Jerry Brown announced that K-12 education (i.e., the teachers’ unions) will be spared budget cuts in his budget proposal. He will spare them at least until the vote on a tax extension happens in June. I will not vote for a tax increase to support union salaries.
Why? Because all the cuts that need to be made are not being proposed. Unions are being made exempt from the cuts, state employees, prison workers, teachers, etc., etc. Witness the 10% cut in salary to the state workers without a union. If there were no unions supporting Jerry Brown, would we be asked to vote for a tax increase at a time when most of us are struggling to make ends meet? I think not.
According to the Sacramento Bee’s business section the other day, the average HOUSEHOLD income in Sacramento is $57,361. Interesting that the average INDIVIDUAL teacher salary in California is higher than whole households, at $59,825 (http://teacherportal.com/salary/California-teacher-salary). This tells me that teachers are overpaid in the current economy. It tells me that we don’t need to increase taxes, we need to cut teacher salaries. It tells me we don’t need fewer teachers, we need the average teacher salary to drop proportionally with the current economic reality.
The same is true for Community College. I hear that the funding for Community College is being cut severely and scrutinized for more cuts. I can imagine that the unions will be hard at work to keep the salaries high. A friend of mine back in about 1995 was making $50 per hour to teach economics at night in a community college. I can only imagine what the teacher’s hourly rates are today.
The elephant in the classroom is union salaries. And don’t forget the administration where most principals are earning salaries at or above 100k per year. The 2010-2011 budget (http://2010-11.archives.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/Revised/BudgetSummary/SummaryCharts.pdf) shows that California apportioned almost 36 billion dollars toward K-12 education. Standard accounting practice in most school districts is to try to keep salaries at about 85% of their total budget. This means that about 30.6 billion of the budget is spent on salaries and benefits. This means that if teachers took the same 10% pay cut that the unrepresented state workers are taking, there would be a savings of almost 3 billion (since it is harder to reduce benefits by a percentage unless you just take something away). And that’s just education, what if all the state employees with a union took a ten percent reduction? Would the tax increase Jerry Brown is asking for be necessary?
I will not be pretending in June that there isn’t an elephant in the classroom. I don’t think we need to cut teachers, we only need to cut salaries. Our kids deserve adequate numbers of teachers. Teachers deserve a decent salary. But can teachers argue in this economy that reducing an average salary of 59,825 by 10% to 53,842.50 is a hardship when that would only put an INDIVIDUAL teacher $3,518.50 below the average HOUSEHOLD income in Sacramento?
The elephant in the classroom, and in the government at all levels, is union-bloated salaries. The budget problem is not too many teachers, workers, or a need for additional taxes, it is a need to stand up to the unions. I can see that Jerry Brown has folded to the unions within the first 11 days of his term. I can tell Jerry Brown right now what I will vote. NO WAY! California voters will have to do what Jerry Brown is unwilling to do, stand up to the unions at last.
I say make the cuts now, then ask the tax payers if they miss anything. Unions are only forced to really negotiate when there is no money, not by guaranteeing level funding.
We need to put the elephant in the classroom on a diet.