Tuesday, April 22, 2008

EACC Uncovers the Truth with County Funds

It's no secret...the EACC hired an independent fiscal consultant, RJ Pellicoro Associates, to perform an audit on county funding. The results...personally I wasn't shocked, it is exactly what we (members of the board of education) have been saying for years. However, the public will be shocked and now there is PROOF.
The below was in an email sent out by the EACC (teachers union) today.

The incredible shrinking budget
This year, the BOE was told they were getting $12 Million in new money (over last year’s allocation) from the County Commissioners. That was October.

By January, the Commissioners had revised that number down to $10 million.

Now, in April, they are saying it’s only going to be $8 Million.
Every week, there seems to be less for public education.

But wait, you say – isn’t that because the county’s estimates are going down, and aren’t those estimates based on SOLID EVIDENCE? Well let’s see –

According to our fiscal analyst, RJ Pellicoro and Associates, for the last three years, the revenue projections (at 52.4% to the Board of Education) have been off by
$13.3 Million (2005),
$20.9 Million (2006), and
$5.9 Million (2007).

That totals $40.1 million dollars that the Board of Education should have gotten, but didn’t, during those three years. And incidentally, that would be enough to give every employee in the system a 20% raise. We would certainly be able to compete for teachers then, wouldn’t we? Do you know how many textbooks, computers, additional staffing, and temporary classrooms you can buy for $40 Million?

So – if you haven’t written already, write (commissioner@charlescounty.org) or call (301-870-3000) the County Commissioners – tell them we can’t rely on their estimates – the history is not good. If they want to give the board less, they just revise a number – no problem!

They have a substantial fund balance if the revenues are indeed low. They need to give the Board of Education the $12 million in new money – at least – that they promised, and STOP shrinking the Board’s allocation.
And then this letter was sent to the Indy and the Post....
Dear Editor:

As President of the Education Association of Charles County, representing almost 1900 educators in the Charles County Public schools, I would appreciate an opportunity to tell our parents and citizens the truth regarding education funding in this county.

It is a common misconception that public schools receive roughly half of every dollar of revenue the county takes in. For example, a misleading ad from the “League of Maryland Homeowners” printed in the Maryland Independent March 26th states “the Board of Education already receives 52 cents out of every dollar of county taxes.” The formula this ad references was an agreement made almost ten years ago between the commissioners and the Board of Education – an agreement whereby the Board would get 52.4% of county revenue. This 52.4% figure is regularly bandied about as a given, particularly during campaigns for public office. But in fact, the Board of Education has not received 52.4% of the county’s revenue in many years.

EACC has hired an independent fiscal consultant, RJ Pellicoro Associates, a firm that has 20 years experience in analyzing the budgets of public agencies. All of the documents used by our analyst (the county audit, its bond prospectus, etc.) are, of course, public record and can be obtained by any citizen.

The Pellicoro report clearly shows funding from the county declining. For example, it states that “from FY 2002 to FY 2008, the % of total General Fund Expenditures and Transfers appropriated to the BOE declined from 50.4% to 44.8%, a decrease of 5.6 percentage points.” The loss of 5.6% represents a loss of $16.8 million to our public schools this year.

The reason for the shrinking percent is that the county has underestimated its revenue consistently for the last several years, and the public schools’ allocation was based on the inaccurate projections, not the actual revenue. Basically, when more money is received than projected, the county does not revise its funding to the Board of Education to bring the allocation in line with 52.4% of actual revenues.

Looking ahead, the county budget projections for the upcoming school year continue to be revised downward. Just since March, they have dropped their revenue estimates by $3 million – a loss of $1.5 Million to the Board of Education in less than a month. The more the revenue projections go down, the less the Board of Education gets. This is how we ended up with less than 52.4% over the last several years. We can’t continue to be penalized by low- ball estimates. If there is a genuine shortfall this year, the county has the means to raise revenue and a fund balance to offset any optimistic projections that don’t materialize.

As it is, our public school spending is hardly commensurate with our wealth. In 2005, Charles County ranked 7th in median household income in the state ($88,350) of Maryland. But it ranked 22nd out of 24 in per pupil expenditure. We are not keeping pace with other counties.

