Betting that we’ll cave

 Aug. 25, 2009

It is now one day until KEA members meet to either ratify a new contract or vote to strike. Months of negotiations have passed and the Kent School District has yet to seriously respond to teachers’ key concerns about class size or time with students.

The district frittered away a marathon 13-hour mediation session Monday as KEA responded to the major contract takeaways in Saturday’s Kent School Board proposal. Much of the discussion focused on whether the district will abandon its gambit to carve seniority rights out of our contract. The district did not address its proposal to layoff teachers at will.

“We have spent all day trying to get back to where we left off on Friday night,” KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett said.

As you may recall, the district on Saturday proposed eliminating nearly all specific financial reasons that would be needed to lay off teachers. The district also wants to make recognizing seniority an option, not a requirement. The contract’s common-sense budget safeguards would vanish. Here are the current financial safeguards that the district wants to eliminate:

  • The district shall minimize the numbers of employees to be laid off by:
    a.         Reducing cash reserves to replace depleted revenue.
    b.         Reducing expenditure in areas of capital outlay, travel, contractual services, books and supplies and space allocations.
     
  • The district shall not reduce the levels of teachers beyond the numbers necessary to remain within the anticipated financial revenues for the following school year. 

KEA’s Bargaining Team spent part of Monday revising our own proposal on class size. At a parent meeting at the district office Monday night, one parent asked why negotiators were waiting so long to discuss such important issues. KEA noted that we put class size proposals on the table in April, and we’re still waiting for a reply from the district. A stunned silence fell over the room. District administrators offered no explanation to parents for their reluctance to bargain in earnest.

KEA tried to address class size again Monday, but the district failed to provide information we’d requested last week about class size and case load until Monday evening. It again raises questions about the district’s leadership and priorities.

“They could bring in people on the weekend and pay overtime to send out a mailing to parents that was critical of teachers,” McNett said. “But they couldn’t bring in anyone to get data on class sizes and caseloads that is essential to getting the contract settled.”

The data is essential because the district has been saying KEA’s class size proposal would cost $40 million and break the bank. KEA asked the district to show how it came up with that number. The district could not. But KEA did the math: Assuming a mid-career teacher earns $70,000 in salary and benefits, the district could hire nearly 600 new teachers — over a third more new teachers than the entire current teaching staff of the Kent School District. Once again, the district’s financial numbers appear shaky.

Not enough teachers, too many administrators: A question of priorities

Ever wonder why so many administrators are telling the community that Kent can’t afford more teachers? It’s because the Kent School District has so many administrators.

 Under the Kent School Board’s misguided priorities, Kent has dropped to the bottom of the barrel in the percent of the district’s budget spent in the classroom. But the percentage of the budget spent on administrators ranks at the top of comparable districts.

 

% of Total Spent on Teaching and Teaching Support

Rank 

 

 

% of Total Spent on Unit and Central Administration

 

Federal Way 

73.4%

1

 

Federal Way

11.3%

6

Tacoma

71.5%

5

 

Tacoma

12.6%

2

Auburn

70.9%

6

 

Auburn

11.8%

5

Lake Washington

72.2%

2

 

Lake Washington

12.0%

4

Kent

68.7%

7

 

Kent

12.8%

1

Bellevue

71.9%

3

 

Bellevue

11.0%

7

Renton

71.5%

4

 

Renton

12.6%

3

 The district’s new lay-off proposal would make our current class-size problems even worse. The Kent School Board’s priorities have gone off track.

Teachers’ pay at the bottom, administrators’ salaries at the top

While Kent teachers are calling for smaller class sizes and more time to work with students, pay has emerged as an issue here simply because of how far the district has gone out of balance. Kent ranks at the absolute bottom for pay in the Puget Sound metro area, and 80th statewide for new teachers. But look at salaries for Kent’s administrators and the trend is just the opposite:

District

Average Annualized Salaries

Salary Rank

Puyallup

$79,485

12

Bellevue

$80,837

11

Federal Way

$82,612

10

Renton

$89,497

9

Seattle

$89,589

8

Auburn

$91,287

7

Lake Washington

$92,241

6

Highline

$93,953

5

Tahoma

$94,238

4

Tacoma

$104,331

3

Everett

$105,244

2

Kent

$108,991

1

 

This table shows “annualized” salaries. To make the comparisons equal between districts, salaries have been adjusted to represent an average, annual full-time-equivalent administrative position. That’s necessary because administrators work full time in most districts, but in Kent most administrators only work part time, according to state records.

