching from the companies I worked for.

Guess what?? Your (our) tax dollars are going to fund 401K’s!! Your tax dollars paid my employers for the matching funds they contributed to my 401K……in the form of, you guessed it…..write offs!!!! I know folks like you prefer to ignore the revenue side and just scream about smaller govt and spending (valid concerns by the way) but there is such a thing as a revenue side.

Companies, up to a point, have the ability to write off their contributions (matching) to their employees 401Ks. This of course means less revenue collected for the operations of government.

So what do you think would happen to 401k matching if write offs by employers were no longer allowed?? All those in favor please raise your hands.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s the PREA and the teachers who keep raising the issue of their not getting Social Security, not us. But since they raise it, we’ll treat it as fair game. And we sure don’t hear them begging to get into the S.S. system or keep their vested TRS benefits but switch to a 401(k) going forward. Wonder why?

No matter how good your 401(k) has “bounced back,” nothing about it is guaranteed. And unlike the teachers’ pensions, your 401(k) won’t get bailed out by the taxpayers if your investments don’t turn out too well.

As for the employer match being tax deductible, we’re against them as just more of the flawed tax policy – along with the home mortgage deduction, deductions for children, etc. – that has turned what was intended to be simple revenue raising into often bizarre social and economic engineering.

But that’s a goat rodeo Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and all those brilliant folks in Congress can wrangle. We’re sticking with Park Ridge-based local government.

Finally, if you think anything we’ve written is a “rant” or a “rage,” you need to get out of the convent more often.

Fair enough!! So you gather up a bunch of PR residents, many with government subsidized 401k’s, and some who might well work for Sears or CME, who demanded tax breaks or else they were out of here, and others who have cars with Wisconsin or Michigan plates, and get together and discuss the evils pensions for teachers at D64.

While you have the group together, perhaps you could have someone from the Parks Legcy Group talk about the importance of increasing our taxes by 1% (is it 12 mil???) to buy some land over by the country club.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just because federal income tax policy is screwed up doesn’t make automatic non-performance based raises for Park Ridge teachers good public policy. So your comments are pretty irrelevant.

As for the Parks Legacy Group, at least the taxpayers will get to vote for the Youth Campus project – unlike each decade’s worth of teacher raises between major referenda required to remedy D-64’s spending itself into crisis.

“Just because federal income tax policy is screwed up doesn’t make automatic non-performance based raises for Park Ridge teachers good public policy”.

I never said it did. I just find it difficult to ignore the fact that the majority of people screaming about teacher pensions have their own little special deal with the government that affects the other side of the house (revenue). The reality is a big chunk of the money that was obligated (contractually) to go to the pension fund went to various special interests and in tax breaks or other financial benefits (like subsidezed 401ks) we were all thrilled to have.

As an example, there are companies I have worked for over the years that have benefited from some of these advantages and I am sure many more. That affected their bottom line performance and profitibality. A piece or this was passed along to me in the form of raises and bonuses. There have been 4-5 times in my career that I recieved double digit percentage raises that came with promotions, one year 18%, that would take a teacher how many years to equal?!?!?!

Of all the numbers and percentages being thrown around here is the one I find most amazing. We live in an expensive area of the country and we are no longer in the 1060’s. Klonsky worked as a teacher for 30 years and it was only in his very final year of teaching that his salary passed the 100K mark.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologists for teachers’ unions always seem to find it “difficult to ignore” things that might distract the debate over teachers’ compensation and pensions.

Hey, maybe you were overpaid. But most private sector employees, unlike teachers, don’t get full-time pay for 8-9 months of work. Most of them, unlike teachers, can get fired for any reason or no reason at all. Most of them, unlike teachers, do not get contractually-guaranteed annual salary increases irrespective of teaching ability and performance, like the teachers’ “step” and “lane” increases. Most of them, unlike teachers, are under constant threat of their employers reducing their pay, or moving to another state, or to another country. And most of them, unlike teachers, have to manage their own retirement funds without any taxpayer guarantees.

