Julie Shaffer who is running for a Lakota School Board seat and representing the Pro Lakota movement came on 700 WLW and debated me on Doc Thompson’s show. Julie had some good points from her view-point, and I maintained my usual opinion. It was the public response to this debate that I think is most telling. WLW is widely heard by all demographics in the adult population all across Ohio so the callers who responded to our debate speak volumes of the values our communities currently embody. Click the video below to listen to that very important broadcast. (BE SURE TO LISTEN TO THE WHOLE BROADCAST)
One thing that came up constantly during the debate is the controversy over numbers. Julie interprets them one way, I interpret them another. But the facts are the facts in spite of what one side or the other wish to see. As to my facts, I look at them without attempting to make them speak slander. And the summary of this whole Lakota Levy Debate is this—what is the value of a teacher and how much should we pay them?
It is my opinion that years of radicalism in the teaching profession have distorted the actual value of the service. This leaves us with the difficult position of discovering what the market value is of a teacher, and that is what these levy defeats all over Cincinnati are all about. We are establishing what we as a community are willing to pay for a teacher.
That teacher radicalism can be seen easily in this recent Letter to the Editor published in The Pulse Journal pointing at me for having a lack of respect for teachers.
What many people don’t understand is just how much teachers cost. At Lakota during the school year of 2009-2010 the average pay of a Lakota teacher was $62,331. The following year it was $63,727 and mysteriously went up even with a pay freeze and step increase freeze under a new 3 year contract. Why? Well, it is because of the teachers laid-off that Lakota cut to meet its budget reducing it by $12 million. How many of those new teachers were really good and how many teachers paid top dollar but aren’t so good kept their job? It was the lower paid teachers who were taken out of the equation, which drove up the average salary. Over the span of time shown above approximately 60% of the teachers received “step increases” of around 3%. This is the kind of thing that has driven up the labor costs and made school levies a necessity, because the schools perceive they need the money because they do not recognize a limit to what is available to them. To put this in perspective, the cost of those increases were around $2.1 million. The savings of the busing cuts is $2.8 million. So it could be said that the busing cuts at Lakota were needed to pay for the increases the teachers received over the last school year.
Even though administrators at Lakota have not received an increase of any kind over the last three years, they do average a pay rate of $80,747 a year. At that rate of pay, who would think they’d need a pay increase. Julie and I discussed on the air two versions of what we believe the average pay to be of a person living in West Chester is. I said the average person is making 50K per year, which included professionals of all types with various degrees. Julie thinks it’s over $70K per year which explains why the people on her side don’t understand the problem. They live in that “Education Bubble” which sees the world through the eyes of academia, which is idealistic in its interpretation of the information they see, and that view is clearly out-of-touch. That can be heard in the callers that followed our debate.
(BY THE WAY, TO SEE THE REAL NUMBERS FOR YOURSELF, HERE IS CNN MONEY MAGAZING’S REVIEW OF WEST CHESTER. THIS SHOWS HOW MUCH PEOPLE AVERAGE IN INCOME.)
It is irresponsible to ask a community that is suffering from record foreclosures, where business owners have to lower their lease rates to keep their business tenets, because the taxes are so unattractive, then you compare that reality to the world of Julie Shaffer and her Pro Levy teachers and one can only wonder how the teachers don’t see it.
In a late night meeting with Superintendent Mantia where she reached out to those of us in the No Lakota Group hoping to earn our trust in her ability to get control of these crazy costs, that we told her flatly, Lakota should pull the levy, it should then ask the teachers to take a reasonable pay cut to bring that average teacher salary into the mid-50’s. Mantia in my assessment understood our point of view, and she understood the conditions outside of that education bubble, but indicated that the levy was already in the process.
One of the No Lakota Members in our group then said, “Those Pro Levy People have 30K in money they raised from last time that has been sitting in a bank since last fall, and it’s burning a hole in their pockets, and we think that’s why you guys are going through with this levy.”
Mantia shrugged her shoulders. “I just got here, gentlemen. I’m trying.”
We shook her hand and wished her well into the rainy night knowing that we had more in common than we did in differences. The only difference is she’s in charge of that “education bubble” and we want to pop it. Because the people within that bubble need to share in the world the rest of us live in. Because then and only then can a realistic discussion about the value of a teacher be ascertained.
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