Kent Administrators: Great pay, great perks

In Kent, mid- and upper-level administrators can earn $90,000, $100,000, $120,000 or more and — unlike most other districts, administrators in Kent do not even have to work full time. According to reports the Kent School District submitted to the state, the average Kent administrator works just 84 percent of a full-time position.

District

Percent of Full Time Work

Lake Washington

100.3%

Everett

100.0%

Highline

99.6%

Auburn

99.5%

Seattle

98.6%

Renton

98.4%

Puyallup

98.1%

Federal Way

96.1%

Bellevue

95.9%

Tahoma

94.6%

Tacoma

93.4%

Kent

84.0%

 

Great pay and short hours are not the only perquisites for Kent administrators. Last year, high school principals could earn a top base salary of $125,336, and they also got a $3,000 boost for having a doctorate degree. In contrast, teachers do not get a raise for earning a doctorate degree. Administrators get five weeks’ paid vacation, and can cash out two weeks’ vacation to increase their base salary. But teachers’ school breaks are unpaid, so additional days cannot be converted to cash. Building administrators are granted $1,000 a year for conference travel; teachers are occasionally reimbursed for mileage to a conference but more typically pay their own bills for continuing education and travel. The district will contribute up to $2,400 a year to a principal’s tax-sheltered annuity. The district does not contribute to tax sheltered annuities for teachers.

* Data sources: Kent School District S275 personnel reports to state Superintendent of Public Instruction; Kent School District building administrators’ contract.

Showing support

  • Please let parents and community members know about our Web site, http://www.kentschools.org/, so they can learn more about our issues.
  • KEA members and the community can print out signs for car windows showing their support for Kent teachers. Click for Flyer 1 or Flyer 2

Upcoming dates:

  • Bargaining/mediation continues today.
  • Wednesday Aug. 26. 5 p.m., Kentlake High School. General Membership meeting to vote on a tentative contract agreement or vote to strike.

 

Advertisements

16 Responses to “Betting that we’ll cave”

  1. CounterpointSue Says:

    Wow, there it is, in print–our district’s priorities. Just gives you a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it?

    See you Wednesday.

  2. Say What? Says:

    Well I have always believed the District’s priorities were about them and not our kids.

    Tell us something we don’t know.

  3. question Says:

    I’d like to see some data, comparing class size in KSD vs. surrounding districts to support what I gather is a high priority of this bargaining, reducing class size. While everyone, I’m sure, is in agreement that out system would be supperior if class size were reduced, pushing it during contract negotiations would imply that KSD is inferior compared to surrounding districts. Is this so?

    When data was released on teacher compensation, it seems like KSD is low, but w/in a few percent of our surrounding districts. Is the same so for class size?

  4. theresa Says:

    Where is the respect? They knew we would be meeting tomorrow and we still don’t have a tentative agreement.
    Yesterday I attended the Council PTA parent meeting at the KSD and Dr. Vargas was there, along with our fearless leader, Lisa Brackin-Johnson. Both gave speeches which updated the parents on what the two perspectives were but something very interesting happened. Out of 16 questions asked of Dr. Vargas, Becky Hanks- public relations professional- answered all but three.
    The district also announced that they had a student design the districts page that updates the public on bargaining, a web site filled with errors. However, most importantly, I wondered about the ethics of having a student work on a web site against teachers during a labor dispute. And I was shocked that parents were not furious that they had a student do this task!
    Parents are upset that school may not start on Monday. So are the teachers. We just want a fair settlement that honors us as professionals, gives us more time, controls our workload, and can give us a compensation package that will bring us to the top of the bottom third!
    They say they don’t have the money. They spent $550,000 on fish sticks and french fries. If they don’t have the money, which we know they do, then how about selling some of the land holdings they have? Certainly one parcel could raise the monies they claim they need to provide a quality education in Kent.

    • parent Says:

      Just a note on Theresa’s comment on the student designing the website. I also was at the meeting. What was said was that a “student intern” designed the link on the website. This is not a current KSD student but a student intern. This would be a college student doing an internship at the school district…. There is quite a difference.

      This is definitely one way that information gets skewed to the public. It’s no wonder that as parents we have no idea which way to lean in this whole situation.