What WE find “difficult to ignore” is that for 28 of the last 30 years that the Madigan/Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly was diverting money away from funding the teachers’ (and other public employees’) pensions, those teachers and public employees said nothing other than “Give us more money.” But now when they’re starting to catch heat for their sweetheart deals, they blame those politicians and even their own union leaders – whom they elected and empowered.

Maybe you should consider yourself lucky Klonsky bailed from the private sector for teaching – otherwise he may have had your job and your 18% raises while you would have been stuck with his salary that annualized out to over $100,000 from the time it reached $75-80,000.

PW:

The difference between public-sector employees, especially teachers, and private-sector employees can be summed up in two words: merit pay. From my experience, achievers want merit pay because it compensates them for their achievements, while slackers don’t. And guess what? Teachers and their unions oppose merit pay at every turn. It’s not that they want it but are struggling to find a way to implement it, they don’t want it, period. Slackers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You raise an interesting point, although it may not be quite that simple. While we’ve heard numerous stories over the years of teachers who basically phone it in, we’ve also heard stories of several outstanding teachers including, most recently, one who teaches civics/social studies at Emerson. It seems to us that those top shelf-ers deserve higher pay than the usual suspects.

To 5:21. To say teachers are opposed to merit pay because they are slackers is flat out wrong. Most teachers I know support merit pay but object to the less than accurate measures that have been developed. Merit pay based on test scores is particularly sticky and in fact could end up penalizing the teachers with the highest achievers.

I agree with 5:05’s comments and comparisons to the private sector. I’d also chime in that I believe the majority of teachers don’t go into it for the money. You’ve made your disdain for teachers clear but I can’t tell you how many overpaid (meaning people who were paid two or three times more than the highest-paid teachers in D64 with far fewer years of experience), slackers I’ve worked with over the years in the private sector who would be utterly useless in a classroom. It’s not a job you can “phone in” very easily.

As I’ve said before, I am all for fiscal responsibility in the school districts. But let’s start with the central office before we rip teachers apart for a job that most people unfortunately dismiss and underestimate.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We never have heard any teachers union support merit pay in any meaningful way, other than “We’re for it if it could be measured, but it can’t.” If teachers really wanted it, they’d have it – just like they got their raises and their pensions.

Okay, “teachers don’t go into it for the money.” How about: most of them go into it for the money, the pensions, AND the 3-4 months a year of free time? We have no “disdain for teachers” – our disdain is for the victimhood teachers have begun affecting now that the average taxpayer has finally awakened to how screwed up the entire public employment situation has become, in many instances led by the teachers and their union. And we don’t harbor any illusions of them doing the angels work, just like we harbor no similar illusions about doctors, lawyers, accountants, firemen, policemen, etc.

Starting reform with “the central office” is as illusory, contrived and cynical as the politicians in Springfield claiming reform of the pension system by starting with their own pensions, which are only a sliver of the problem.

PW: Regarding the story you heard about a great teacher at Emerson: I don’t doubt it at all. As a parent of two kids there, I can assure you there’s more than just one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t doubt that, either. But looking at it from a different angle, if there are so many great teachers in D-64 (who are the 25th highest paid in the state, managed by the 4th highest paid administrators in the state), why are the test scores so mediocre? Do we have too many stupid kids?

5:21:

Come on now…you are getting your termonology wrong!!! You see they are takers and you are a maker…..feel better???

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although we don’t entirely agree with 5:21, we at least can understand him/her. Is “takers” and “makers” the new code for “1%-ers” and “99%-ers”?

My children went through D64 schools and we found some outstanding teachers, some average teachers, and at least one horrible teacher. Teacher performance adheres to a bell curve just like any other occupation. Let’s not pretend that all teachers with identical experience and education deserve the same pay. That’s my complaint about the union; great teachers are not paid enough and horrible teachers are almost impossible to terminate. The union contract treats everyone the same regardless of his/her performance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not sure about the “bell curve,” but that’s a succinct and reasonably accurate description of the situation as we see it, too.

“Do we have too many stupid kids?”

