Monday, November 17, 2008

Columnist: Cut school taxes by cutting school boards

It's a vicious cycle. People run for their local school board with the best of intentions, promising to put an end to runaway spending for public education and put a lid on property tax increases.

They get elected and check their brains at the door. They end up rubber-stamping every spending initiative introduced by the administration, including those palatial school buildings.

They "negotiate" contracts with teachers' unions that provide teachers with raises and benefits that other workers can only dream about. Some of the board members get voted out, but their replacements are no better. And so it goes.

Joseph J. Ryan, writing in The Intelligencer in Doylestown, has a suggestion: Eliminate school boards entirely. School boards have failed both students and the taxpayers, Ryan argues. In many cases, it's school boards that stand in the way of reforming a failing education system.

From Ryan's column:
School board responsibility begins with the effective education of their students and the financial interests of taxpayers; neither requirement is being addressed. School boards intimidated by union strike threats find placating the unions their primary function, the reason teachers' right to strike should be abolished. Postal, state and federal employees are forbidden to strike; 41 states have also disallowed teacher union strikes, why not Pennsylvania?

To correct public education's fiscal excesses, school budgets and the new craze, new school structures, should be put to a referendum. We are no longer dealing with nickels and dimes in Bucks County; some budgets are approaching $200 million a year, 66 percent of that figure consumed in excessive teacher salaries and bloated benefits.

America's teacher unions have successfully forged the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on a legally coerced taxpaying public, ever rising school taxes with no return on investment. In 2006-07, despite Bristol Township's consistently poor academic performance, the top teacher salary was $85,427, cost of benefits $28,475, total salary $113,902 for a 40-week work year, or $2,847 per week. Of that preposterous salary, teachers grudgingly agreed to pay an insignificant $45 toward a $1,250 monthly healthcare premium.

Nationally, taxpayers have contained the avaricious demands of the teacher unions. The first step is to abolish their right to strike; divest them of the tenure entitlement, a sanctuary for academic incompetents; rescind their right to due process, and put every union or school board proposal to a taxpayer vote.

Additionally, local school boards should be abolished. Similar to Hawaii, professionals in economics, the media, law, academia, the business and corporate communities should be appointed to a newly formed state panel and given unconditional jurisdiction in dealing with individual districts. They should be compensated consistent with their expertise.
Why does Pennsylvania have 501 school districts, with 501 school boards? Each school district has at least one superintendent making a six-figure salary who surrounds himself with an army of high-paid administrators. Imagine the savings by consolidating the 501 school districts by county. That would leave just 67 school districts. And that's just a start.

Read Ryan's full column at the newspaper's Web site.


Anonymous said...

Tony this guy is right, a reletive of mine ran for local school board, got elected,wanted to bring down taxes, etc. and end up doing exactly what Ryan said , rubber stamping, and he said their hands are tied because of state mandates.

That being said, the article below Ryan's talks about the turnpike and possible layoffs,I know people who work for TP, now would I rather pay $85,000 to a teacher, or $70 to $80,000 for turnpike worker with OT ...


The reader above does make a good point about teachers vs. Turnpike workers. I don't have a problem with paying teachers a good salary because I know how hard most of them work, but there are a lot of bad teachers who are never held accountable by spineless school boards ... and are protected by unions who only look out for themselves. I'd like to see some cuts in administration expenses or a reduction in the cost of buildings before any cuts in teachers, but we're reaching a point where we can't afford to pay property taxes anymore to support the bloated public education establishment.