      I for one, support the WA State PTA policy of not supporting work stoppage. I feel that both sides should be reasonable in their negotiations and try to come to a reasonable agreement so that our children can be in class on August 31.

      Signed — a concerned parent.

      • theresa Says:

        I did not hear the term student intern. I am not sure what a student intern is. I only heard the person described as a student. I would assume a student intern is someone who is in school in the district. A college intern would be referred to as an intern, wouldn’t they? If I was mistaken, I humbly apologize.

      • I Care Says:

        I am happy to hear a parent who shows interest in these negotiations. However, if you as a parent are wondering which way to lean in these negotiations, I would hope you’d lean towards the side which is trying to improve: class sizes, more teacher time to plan meaningful lessons for students, compensation to attract and retain quality teachers, and those who advocate for less administration control that hinders teachers from doing what they know best. Ask yourself who is an advocate for children. Is it an administrator who thinks they know what teaching entails or is it the teacher who spends at least 5.5 hours per day in your child’s presence?

        Teachers may not always appear glamorous to the passing eye, but we know they are there continually working against many odds so your child and other children can be prepared for the future. Remember, that doesn’t come from those that delegate.

        Please re-read the information here about admin salaries and perks. This will enlighten everyone and support what we already suspected, that KSD is extremely top heavy.

      • Steve Says:

        Hi Parent —

        I, too, am a KSD parent. And I was at the meeting Monday night, too.

        With regard to the intern in question: where ever the intern came from, I think we can agree that KSD chose not to use someone from thier own IT department to build their website – likely putting the intern in an awkward postion.

        As for the PTA position of not supporting work stoppages: that postion, in effect, says you like how things are going in KSD just fine.

        “Not supporting work stoppages” is in no way a neutral postion as the PTA claims.

        This position implies that Kindergarten classes packed with 31 kids is acceptable. That high school math classes packed with 40 kids is okay.

        As a PTA member myself, I am appalled that the PTA is not taking a more active stand in Kent to support smaller class sizes.

        As for the District being reasonable – I am sure you heard the class size question asked several times Monday night. Did you hear any response from the District representatives? Anything resembling a serious answer? They have yet to explain why most every other district has significantly smaller classes – all the way from Kindergarten to High School.

        All I heard was the dead silence when the KEA President stated that class size proposals were offered way back in April.

        If we start school a few days late in order to get class sizes similar to surrounding districts, I would say that would be worth every minute of a delay.

  5. Kent Teacher Says:

    Question, to address your concerns, our class size is higher, our pay is lower, AND we are continually disrespected by the district administration in ways both big and small. This is what makes it increasingly difficult to teach in Kent. Even though I grew up here and it is my home, I am now rethinking whether I want to stay here. If it were just an issue of difficult workload, but the pay was good, maybe I could live with it. If the pay was bad, but I was treated with respect, maybe I could deal with it. The leadership in the schools has changed drastically since I was a student in Kent and if I had to do it all over again, I don’t know that I would. It pains me to say that, but it’s reality. I hope the district decides to start bargaining these important issues soon or many other great teachers will be leaving Kent, even if they don’t want to.

    • question Says:

      Kent Teacher, actually I asked where the data is on class size to support claims like ‘our class size is higher’. The data I’ve seen on compensation does not support the claim that KSD are paid significantly lower. At worst, it is a few percent lower and is being addressed.

      We all agree we’d like to see smaller classes. But is this a KSD issue, in which case it is valid for these negotiations, or is it a State oif Washington Issue (or at least Puget Sound) in which case it should be directed at the legistature. Does anyone even know the answer to this?

  6. TJ Says:

    “Wow, there it is, in print–our district’s priorities. Just gives you a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it?”

    I’d be very careful signing on to the data presented in these articles. KEA may cite the documents they pulled the information from, but they do not provide those documents for our review. I’ve tried finding them online and can’t. Without seeing those figures for ourselves, it’s short-sighted to assume KEA communicated them to us without any bias.

    Particularly when it comes to the percent of full-time work. The public sector classifies these figures in a variety of ways. Some organizations consider a full time employee to work 2080 hours (40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year). Others consider a full time employee to work only 1400 hours due to vacations, sick time, holidays, mandatory training, meetings, etc. It’s important to note that in both cases, the employee is WORKING FULL TIME, 2080 hours per year.