Charles County is opening new schools almost every year, but no additional revenue is allotted for one-time opening costs. Thus, the Board has to take this money from its (already reduced) operating budget. These are funds that could be used for competitive teacher salaries, lower class sizes, and better instructional materials.

Our county continues to grow, and the reputation of our excellent school system attracts more and more students. At the same time, we are facing a critical teacher shortage in this state, and we need funding to attract and retain qualified educators to meet this need. The CPI (inflation rate) as of March 2008 is 4.7% Housing prices in this county are out of reach for most new teachers. Many of them leave the area and some even leave the profession to be able to afford to own a home and provide for their families.

All of our commissioners and Board of Education members have publicly stated their commitment to excellent public schools, and in general they have tried to live up to that commitment. But the measure of their dedication will show in how they act in tough times, not when budgets are flush.

The county budget hearing is currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 14th at the county building. The Board of Education has its own budget work session scheduled for this Monday, April 28th at 6 p.m. at the Starkey Administrative Building. Parents, educators, and other citizens need to let the commissioners know they expect adequate funding of public schools (email - commissioner@charlescounty.org), and they need to tell the elected Board of Education members to accurately represent the needs of our students in their budget request. Our children are counting on us.

Bill Fisher


Anonymous said...

A. Does the EACC EVER listen - fully - to what is said in public meetings? It's never been 52.4% of all revenue. It's been 52.4% of UNDESIGNATED funds. Try doing THAT math. I think the members need to demand their $ back. Tsk, tsk to the EACC leadership for trying to compare apples to oranges. I'm not swallowing that garbage.

B. Since when is someone fresh out of college entitled to own a 4 BR 2 BA home in the burbs? They are making ENTRY level $ because they are just ENTERING their profession. (Might I add that they work 9 months out of the year whereas the rest of us working Joe's hoof it year round. But that's another issue.) They need to stop whining about how a 21 year old can't live on $42K+ a year. Instead of spending money to suck down shooters at the local watering holes, they ought to try sucking it up and getting a roommate or two like the rest of us do. Rent a less expensive home further down the road and drive an hour to work. They need to try saving their pennies to buy a house instead of paying for cell phone, manicures and cable. Grow up! In otherwords, don't expect to enjoy the comfortable lifestyle of a 45 year old when you're 21. Welcome to adulthood.

C. Finally, don't kid yourself! This is more about the EACC securing a hefty raise at the taxpayer's expense - during a recession no less - than it is about ensuring our kids get textbooks and computers. The schools are FILLED with closets and bookshelves full of never used textbooks and dusty, lonely computers. On the other hand, the Xerox machines are getting quite a workout.

im1ru2 said...

Ripe with lots of problems as anonymous has stated for sure; new teachers are paid very good salaries at the start coming into their new professions with excellent benefit packages. The housing costs being compared to a single person is always a silly "headliner" since most fresh out of college single professionals in any white-collar profession would not qualify in any region on a single income. When the EACC uses that mantra they lose any strength they might have had in their debate; and for once they actually had some in this debate.

However, again, anonymous brings to point some other issues that should be discussed before this item of the "shrinking budget" even comes up for balancing.

First, since the EACC wants to actually talk about the kids and classroom resources, hiring more teachers (at current salaries, not the increase to $100,000 they recently proposed!) let’s begin to take an honest look at what we really have in terms of resources already.

Books, computers, technology, contracts (IT, phones, Mobile, etc.), Is the technology being utilized by all to the fullest by all teachers, is it mandatory, is it being implemented at all schools, is it in all classrooms, etc.? Teachers - how many, where, best use of, best qualified, best use of new recruits and veterans (in other words mentoring programs). And our curriculum - is it the best it can be, should be and do our test indicate that or are we "fluffing" our test scores (MSAs and APs) to make them appear better then things really are? Where are the real excesses and real shortages?

Next, what is the EACC doing about the teacher shortage other than asking for higher teacher salaries? Are they stepping up to the plate and actually putting their organizational money into scholarships and tuition for teachers? If so, to what extent? Beyond spending our money are they actually investing in their own trade (and I mean again, by more than simply representing employees at the “bargaining table”)? Mr. Fisher is doing a good job identifying all the shortages but it seems to me that as the head of his organization he should hold some responsibility for that shortage and do more recruiting on his end. If his only recourse is to use the “blame-game” tactic, then he should consider another tactic. That is getting old and tiresome to his listening audience and I for one would like to see a leader of an organization as large as the EACC who has more than one skill.

