Monday, June 25, 2012

Next Minooka 201 School Board Meeting or Par for the Course Part II

The next meeting of the Minooka CCSD 201 school board is Wednesday, June 27, 2012. The Committee of the Whole Meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. in the board room (the old library) at the Minooka Primary Center located at 305 Church Street in Minooka. The Committee of the Whole Meeting will be followed by a Budget Hearing at 6:45 p.m. in the gymnasium. The Budget Hearing will be followed by the regular Board Meeting at 7 p.m. Each of the meetings are open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend. You can find the agenda for each of the meetings here.

You may notice that one of the items on the agenda is the retirement of Assistant Superintendent Stef Palaniuk after the 2015-2016 school year. This may seem like an innocuous agenda item, but instead it will be another instance of padding an administrator's salary for his last years of service and consequently his pension (for a discussion regarding this practice see Par for the Course). The school board is likely to vote to give the Assistant Superintendent a package that is substantially similar to the one recently given to the Superintendent (including four annual raises of six percent per year, severance bonuses for a number of years after retirement, and health care coverage until he is eligible for Medicare). This practice which pads an administrators' pension is one of the reasons that among the Illinois pension reform proposals is a plan to shift the pension costs of local teachers and administrators to the local school district (see here and here).

A reason that is commonly given to support this practice is that this is "the same deal that the teachers receive pursuant to their contract."  While this may seem like a fair point, it is not the whole story.   The provision of the teachers contract that is being referred to is an early retirement incentive (see page 29 of the teachers contract).  This provides an incentive for veteran teachers to retire.  When a veteran teacher (often being paid in excess of $70,000 per year) retires at the end of their many years of service, they are typically replaced by a recent college graduate who enters the salary schedule at a much lower rate of pay (close to $40,000 per year).  This early retirement incentive was put in place so that the district can SAVE money.  But, when an administrator is replaced, the new administrator's salary is typically based upon the previous administrator's last salary.

So, padding the administrators' salaries at the end of their careers is just throwing the taxpayers' money at them with NO SAVINGS and no real advantage for the district.  In other words, the district gets nothing of value for this give away.  In addition, the reality of the situation is that this practice harms the school district.  Many people act as if the amount of money available for public services is infinite, but I assure you that it is not.  And whether the additional money for these padded salaries and padded pensions comes out of local district money or state money, the truth is that there is less money to be spent in the classrooms.

Therefore, this practice directly harms education in order to enrich a small group of people.  If the local district had to pay the increases to the TRS pension liabilities due to this practice, it is very likely that districts would engage in the practice much less often.  So, we can talk all we want about the unsustainable spending practices that occur in Springfield or Washington, D.C., but if we want to find unsustainable spending practices, we need look no further than our own local school district.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Martin,
    Being a recent retiree (2011) who proudly worked more than 35 years in the district I could not agree more with you. I was quite shocked that the Superintendent and now Asst. Superintendent were given the incentive pay the teachers were given. Neither one has met the "time taught IN the district" that we were required to have in order to receive the incentive. If the incentive is offered to administrators in the district who can retire but do not "qualify" for the district incentive then I think it should also be offered to teachers who qualify to retire through TRS but do not "qualify" for the incentive as well. I think we should be fair to those in the lower ranks as well as the higher ranks. And the fact the administrators, in general, get their medical benefits paid for til they can get Medicare is ridiculous. They make much more money than any teacher and can more than afford to buy their own insurance like we less paid teachers have had to do in order to have insurance. And if Springfield has anything to do with it we may not even get the option of "buying" our insurance til Medicare. When districts are in such financial difficulty I agree we should not be "enriching" this group of people, no matter how small the number.