    I don’t know how Kent computes this figure, or how any other districts do it either. I don’t even know if it’s the same across the State. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had this information? Instead we have to rely on KEA to inform us…and I just think that’s looking through colored lenses.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting KEA is incorrect. I’m just stating that we’re forced to play this “he said,” “she said” game with KEA and the District without any way to verify the information each is presenting. A PR war is a foolish way to conduct negotiations, but that’s exactly what’s going on here.

    The same problem goes for the District’s $21m fund. You may think that’s a lot of money (and it is) but it’s in line with the size of the District and other school Districts in Washington. Based on documents I could find from the OSPI (from 2006), Seattle has a $91m fund. That equates to over $1,000 per student. Kent’s per student dollars for this fund? $586 or thereabouts – completely in line with other districts (they range from $120s through $800 in Bellevue – one of KEA’s comparison points!). Again, does that mean the money is off limits? No. I’m not a negotiator and I don’t pretend to know enough about the District finances to say what the District could give up from the fund, if anything. I’m just pointing out that looking at the $21m number out of context leads to faulty assertions.

    I think one thing is for sure: both sides can do a better job of communicating where the District stands. More information is better, especially when the rest of us (who have to vote on what to do) can understand it ourselves.

  7. Parent of New Kindergartener Says:

    Two weeks ago I didn’t even know there was a new contract being negotiated. Since then, I have read information on both the KEA and KSD website. I am completely in the middle. I have no affiliation with with either KEA or KSD. I know some people on both sides, but haven’t even had time in the last two weeks to discuss the issues. I consider myself to be pro-teacher, but I am generally anti-union (any union). I think the teaching profession is one of the most important jobs there is.

    I work in Finance in the private sector. I have read about the $21-$25 million that KSD has in a “savings account.” I’ve read that many from KEA don’t understand why this can’t be used. Is that a fair understanding?

    My only comment, from a purely financial perspective, is that no business can survive by paying for its reoccurring expenses (annual budget) with savings. If you are using savings to pay for annual budget items, then it is because your revenues (from taxes, I presume) aren’t enough to cover your expenses. Thus, you must cut expenses or you will become insolvent. Using savings will work in the short term, but then what do you do when the savings are gone?

    This is just a purely financial look at the situation. It is not specific to your situation, it applies to any business, or household for that matter. If your revenues (or income, for a household) decline to less than your expenses, then you have to cut your expenses or you will eventually go broke.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      Thanks for your comment. Here is some relevant information you may find interesting.

      KSD has consistently overbudgeted and underspent the last 5 years or more, which has, in turn, built up a large general fund balance (“savings account”). KSD claims on its website that this money includes the 5% reserve fund that the Kent School Board’s policy requires, as well as additional funds for things like, “future projects,” “self insurance,” or “inventory such as frozen fishsticks.” The vast majority of districts in Washington state operate with a considerably smaller fund balance, usually between 2-3%. KEA is not against having a “rainy day fund.” On the contrary, KEA simply questions the priorities of a District that is unwilling to reduce their reserves by cancelling or postponing projects or reducing inventory, for example, while at the same time laying off teachers and slashing programs.

      KSD spends hundreds less per pupil than the average district, pays teachers a salary that is the lowest in the Puget Sound region and 80th in the state, and has the best paid Administrators in the area. KEA believes that it is hypocritical for the District to cry poverty out of one side of its mouth, while at the same time spending tens of thousands on a variety of outside contractors to complete wasteful projects that could be completed by administrators already employed in Kent. These include hiring an outside negotiator (when Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Larry Miner’s job description includes being chief negotiator for the District), hiring a Seattle lawfirm to defend the District from the Unfair Labor Practice complaints (when the KSD already employs Chuck Lind as their full time attorney, and after KSD offered mediation, which would have cost the District nothing), hiring an outside consultant to complete a salary comparison with other districts (which showed that Kent is at the bottom in terms of compensation and could have been completed by the District’s vast central administration), and so on. Rather than wasting this money to fight Kent teachers, how much would the District have saved by simply working with KEA to resolve our issues? How many teachers’ jobs that were cut this year could have been saved?

  8. Classified Employee Says:

    Ever wonder why so many administrators are telling the community that Kent can’t afford more teachers? It’s because the Kent School District has so many administrators.

    WOW! Glad to see I’m not the only one that sees this is a problem! And you’re not the only lacking respect from the administration. We’re right with you there, unfortunately probably more so.

Comments are closed.


%d bloggers like this: