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March 26, 2012

Job Action Demands More Work

Jill King

Will Frederick County Teachers Association’s recent announcement of “work to contract” have any effect on the Board of County Commissioners decision to provide relief to all county homeowners? Or will it just create a further divide between union membership in the public sector and those who work in private industry?


Work to contract is a protest of sorts, one in which teachers can participate and allows them to work to their contracted work day of 7.5 hours including a duty-free, half-hour break.


Typically, professional workers, such as teachers, are an exempt and salaried worker under The Fair Labor and Standards Act. Exempt employees are ineligible for overtime pay under this law. It is assumed that there are duties that would force them to work unpaid overtime, due to the nature of their work. This job action by the county’s teachers dismisses this, showing the union’s disregard for the labor laws they have tirelessly worked to have enacted.


In 1962 the national teachers union started seeing growth; by the mid-70s, they nearly doubled their lobbying power in the state.


For many years they have supported the stranglehold on property taxes such as in the recent bill SB 848. Maryland Association for the Boards of Education backs this “Maintenance of Effort” law and lists the reasons it supports it this as “Accountability, Flexibility, Fairness, Predictability, and Transparency.”


In its synopsis, this bill “authorizing a county governing body, for a specified purpose and under specified circumstances, to set a property tax rate that is higher than the rate authorized under the county's charter or to collect more property tax revenues than are authorized under the county's charter, notwithstanding any provision of the county charter that places limits on the county's property tax rate or revenues; etc.” It has now passed both the Senate and the House and awaits the governor’s signature.


The recent decision for “work to contract” comes with much discomfort from the citizens of Frederick County who have seen their share of tough economic times. Those with many government agencies are not seeing increases in their paychecks and are facing furlough days next fiscal year.


The teachers have not seen any budgetary raises in three years. They have been provided relief only after money was “found” at the end of the budget year.


As far as this goes, the Frederick County Teachers Association is not trying to befriend the community and has taken a stance that they are “owed.”


Getting “blood from turnips” is now an entitlement.


Teachers admittedly live in other counties or states due to the cost of living in Frederick County. This means they do not pay into the infrastructure that supports their funding. They find themselves immune to the economic conditions that many of the people who do live in the area have suffered.


The Board of County Commissioners announced last week that they are looking into providing a rebate to all property owners in Frederick County, in the amount of $100. No, it is not a lot, but for many it could provide groceries for up to a week if budgeted correctly.


This is where the problem lies – budgeting.


The recent school budget made public does not expand on line items. The vague penmanship of this document provides neither the public nor the staff the necessary transparency to commit to change and propose resolution.


While the current Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban, and central office staff who support her could have assisted in looking for what can be cut and gaining perspective from the subject matter experts. They choose to hide costs and go forward on an individual idea instead of a collective and necessary implementation.


These decision makers are only padding what they believe, which is not the function of a prudent overseer of funds. Their job is to serve the public in the best interest of our children.


These administrators are removed from daily school functions that actually support the staff, whose job is to supply education to our children.


How many cuts could they make from the invisible budget that has had surpluses for two consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010? Who made the error and were they held accountable? Did the teachers not benefit from this?


Could the teachers be using this time more wisely, while “working to contract,” to gain perspective of what is needed and how to move the schools educational needs forward?


Most people do deserve salary increases for performance on their jobs. Holding taxpayers, who have not seen relief and who are further burdened by onerous state taxation that the teachers’ union supports, is a ridiculous demand.


A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the average person in the U.S. with a bachelor’s degree makes $1,053 a week or $54,756 a year. Those with a master’s degree make a median of $1,263 per week or $65,676 a year. This is calculated on a 52-week work year.


Keep in mind, many of those in these groups do not have benefits that are extraordinary and pay the costs themselves. Most teachers are 10 month employees, which would also be a factor.


For years to come, it is important that the teachers be a part of the budgetary process. They need to be valued for their education and their drive to teach our children.


I challenge the Frederick County Teachers Association to step up to the plate, get a copy of the budget in advance, demand that the preparers of that document fill in the blanks and expand on items missing and provide their public input based on this.


We do appreciate teachers, their daily hard work, and for aiding in the growth of our children. We know that you are educated.


Now, my challenge is for you to come forth and correct years of neglect at the upper levels during your public comment, not 110 creative versions of what they already know.


…retraining my brain for the future, conferring with my past…


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