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NBCRG and District Spending

New Berlin Schools, NBPS Administrators, State

Since  returning from Florida ( family vacation),  I've been trying to catch up on the  local news and blogging.

Ah, I see that NBCRG came out of retirement (or  hibernation? ) to post a blog on August 11.  Their last NBCRG Speaks post was back on March 24 when they urged folks to re-elect New Berlin School Board members Dave Maxey and Art Marquardt.

According to their Aug 11 posting, NBCRG  "has several questions for the School Board regarding the New Berlin School District's 2014/15 proposed budget."   NBCRG also asserts that the School Board's proposed 3.78% property tax levy increase needs further clarification and explanation.

The NBCRG post conveys that the school district is relying on a tax base growth rate projection for its tax bill  calculations that is twice as high as the growth rate which had been projected by the City.  NBCRG then asks , "Why is the Board significantly understating the actual size of the property tax increase people will get in December?"

But one has to wonder why NBCRG has not sought answers and explanations directly  from School Board President Dave Maxey rather than through a blog.   After all, Maxey is their guy.  NBCRG, a registered political group, actively supported his re-election.  Or is it that NBCRG did contact Maxey (or district administration) and were displeased with their responses? 

In any case,  NBCRG is now using their blog (and privilege of the floor) to publicly question/ complain about the actions and communication of the School Board/ district. Has NBCRG President Ralph Heun  been using public forums to insinuate  the Board/district  is misleading us taxpayers?   Sure sounds like it.

In their blog post, NBCRG also expresses concern about increased spending on district administration from 2013/14 to 2014/15.  They are only looking at that timespan?   Sheesh.  Evidently,  NBCRG has been asleep for years or somehow  failed to notice the bloat in administration, which has occurred during the tenures of Superintendents Paul Kreutzer and Joe Garza.  The district keeps adding administrative positions, too. News flash:  administrative employees are not working for free. Administrators receive high salaries and  have expensive health benefits and other  perks, such as the district paying for education and travel between buildings.  I reported in past blogs that  Joe Garza lacked a doctorate degree when the New Berlin School Board hired him to be superintendent in 2011. Garza's contract with the district gives him generous benefits like tuition reimbursement. The district website informs us that Garza has been pursuing a doctorate degree at Cardinal Stritch University.  New Berlin taxpayers are picking up the tab for his expensive private school education?

NBCRG is also critical of the School Board giving teachers a 3% salary increase and contends teachers should be asked to pay  "a higher percentage of their health insurance premiums, which is now at 12.5%".   NBCRG asks why the district is giving teachers those raises and not asking them to pay more of their insurance--- and questions why the Board is not taking advantage of Act 10 to keep spending and taxes down.

Hmmm.  Could it be because the district has had so much trouble retaining teachers and administrators?  Many have already left. The district has been hemorraging experienced teachers.  I got word from two different sources  that some AP teachers are leaving this year.  Administrators at New Berlin West Middle/High School have come and gone with alarming frequency.  And now with Mr. Fessenmeier (who had been Eisenhower's principal)  moving to a newly created  District Office administrative position, every school in the district will have experienced a change in principal during the past 5 or so years, says a district parent.   If that's true, how can all that turnover and  unstable environment be good for students?  

As for Act 10 and teacher compensation,  Monday's Journal Sentinel has a front-page article on the subject that NBCRG members and others should read. 

Here are some highlights:

  • According to a new report from the Center for American Progress, Wisconsin teachers with 10 years of experience had an average salary of $43,900, slightly less than the U.S. average for a midcareer public school teacher--and  that was using data collected before implementation of Act 10.
  • For years, unions generally negotiated more generous health and retirement benefits in exchange for pay raises. Then came Act 10, which required teachers to pay more for their benefits and limited collective bargaining, effectively reducing their take-home pay.
  • With the end of collective bargaining agreements that generally made it financially advantageous to stay with a district until retirement, compensation models tied to factors other than tenure are in place.  That has made it less appealing for teachers, now taking home less money, to stay in a single district for the long term
  • In turn, that's prompted school districts to use cash saved under Act 10 to lure staff from other districts.
  • A $3,000 to $4,000 bump up in pay is now often incentive enough for a teacher to jump to a new district.  "It's like the world of baseball economics hitting public schools"
  • "Before Act 10, the emphasis of compensation was that you were rewarded for staying in the district. With no incentive anymore to stay, teachers are jumping after the money."

So, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled State Legislature made a whopping funding cut to public schools, which required districts to make adjustments. And one consequence of Act 10 is it's become harder  for school districts  to retain the best and brightest teachers. Districts have resorted to offering  teachers higher pay to entice them to remain in the district or to lure them from other districts. As teachers' salaries rise, districts may need to raise taxes to cover the expense. 

Wealthy baseball teams can afford the best players.  Long term, will Act 10's legacy be a two-tier public education system in Wisconsin --with the most qualified and experienced teachers being employed by the richest districts?   

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