Friday, September 18, 2009

The Craze That's Sweeping the Nation

Bob Williams and Lynn Harsh cutting some rug
The Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Liberty Live blog has the scoop about the St. John's Education Association voting to decertify the union and throw in with the Northwest Professional Educators instead. That makes them the second school district this decade to do so, following the lead of Sprague-Lamont in 2004.

Good for them. If a group of teachers wants to go it alone that's absolutely their right. As a local president I know that I lean on my Uniserv representatives pretty heavily and wouldn't want to fight some of the fights I've had to fight without them (and here's a public thank you to Sally, Pat, and Mike for the work they do).

I think, too, that Sprague-Lamont is an interesting case. If you wander over to the OSPI website and look at the financial data for the district (you'll have to hunt, because Sprague-Lamont is actually Sprague and Lamont until school consolidation happens), but here's some of the information you'll find:
  • In 2004 the Lamont School District had a .6 principal and no superintendent. By last year they had budgeted for a .180 superintendent (at a cost of $23,315)
  • In 2004 "Teaching Activities" accounted for 47.21% of the spending in Lamont. In 2009, that had gone down to 45.53%
  • In 2004 the salary and benefits package for the .6 FTE principal in Lamont added up to $47,487. The budgeted amount for last year? $57,650. That's a raise of better than $2,000 a year.
In Lamont, then, the percentage of the pie spent on teachers has gone down, while at the same time the principal is making $10,000 a year more (out of a budget of about $811,000) and they have superintendent spending that they didn't 5 years ago.

At the same time, the number of students enrolled full-time at Lamont has dropped from an average of 36.89 in 2004-2005 to an average of 32 last year. Declining enrollment, less money for teachers, but they've added a superintendent and upped the pay for the principal.

But that's only the Lamont part of the school combination, where the kids go for middle school. What about Sprague, the larger district that takes the students for K through 5 and high school?
  • In 2008-2009, the principal made $73,416 a year, up from $65,225 in 2004-2005.
  • In 2004-2005, Sprague had a full time (1.0 FTE) superintendent, but by 2008-2009 that had been cut down to .540. Success!
  • But wait....in 04-05 that Superintendent made $80,000 a year, but in 08-09 it was $69,944. That's because they raised the base salary that the Superintendent's take-home salary is figured off of, and the practical effect is that a nearly 50% cut in time only amounted to a 12.5% cut in spending. I guarantee you no teacher is getting that deal.
  • In 04-05 "Teaching" was 51.67% of the budget; "Unit Administration" plus "Central Administration" adds up to 16.8%. In 06-07, the last year for which actual numbers are available right now, "Teaching" had a slight uptick to 51.68%; Administrative costs went up to 17.45% of the district budget. They're holding the line on teaching costs, but not on administration. Why do you suppose that is?


At the same time, Sprague has dropped to an average of 79.39 students in 08-09, down from 92.54 in 04-05

The great hope is that the relationship between the teachers and the administrators isn't adversarial, but the other great hope is that there is two-way accountability. It's a romantic notion that the Northwest Professional Educators puts forward, that "professionalism" can win all in the workplace, but in Sprague-Lamont, with a neutered "professional association", the administration has been lining their pockets while the district is withering on the vine.

It will be interesting to look at St. Johns in 5 years and see what their trends are.

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