For lots of other areas we are quick to "study" or put together "groups" or "panels" or hold "community forums". Why not partner with your constituents on this, probably the single most important area and "task force" this area, and finally come up with the real formula for education; budget, curriculum, planning, hiring and strategy.

Put a panel of prior BOE member(s)(Young comes to mind, she has lots of experience with the whole process and knows all the ins and outs), former Commissioner(s), (Quinn comes to mind, she is still active in the community, again, knows the process, etc.) and parents, some of which are active here - sorry folks - but some have very good and solid ideas with fact based writing, not JUST opinion - along with members of the school system (teachers, not the higher ups) and even the EACC and a representative from each of the BOE and the Commissioners Board.

Give this panel the summer to come up with their stated objective (above - can be more/less, but at least include the budget initiative and teacher issue(s) and present its findings to both Boards and the public.

I have a feeling a lot more would get done effectively in a shorter time than what is currently going on now.

And right now there is a highly adversarial “Red Sox versus Yankees” game being played while none of us are enjoying what is taking place on the field but is being gauged for the price of a ticket anyway!

Anonymous said...

"(Might I add that they work 9 months out of the year whereas the rest of us working Joe's hoof it year round. But that's another issue.)"

10 months, plus many teachers actually work over the summer. Also, unless you have actually been in a classroom for 180 days you have no idea how demanding it is.

"They need to stop whining about how a 21 year old can't live on $42K+ a year. Instead of spending money to suck down shooters at the local watering holes, they ought to try sucking it up and getting a roommate or two like the rest of us do."

Most do in fact have roommates including many young married couples who have to rent rooms in order to be able to afford a mortgage.

"Rent a less expensive home further down the road and drive an hour to work."

At $3.50 per gallon and climbing for gas that's a real practical solution.

Anonymous said...

A 4-year graduate who goes into teaching really has no expertise in any field.
They aren't qualified to be engineers, computer scientists, physicists, nurses, biologists, etc.

They know that they are lucky to have a job, and knowing the market for teachers in the socialist state of Maryland, that's a major reason that they have a job.
Many good teachers won't take a job down here due to the poor working conditions (violent schools and micro-managing administration), along with a very, very lousy retirement system. Mot to mention a "half rear end 'teacher's union' that cannot strike, hence, has no power whatsoever".
If they cared about the teachers and the students, they start beating the hell out of the politicians to hammer out a "right to strike" agreement for teachers in Maryland, along with getting someone elected that would institute the old retirement system , (0r better), that would compete with Pennsylvania and New York.

And I agree; there is absolutely no reason why a college graduate should expect to buy a home right out of college. Nor should they whine about only getting two months off per year.

As far as administration goes, quit whining for a new high school. Start working out of your cars (like so many school board workers do), and turn that building on radio station road into a new high school (with working air conditioning and so many other niceties).

Like I said, if they want higher starting salaries, go back to school, get a competitive degree in engineering or medicine, and quit whining.

im1ru2 said...

The Charles County EACC (teacher's contract - I have gone over the FY 2006-2007 a couple of times, however, there are several legal descriptions I am unfamiliar with, which I can not discern and leave me befuddled about types of employees, retirement benefits, etc.) agreed to on behave of the teachers and employees of Charles County, is, in my opinion, very, very attractive and should therefore be a heavy recruiting tool for our county.

I mention this not in a boasting manor as a card carrying Union member or supporter but because I am very disturbed as a tax payer to see some of the "extreme" advantages going to the teachers (I will hold for now unless someone needs me to pinpoint them latter for clarification in an effort to stay more on point here).

However, I do allude about the strengths of the new contract with all the advantages for our teachers because even with these advantages it seems it is not working to recruit new teachers to our area (and schools) and the Union is still requesting HIGHER salaries and folks are still writing about how the contract is written as weaker than other areas or States.