I don’t know about that. But we do have plenty of disengaged parents who truly don’t seem to care what’s going on in the classroom. At least that’s my observation coming from another district a few years where parents were much more heavily involved. And test scores were marginally higher.

It’s not relevant to the conversation or even possible to measure but it would be interesting to see how test scores relate to kids whose parents actually care what their kids are doing. I’m satisfied with D64 because my kids have consistently scored near the very top on their ISATs. I know I’d be worried if they fell below expectations and I would make sure to work with teachers to identify the issues and help to correct them. Is it too much to ask that parents be more concerned and involved?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can speculate endlessly on the extent to which parents being “engaged” in their kids’ education affects performance on ISATs or other standardized testing, but we don’t see that getting us anywhere.

If the PREA and the teachers want to explain away mediocre test scores on “disengaged” parents, however, let them do it. Frankly, we’d welcome that kind of refreshing discussion instead of the cliched “we don’t teach to the test” alibi. But until that time comes, the 25th highest paid teachers and the 4th highest paid administrators have got to start taking ownership of their students’ much lower-ranked performance.

PD: It is not code for 99% or 1%. It is an example of an extremely narrow closed mind. He/She labels an entire group of people (in this case teachers) as slackers?!?!?! As mentioned by some above, I too have had MANY experiences with D64 teachers and they have been outstanding. As an aside, my kids have tested very well. Not to sound egotistical but that is as much due to my wife and I as her teachers.

I repled as I did becuase the poster reminds me very much of the makers and takers, 47% spiel. Just substitue the word slackers for victims…..same thought process.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you ar not being egotistical in claiming that your kids’ testing well is “as much due to [your] wife and [you] as her teachers,” that would suggest that the D-64 teachers and administrators may be grossly overpaid. Or have we reached the point where teachers and administrators have NO accountability for their own and their students’ performance?

A few points:

— Stereotyping teachers as “slackers” isn’t fair, or accurate. Just like any job, you’ll have good ones and bad ones. I’d bet we have mostly good ones, but I’m an optimist.

— Accordingly, we need merit pay to reward the good ones, rather than pay all teachers on the same scale. There needs to be an honest and sincere dialogue about it in D-64.

— Investing in classroom teachers is better than investing in administrators. D-64 has the 4th highest paid administrators. Perhaps we could freeze those salaries.

— The financial realities remain the same. We can’t keep increasing the D-64 budget automatically ever year, especially if Springfield foists the TRS on us.

Oh, and I totally agree with Anon 8:30 am about the engagement level of parents being a key factor. The education of our children is above all a parental responsibility, whether the children are schooled publicly or privately.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, FWT, but you just went over the falls.

The education of children is the school’s responsibility because that’s what the school exists to do, just like the construction of your house is the builder’s responsibility and the furnishing of medical care is the doctor’s responsiblity. If your new house collapses, or your doctor botches your surgery, are you going to accept the blame for it?

PD:

OK…Let’s take a look at your examples.

I fail to see how a builder can be a valid comparison. Once you approve that plans, a builder is 100% responsible for those plans being executed. There is no need for me to grab a hammer or pour cement (thank god). If the building falls down it is the builders responsibility because they did ALL the work. With the education of a child it is not so clear cut. I do play a role in whether by child excells in school. For my child to really get it, I have to work with them, review, make corrections, even after a long Monday when I would just rather finish my beer and see Romo throw more interceptions!

Your example of a Doctor is an interesting one. In the case of a surgeon, I would say the same as I said above. I am not the one doing the surgery.

However, there are medical examples that I think are a good comparison. Let’s say I get my knee or hip replaced, in part because I am overweight. The doctor can do a perfect job on the surgery but for it to work out I have to participate in the process. I have to work to lose the weight along with rehab and therapy. If I leave the hospital after surgery and go home put my feet up and have a burger, and the knee does not get better is that the doctors fault??

EDITOR’S NOTE: So then, in fairness, we should adjust our expectations (and the grading scale) for kids who live in one-parent homes because they’ve only got 1/2 of the parental resources working with them, reviewing, making corrections, etc.? And if that parent is merely a high school graduate rather than a college graduate, we should adjust those expectations even further because that drop-out parent can’t be as effective in helicoptering their kid as a college grad?

