In public school districts across America, the financial crisis has been followed by calls for school district cutbacks, layoffs and wage freezes amid budget crises.
One Michigan superintendent has offered to forgo his salary next year in order to help the district with budget shortfalls, reported Ed Reform Radar on June 4. “Farrell, a small-town superintendent from Montabella, Michigan, made big news this week when he offered to give up his entire $95,820 annual salary next year to help the district balance its troubled budget,” they write (formatting original).
However, the local Board of Education decided to not take him entirely up on his offer: “The school board did not accept his offer in full, insisting it will pay Farrell something for his efforts in 2010-11. But the salary probably won’t be much, and Farrell said his gift will probably save the district somewhere between $80,000 and $85,000,” reports RADAR, a publication of the Education Action Group, a Michigan nonprofit promoting to school choice and competition in education.
The superintendent, Ron Farrell, told RADAR in an interview that “I’m not by any means trying to set an example. My intentions are 180 degrees from that.”
“I don’t think superintendents are overpaid at all,” he continued. “I hope I have a few superintendent friends left. They’re probably thinking, what is he doing to us?”
The RADAR writers disagree. “More than anything, we hope national and state officials of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers take serious note of Farrell’s actions,” they write (formatting original). “ If they would simply encourage their local unions to accept a one-year pay freeze, with no step increases, it would do a lot of schools a great deal of good,” they continue. “Thousands of teacher layoffs, as well as deep cuts in student programs, could be avoided.”
In New Jersey, the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NJEA) opposes wage freezes suggested by Republican Governor Chris Christie as a wage to adjust budget deficits. NJEA recently claimed on its website that the Governor had “reneged” on his efforts to work with them for Race to the Top federal funds.
“Rather than put his support behind the agreement that his own Commissioner negotiated, Gov. Christie is insisting on an application that seeks to replace collaboration between teachers with competition for inadequate bonuses; an application that seeks to threaten teachers’ jobs rather than give them the confidence to take on new challenges,” states the NJEA website. The NJEA asserts that it only heard its deal with the Education Commissioner was over when it contacted the office to check the status of the RTT application.
NJ.com reported on June 1 that “The agreement announced last week seemed to be a compromise to try to do better, but it was apparently made without Christie’s sign-off. The Republican governor said he first heard of his Education Commissioner Bret Schundler’s compromise after it was publicly announced and insisted the application be reworked.”
For himself, Governor Christie recently argued that “the fight” in his state “…is about who is going to run public education in New Jersey, the parents and the people they elect or the mindless, faceless union leaders who decide that they’re going to be the ones who are gonna run it because they have the money and the authority to bully around school boards and local councils.”
“My argument is not with teachers in New Jersey, my argument is with the union…” he had earlier commented at the Town Hall.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.