Whether or not the Charles County teacher's contract is comparable to other (State’s) contracts (I have no idea) I have, like I indicated above, gone over the current Charles County contract and believe this contract to be extremely employee friendly. Perhaps too much so, but that is now mute since it is in effect and we are paying for it and living with it. What we can not do however is afford anything more.

There are teachers who deserve what they are getting and teachers who don't deserve anything close to what they are getting -same as any other fields/businesses. What is different here is the public is paying the salaries, benefits and perks and should have a say - does have a say and when the folks in the education business don't like that they should get out of the education business.

They don't mind getting us involved when they think it is to their advantage, case in point, op-ed, shrinking budget piece. But disagree with them and they have no problem telling you to stay out of the "educational business" since you are not an "educator".

Well, no more blank checks. If that is what is expected, has been how it used to be than sorry, those days are over. Get use to "having parents being involved in their child's education" which will include from the 'top' down to the classroom and vice, versa.

But every time there is disagreement from their paying public all of a sudden we become hostile opponents of education, unfriendly toward children, teacher haters and un-American.

In reality however, what we are doing is acting as a rudder on a rudderless boat with a huge sail. It is always adversarial and confrontational rather than directional and supportive. I have not once heard, ‘how can we help?’ “What would you like us to do to better serve you, our customers?” from the EACC or a school employee (teacher or administrator). I have been “told” what they want or will do.

The latest study that just came out indicated that we are worse off than we were 25 years ago in education (“A Nation At Risk http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/infographics/34risk_timeline.html ).

No better off – not further head, but in fact worse off – for all the money, for all the “improvements”, for all the advancements, for all the technology, for all the “new schools”, not only are we not further ahead, we are worse off than we were 25 years ago.

So forget about 100 million dollar schools, forget about 100 thousand dollar teacher salaries, forget about buying houses for new teachers, and forget about paying for college for new teachers. Forget about everything you have been doing for the last 25 years. Right now, start listening to your customers, stop being so adversarial, so confrontational and begin to be inclusive. Start teaching basics. Start letting teachers get back to being teachers. Start allowing choice. Stop teaching tests. Stop showcasing buildings and showcasing smart kids. Open up honest dialogue with a willingness to listen and effect change and implement improvement at all cost to improve education.

I guarantee you this latest report will be volleyed back and forth between the “fors” and “against” (because again, that is how everyone seems to think that is how we have to be lined up on the issue of education!) but will not happen is anything to improve education for another 25 years!

We will have a budget meeting on education tonight and not talk about how our education has worsened over 25 years regardless of all the money and everything else we have tried because who wants to “take the blame for that”? It becomes the “put a report together to repute the report, report”.

Forget that the kids will continue to suffer a bad education; we’ll continue to fluff the numbers and spin any positive we can and talk privately about how bad things are but that “those things are beyond our control(s)”. We’ll point out that here in “Charles County we’re making progress” but actually we’re just kidding ourselves and only looking at “making the grade”, when in fact that grade is sub-par, we could do better, should do better must do better.

Stop politicking the education of our kids right down the gutter for another 25 years and only worrying about your next contract with scare tactics. Let’s stop pretending the grass is green in our front yard when in fact we have had a drought for 25 years!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1 says teachers work 9 months, #2 says 10 months. As Anonymous #3, I figure 190 contracted days divided by 22 work days a calendar month (range 20-23)equals 8.6 months. The only reason it's extended to 9 or 10 months is because of all the holidays and vacation time that is thrown in. Slice it and dice it any way you want, they are not FULL TIME, YEAR ROUND employees and shouldn't be compensated as though they were. Subtract from that a week at Easter, a week+ at Christmas, most major holidays, close to a week at Thanksgiving and snowflake-spotted-in-Nanjemoy days, well, the teachers really have nothing to gripe about. Heck! The janitors who clean their floors, empty their trashcans, scrub the toilets and shovel the show and ice work more hours per year than the teachers do and they get FAR less compensation. They're even there on the snow days! Mr. Fisher would prefer you count months instead of numbers, Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May and 1/3 June + 1/4 Aug = 10months. To do it that way is misleading because it doesn't conisder all of the days off mentioned above.