PW: My point is that as parents — and I am a parent — we must not disengage from our children’s education. Their education, like their health and welfare, is our responsibility. If we choose to send our children to the public schools, then we should still keep track of what/whether they are learning. Part of this responsibility is holding teachers accountable for how well they teach our children.

I can’t actually speak for Anon 8:30 am, but it seemed like his or her point was that too many parents disengage, not knowing or caring what their children are learning. These parents seem to think it is exclusively the job of some civil servant to teach their children. It’s 100% outsourced. In those unfortunate cases, the parental attitude sends a bad message for the children.

I disagree with anyone who claims parental disengagement as a rationale for poor performance by teachers. We need competent parents and competent teachers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t see much parental “disengagement” in Park Ridge, so we can’t agree with that theory. Plus, NOBODY – inluding those helicopter parents who already are so “engaged” in their kid’s education it’s almost painful – is “holding teachers accountable for how well they teach our children.”

But what the heck, if we can’t blame mediocre student performance on stupid kids, let’s blame it on incompetent parents – anything to make sure it doesn’t ever land on those highly-paid teachers and administrators whose job description reads “educate kids.”

Glad you agree with the comment that great teachers are underpaid and horrible ones are nearly impossible to fire. A D64 board member once told me that the latter comment is not true; it’s just cowardly administrators who won’t get rid of the bad ones. Whether it’s the fault of the work rules or the weenies, that part has to be fixed. I’ve said so every year for a decade every time they make the mistake of asking parents to take a survey. Everyone knows who the malevolent, incompetent teachers are. You’ll enjoy the current issue of the Atlantic mag in which the novel idea is put forth that kids be allowed to grade their teachers. You’ll be downcast or disbelieving to learn that regardless of income, race, etc., the kids all responded that challenging classes are the good ones. To me, this tracks; learning is like making whoopie — nature rewards us for doing what is adaptive to survival. In real life, kids love to learn, but it’s a hands-on, not raise-your-hand setting. How to fix that in “civilization?” I don’t know, but since some are doing it right already, let’s reward them hugely and see if we can’t get a few more to decide creating, rather than Bain-style wrecking, is worth a living.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please let us know when the PREA comes up with its plan for performance-based merit compensation for the “good” teachers that doesn’t also reward the not-so-good and bad ones. And don’t take this the wrong way, but we won’t be holding our collective breath while waiting.

“I can’t actually speak for Anon 8:30 am, but it seemed like his or her point was that too many parents disengage, not knowing or caring what their children are learning.”

Yes, that was my point. However, it’s not that I believe parents in Park Ridge don’t care about their kids, but that they seem to put too much blind trust in the schools and teachers. They assume the teachers have the kids’ education under control, so they take their eye off the proverbial ball. As a result they tend to be unaware of what’s happening on the “front lines” of the classroom, good or bad.

As for PW’s remark, “So then, in fairness, we should adjust our expectations (and the grading scale) for kids who live in one-parent homes because they’ve only got 1/2 of the parental resources working with them, reviewing, making corrections, etc.?”

Please. I wasn’t suggesting that parental involvement should actually be a factor in measuring the success of a student. Plenty of kids with no parental support do well, and plenty of kids with supportive parents still struggle. But I think that’s further proof of how hard it is to evaluate teachers based on test scores, when success or failure is based on so many factors that simply aren’t measurable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In other words, just what we’ve been saying: no accountability whatsoever required of teachers and administrators. Brilliant!

Um, folks, while we’ve been discussing teacher evaluations…it seems that Maine Township voted itself a +12% raise! http://www.journal-topics.com/news/article_08e91dd8-0d9a-11e2-a059-001a4bcf6878.html

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the catch, FWT, but township government in this state seems so unnecessary and just plain wrong on so many levels that we can’t get very hyped about it. Plus it’s been a Republican circus for so long, with the Thompson/Ducycz/Mulligan contretemps, that the most we can muster for it is benign neglect.



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