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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Screaming headline decries union thoughtfulness

by folkbum

The federal government is sending a fairly significant chunk of funds toward the Milwaukee Public Schools to be spent over the next two years. This money is part of the so-called "stimulus" package, which is designed to get money into communities, putting people to work and saving jobs--at least until the money runs out after 2011. The theory is that either the economy will be better by then and the jobs will be sustainable, or the projects funded will be temporary or one-time sorts of deals.

One of the district administration's proposed ways to spend the funds--these temporary stimulus funds designed to pay for new jobs or save lost jobs--is apparently to extend the school day for K through 8, upping the pay of K-8 teachers in return.

At first glance, you might think this is the sort of thing the selfish, greedy union bastards would love--more money for us! you might imagine them saying. Well, if your image of the union is that we're a bunch of selfish, greedy bastards then I suppose that makes sense. But that's not actually true of us. Instead, the union has pointed out that this proposal has some problems. Consider:
• Jobs saved spending money this way: 0. Jobs created spending money this way: 0.
• The funds are temporary; the teachers would take a pay cut in two years, the schedule would change back in two years, or taxpayers would be on the hook for the higher salaries in two years. None of those options sounds reasonable.
• More of the same is just more, not better. The extra time is supposed to be for math instruction, but there's no word on how we're going to better prepare our K-8 teachers--probably almost none of whom have math degrees or expertise in the subject--to be better math teachers.
Parents thought the idea was a bad one, too, and in fact support union-proposed ideas like smaller classes (which would also be unsustainable with stimulus funds, but at least wouldn't be more of the same) and finding ways to get disruptive students out of classrooms.
And then the superintendent lays this one on us:
In an interview, Andrekopoulos said he was concerned that employees are not acting like they will be part of solving the spending problems.

"If they are not part of the solution, there isn't a place for them to have jobs in the future," Andrekopoulos said. "People have to get to the place where they realize there isn't going to be more money here."
Whoa Nelly! The union is the one wanting to spend money? Let's look at what the proposal from the administration said again, just a few paragraphs earlier in the story:
The MPS chief said Thursday night that the union rejected adding 25 minutes to the school day for teaching math at all elementary and kindergarten-through-eighth grade schools. The union also rejected a proposal that would give all teachers six additional hours a month to work on improving programs in their schools. In both cases, teachers would have been paid for the additional time in line with their hourly rate of pay.
The administration wants to pay 4,000+ K-8 teachers for an extra 2.5 hours a week; the administration wants to pay all 6,000+ teachers in the district for an extra six hours a month of planning time; and the union is somehow the side in this that doesn't understand there's no money to spend?

Seriously, how does that make even a lick of sense?

So, anyway, what's the headline to the story? Is it "Superintendent rejects will of parents and demands more of same"? Is it, "In budget crunch, Superintendent proposes more money to teachers"? No, it's "MPS teachers reject longer day for more pay."

I ask again, how does that even make a lick of sense?

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