The cashiers at the mall, the clerks at the grocery store, the car salesmen, policemen, firemen, doctors and nurses, real estate agents, barbers, florists, computer analysts, waitresses and burger flippers are not guaranteed weekends or most holidays off and not one of them gets a week off at Christmas AND Easter with pay unless it is personal leave. Teachers get those weeks off PLUS personal and sick leave. Like teachers, many of those employees do not get compensated for the work they bring work home. Granted all of those job titles usually get a day off during the week if they work on a weekend, but my point is that they work FIVE days a week YEAR ROUND. Are they crying foul or do they see it as business as usual?

Anonymous #2 says unless you have been in a classroom for 180 days you don't know how stressful it is. [Violins playing] As John Stossel says, "GIVE ME A BREAK." Is this a my-dog-is-better-than-your-dog competition? As if theirs is the only demanding profession in the universe. EVERY job has its demands. How demanding a job do the ticket counter clerks at the airlines have? Delays and cancellations are not their fault, but they receive the brunt of the wrath. How demanding is it to fight 5 or more fires a day - YEAR ROUND? How demanding is it to intervene in domestic violence or drunk and disorderly calls, go undercover in a drug ring, or respond to shots fired? How demanding is it to assist a heart attack victim, a drowned child, and a bloody car crash victim - in just one day, YEAR ROUND? Guards at the jails don't have demanding jobs? How demanding is it to hustle behind the counter at McDonalds during peak times while that 60 second customer satisfaction clock is ticking specifically for you? How demanding is it to work for hospice and attend to the needs of a dying person and his family - YEAR ROUND? Performing a three hour surgery after 8 hours of office time and 2 hours of hospital rounds time can't be demanding. Especially after an answering service interrupted your sleep 3-4 times every night. Defending a drunk driver, child abuser or murderer in court isn't demanding. Being a bill collector isn't demanding. People are always so nice to them. How about the demands of a funeral home director? Telemarketing must be a walk in the park since everyone is always so nice to them too. Constructuion work is a breeze. 90 degree days and high humidity or frigid temperatures and winds, cars whizzing by them inches from their safety cones, carrying heavy loads upon their shoulders or balancing atop a beam 7 stories up in the air. Not demanding one bit! Stockbrokers, now there's an easy job. For that matter, what about staying at home with 3 children ages 5 and under 24/7/365? SAHM's don't even get paid for that! I'm sure every last one of these employees can justify the need for a summer break. But they don't because they know this is adulthood. I they want a break, they use personal leave. Welcome to the working world. Puhleeze!

As for teachers working during the summer, they either receive EXTRA PAY for extra duty from CCPS (it is outlined in their contract) or they are working a second job - like none of the rest of us have ever had to do at some point in our lives. Add those additional wages to their already hefty salary and you're looking at a fairly decent gross income. Sorry if it can't buy them manicures, designer handbags and a vacation every year. But they are working for me and I can't afford that either.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher in the county, and a product of 13 years of education in Charles County Public Schools, I am truly disappointed in the declining quality of our school system.

First, I would like to address the anonymous post in which the following was stated: “A 4-year graduate who goes into teaching really has no expertise in any field. They aren't qualified to be engineers, computer scientists, physicists, nurses, biologists, etc. They know that they are lucky to have a job…”

Fortunately, in my case and in the case of many of my colleagues, this is incorrect. I have a four year dual degree from an excellent institution in the field of science, and could easily secure a government or private sector job that pays much more than my current teaching salary. I chose to return to school to pursue a Masters degree in Secondary Education because I knew I had something valuable to offer the students of Charles County. I chose to return to my hometown to teach, not because I could not find a job elsewhere, but because I understood the need for highly qualified teachers in my former schools. I live with a roommate and I commute 45 minutes to work because with loan payments that I am making to pay for my degrees that make me so “highly qualified,” I truly cannot afford to live by myself and closer to my place of employment- not because I am constantly “spending money to suck down shooters at the local watering holes” as one poster so ignorantly suggested.

