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February 1, 2012     The New Era Paper
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February 1, 2012
 

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ht , "gr,, - February l, 2012 COMMUNITV OPINION Page 5 School Board looks at four-day week, alternatives By Sean C. Morgan Of The New Era The District 55 School Board continued mulling the idea of a four-day school week Monday night at a work session to look at ways to close around a $1 million gap in funding, around 6 to 7 percent, for the 2012-13 school year. The four-day school week is one item on the list of possible budget reductions, and Supt. Don Schrader is estimating a 2-percent savings of $340,000. Along with the four-day week, other possible estimated cuts include $211,000 in administrator and supervisor salaries based on attrition, leaving two out of three administrators at the high school; $108,000 in maintenance reductions; $116,000 in layoffs; $30,000 by redrawing elementary attendance boundaries; $50,000 by cutting pool funding; $250,000 in reserve funds for retirement and for maintenance; and $35,000 by reorganizing the Central Office. The proposals will save an estimated $1.14 million. Schrader said the percentage of administration being cut is the same as if the district cut $595,000 in teachers or nearly $300,000 in classified staff. Monday night, Schrader identified about $880,000 in possible alternatives. Among them is a 2-percent rollback in wages for $200,000 in savings; four furlough days for $220,000; raising class sizes for $175,000; reducing classified time for $92,000; restricting district-paid retiree insurance for $20,000; a 15-percent reduction on all extra-curricular activities for $15,000; reducing high school stipends for $21,500; contracting out food services for $30,000; cutting field trips for $10,000; reducing the Public Employees Retirement System debt service fund for $50,000; and reducing the early retirement liability fund for $50,000. He also suggested an unknown cut in athletics. Several items on both lists require bargaining with employee unions. Schrader also shared the latest on the paper survey about the four-day school week. With 494 responses, 38 percent of respondents supported a four-day school week. Some 47 percent opposed the four-day week, and 15 percent were unsure. Two-thirds of respondents were parents, and about a third were students. In an online survey of 262 that included a mix of classified and certified staff, parents, students and community members 41 percent supported a four-day week, and 46 percent opposed it. While facing a budget crunch, the district must still adapt to changing standards, Schrader said. Among them, the district must implement nationalized common core standards by 2014, which will involve overhauls of the curriculum as districts begin moving away from the current state standards. Meanwhile, the state has had 14 consecutive quarters of decreasing tax revenues, Schrader said. At a meeting with legislative and education leaders, he learned that schools will likely be held harmless in the second-half of the biennium even if revenues continue declining. Leaders also are optimistic that revenues will begin growing again at some point, he said, but PERS gained only 2 percent on its investments in 2011, while the retirement fund is based on an assumption of 8 percent growth per year. That means districts' PERS rates will increase to cover the unfunded liability, said Business Manager Kevin Strong. The district is already paying some $2 million per year into PERS. Board conversation focused on the proposed four-day school week, and district staff recapped some of what they learned in other districts, and much of that discussion was about the impact on classified employees. A large portion of the savings would be in classified time. In other districts, the classified employees feel that the cuts are all coming down on them, Schrader said. "It's tough to work when you're not feeling appreciated." He also found that some districts are using grant funds to bring classified employees back for training, Schrader said. It won't work for all of them, but for many, such as instructional assistants preparing for the new standards, it can provide additional hours. In doing so, he hopes the district could show its appreciation a little more. If an assistant is working 30 hours per week now, the longer four-day schedule will probably have them working 28 hours, Schrader said. Training time could help them regain their hours. That's something the district should be doing anyway, he said, if it can schedule the time on the five- day schedule. Board support for a four-day week doesn't appear strong. Billie Weber said there are other ways to save money, and she opposes the four-day week. "I'm very concerned about going to a four-day school week," said David VanDerlip. He has two concerns. First is the disproportionate burden it would place on classified employees. "I think it's very important not to pit one group of employees against another," VanDerlip said. "I think it's going to be very damaging to the morale." He also is concerned about parents who both work and must find daycare while trying to make ends meet, he said. "It's this whole idea of having this inequity of sacrifice that troubles me." He would like to spread the pain out