I am disgusted that department budgets across the county’s schools are being slashed by over 50%. How do we expect our children to enter the workforce and be competitive in the global economy if the budget allotment for science teachers at North Point High School for Science, Technology and Industry (our newest and most highly touted school in the system) is a laughable $50 per teacher. This works out to approximately 28 CENTS per student. I know that this budget decrease is true for schools and teachers across the county, not just at North Point. Where is the money? Why is it not going toward our students? Clearly it is not just going toward teacher salaries, since I would be making more money if I were to take the same job in the Montgomery County Public School system, which is ranked in the top ten in the state for per-pupil spending, as opposed to our rank of 22nd. This budget cut is simply unacceptable, and if I were a parent, I would be outraged. When will we as a community step up and hold someone accountable for the mismanagement of our tax dollars?

In closing, as a product of this school system, I have never been more ashamed to be called a Charles County native. I only hope that I can do my part by helping to create intelligent, inquisitive, honest and caring members of our community. And in response to the anonymous person who posted that they are “Sorry if [teachers’ salaries] can't buy them manicures, designer handbags and a vacation every year. But they are working for me and I can't afford that either.” You are correct. I am working for you. I am helping to raise your children 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 180 days a year. I am sorry that you feel that the importance of this job is equivalent to “hustl[ing] behind the counter at McDonalds during peak times.” Maybe this is why our education system is in its current state.

Anonymous said...

All of these anonymous people, I'm losing track. :) Good heavens! Did this teacher just say he/she is RAISING our children? I think not! I send my children to school to be educated, not raised. Education is but one part of the "pie" when it comes to raising a child. I, I, I, I, I, I, I, will raise my child. Your job as far as MY child is concerned is to take over the task that parents have chosen to delegate to you/the school system and that is to e-d-u-c-a-t-e, in some specific subject for which you were hired and for which you were properly educated yourself, nothing more, nothing less. I don't expect her ballet teacher to teach her math. My pastor is not there to diagnose her sore throat. You are not her spiritual advisor, dentist, clothier, best friend, eye doctor, moral compass, political advisor, equipment supplier, babysitter, chauffer, cook, nutritionist, doctor, legal consultant, ballet instructor, driving instructor, party planner, or psychologist. Unfortunately a few parents seem to think teachers are just that. They are gravely mistaken! But, just because SOME parents ATTEMPT to delegate those responsibilities to an e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n-a-l establishment doesn't mean you must or even should consider owning them. You/your system should not enable slacker parents! My child is academically gyped when teachers take time away from her classroom instructional time to attend to the social/financial needs of another child. It sounds like you want to teach, and I want you to do just that!

If you work at NPHS or any other HS or MS you certainly do not have my child or any other child 5 days a week for 7 hours a day. You might have her approximately 5 hours total on a good week. If I am with my child an hour before school, 6 hours every night and 48 hours on the weekend, I ask you, who is really "raising" that child? If you are an elementary school teacher then you would have my child 5 days a week 6.5 hours a day minus time for lunch, science lab, music, gym, computer lab, art, etc. So please stop throwing out 7/5/180. It simply doesn't happen for ANY teacher. You have them precious little time and that time should be spent doing what you do best - teaching them - not raising them. I'm quite competent to do that myself, thank you.

You are correct in that money for books and equipment is far less than the money that constantly gets resiphoned into administration's allotment. So what else is new? That's what you call the bureaucracy of public education.

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct that I would rather be teaching than "raising" children. However, it is unavoidable that students bring their home lives to school with them. In order to best serve the children, we must remember that they are not just students, they are people. What affects them at home affects them in the classroom, and we must be sensitive to that. I did say "helping to raise your child" because education is clearly a part of the development of a child. You are also 100% correct when you say that I should not enable anyone, and I certainly try not to. I do try, however, to care equally for each of my students. If that means taking a moment to comfort a student who is upset by something that happened to them at home or at school, I will do that. I'm sure you would not want me to ignore your child's feelings.
I think that we are essentially on the same side here. You are obviously the type of parent that we wish all of our students had. You are invested in your child's life and are there to do your job. Unfortunately, there are many parents who are not as invested as you are, so thank you for your hard work.
Hopefully we can all agree that education is a joint effort between parents and teachers, and we should all be working toward the same goal: preparing our children to be the best people they can be. Thank you to all of the parents and teachers who are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Let's all keep an open mind, and open dialogue, and keep working for a better education system.