to everyone, VanDerlip said, and he supports rolling back wages as an alternative to achieve that. Perhaps the district should look for more than a 2-percent reduction in wages, he said. Saving money on maintenance isn't a good long-term decision. The district can postpone some maintenance, but he thinks it would be worse than the short-term gains. "It is true the classified people take the brunt of it," said Mike E. Adams. But looking at it another way, the teachers will be working the same hours, while the classified would work fewer hours. He agreed that the district cannot keep digging a hole in reserve funds. But the problem is union members are not going to want to lose 2 percent and would rather see layoffs. "You're just kind of rolling the dice," Adams said. "In hard times we're going through, the pie chart shows where it has to come from," said Chanz Keeney, referring to wages. Some 87 percent of the district's budget is wages. And most of the district's cuts are going to have to be bargained, he said. Jenny Daniels said she agreed with VanDeflip, but asked what would happen if the district continued a five-day week and asked for the 2 percent wage rollback and neither union approved. Daniels' biggest concern about continuing a five-day schedule is the loss of instructional time for the students, she said. With the four- day week, she is concerned the day might be too long for elementary students. Foster had an after-school program for five years that ended at 4:30 p.m., said Glenna DeSouza, principal at Foster. Hawthorne is battling attendance problems, said Principal Ryan Beck. It would probably help out with attendance on the four-day week. "It will be on the agenda for the 13th," said Chairman Jason Redick. There will at least be some more discussion. "I hope for a decision. We need to move forward." Redick is undecided on the four-day week so far. "I honestly can say, I don't know," Redick said. "There was more discussion tonight that has me thinking again." Dale Keene, Mike Reynolds and Daniels declined to give an opinion, while Kevin Burger said "I am against it." Present at the meeting were board members Adams, Weber, Keeney, Keene, Redick, Reynolds, VanDerlip, Daniels and Burger. Compare From page 4 due to billions of taxpayer dollars going to support the efforts of his contributors. He will make this claim even as television news re- ports show workers at Solyndra, one of many failed "green" taxpay- er-funded boondoggles, throwing out valuable glass worth millions rather than put it on the market for bid. A president who will tout en- ergy independence, even as he has cut off access to the largest source of oil in the North American con- tinent by denying the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ironi- Cally, the same president hailed the offshore drilling efforts of Brazilian-owned Petrobras as he gave $2 billion U.S. taxpayer dol- lars to the effort to develop the same resource that his Administra- tion won't allow to be developed in the U.S. and hopes to block in Canada. A president who presides over the greatest expansion in welfare in the history of the nation mak- ing government dependents of tens of millions of Americans, while blaming those who don't take gov- ernment largesse for being too stin- gy to share any more of their hard earned wealth. A president, who railed against waterboarding of our nation's enemies, yet presides over a dra- matically expanded predator drone program that turns assassination of those we suspect of being our en- emies into a video game, even if they're U.S. citizens. A president who will blame capitalism for the European debt crisis, when the crisis is really one of the failure of European socialist governments and the banks which lent them the money to enable so- cialists to keep spending and mak- ing promises that they had no hope to ever keep. A president who promises the enslavement of debt to Americans in order to keep small comforts today, rather than recognizing that his dramatic expansion of govern- ment spending cannot be sustained lest we become like those countries that are failing in Europe. Compare the soaring words of President Reagan and his defense of individual liberty as the driver of our nation's wealth to the promised chains offered by the current occu- pant of the office. The State of the Union has al- ways been a political message. The question for America is whether we want the state described by Reagan or Obama? A state where each individual has the freedom to succeed or fail? Or a state where the govern- ment punishes success and dictates who can succeed not based upon the quality of ideas, but instead on the depth of their White House contacts. We, the people, still have the right to embrace the hope that Pres- ident Reagan offered in 1988, or the controlling bonds that our cur- rent president is trying to convince us to slip on willfully. Ultimately, the question is do we still agree with Reagan that, "limited government.., is the best way of ensuring personal liberty and empowering the individual so that every American of every race and region shares fully in the flow- ering of American prosperity and freedom." 12x18. Using high-definition match any picture We toners we For the future state of the Union, I pray that we do. Rick Manning is the Commu- nications Director of Americans for Limited Government. can le or