Posted by Jim H., a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:21 am
Would rather see the money go to the teachers than to non-essential items I see around the district. Things like landscaping on Churchill around Paly. Just an added continuing expense. I'm sure there are many, many ways to save some money at the district. Oddest site I've seen in a while was a Brinks truck backing up to the front door of the District Office. I know the district has a lot of money, but...
Posted by RT, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:31 am
Why does every spare dollar, whether its the school district, the State, the Federal government, need to be spent?
Given the propensity of this City to continue to build high-density housing (in lieu of tax-paying businesses), we need to save every dollar we have to take care of the flood of kids that are going to coming with these housing projects.
Posted by Jen, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:32 am
Actually, I'm surprised they aren't asking for more. One percent is not going to make much difference I wouldn't think, especially if they haven't had a raise of any kind in 3 years. Wow. Glad I'm not a teacher.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:36 am
How about returning it the the residents who pay a parcel tax far exceeding that of any district in the bay area? We also have increased costs! If there is an annual surplus, why increase the tax each year?
Remember, the teachers ARE getting annual raises based on service and additional training.
Frankly, the wisest thing would be to keep it in reserve as resources at the state level are likely to decline even more.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:38 am
@Jen -- they may not have seen COLA raises, but they do receive step increases every year that I believe are about 5% (more if they seek additional training/education). If that is incorrect, please do post more accurate info.
Posted by Don't agree, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:10 am
A budget surplus should not mean an automatic pay raise for teachers. Sorry.
The prudent thing to do at this point is to save the surplus in the rainy day fund.
By the way, PA teachers are a privileged bunch.
In other school districts there are cuts all over the place because budgets are down.
Second, teachers and city employees have the best benefits there are.
My spouse is a federal Civil servant. She has to save for her own retirement and her pay is frozen (second year) and will probably be frozen for years to come. PAUSD and city employees have it very good compared to her, other civil servants, and private company employees.
Posted by Frank, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:51 am
I don't work for the school district, so I could be off as to it's specifics, but most "step increases" like those you reference are only for certain milestones (for example, after 1 year, after 5 years). They don't continue to get such increases every year for the employee's entire career. In other words, after 5 or so years, most employees have already received all possible increases, so actual raises or COLAs are all they have after that. Not a reason to be sorry for them, just wanted to offer some explanation.
Posted by Marty, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm
The district needs to share the savings with the teachers. It is the teachers' hard work in an increasingly difficult situation that has made the saving possible. They work hard and love and care for our children. We need to show some appreciation!
A one-time, 1 percent increase is not much to ask. Rejecting the increase will discourage and dishearten the teachers who are the district's greatest asset
Posted by parent/taxpayer, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm
I echo the comment of why does every penny need to be spent? Determine a fair amount to be spent by teacher per classroom and rebate the rest to parcel tax payers whom can save it to pay the next parcel tax local authorities ask us for to pay.
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm
I say, let's stop the parent extortion at the public schools. Every year I'm asked for 600-800 per student as a pressured "donation". If you can pay, great. And thank you for those who donate more. But if you try to not pay, and your kid didn't ride the bus to school, you can hang your publicly embarrassed head in shame. Let's knock that off, ok?
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm
With the state of the Budget in California, it is very prudent for PAUSD to keep any surplus to be used at a later date. Depending on what happens in November, the schools could take another huge hit to their finances next year.
To Anon - your student(s) benefit from the "extortion" every year whether or not you donate, PiE funds are distributed on a per student basis. You shouldn't feel bad if you can't afford it and you can certainly give less than the request amount.
I agree it would be great to give bonuses to teachers that go above and beyond, the teacher's union does not allow that. You get more money for your years of teaching and increased education, unfortunately, not for your classroom performance.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm
@Frank -- was curious and so looked things up on the PAUSD website. It looks like raises for years of service are automatic each year through the first 12 years, with additional raises for each semester of additional units completed. Permanent raises are also provided for Master's degrees, Ph.D., and special credentialing, and step increases continuing following performance evaluations at years 13, 16, 20, 25, and 30. From my perspective, teachers deserve good salaries, but do remember these are 9-10 month salaries, with Christmas break, winter break, and spring breaks built in. In this budget climate, surpluses should either be saved as reserve, returned to parents who have donated to the schools, or returned to those paying a very high parcel tax (the first option being the best IMHO).
Posted by Agree with Anon!, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Agree with Anon who states: "I say, let's stop the parent extortion at the public schools. Every year I'm asked for 600-800 per student as a pressured "donation". Why not use the extra dollars to directly benefit the students? After all, that's what really concerns our wonderful teachers, isn't it? :)
Is quite interesting - each step averages 2.79% raise for continuing service (without any assumption of increased education or qualifications). This is very comparable to the corporate salaries adjustments. Many companies have had zero raise for a few years. Some pay cuts and many staff cuts.
I would rather see money:
A) saved for shortfalls when Brown's tax fails (really - who believes it will pass? The last 8 attempts failed)
B) saved for growth in enrollment to prevent increased classroom sizes
C) spent on eliminating lemon teachers
If these events fail to require funds by year-end, then give the teachers the following:
D) spend on raises for the most senior teachers (who get no step)
E) spent on a one-time/one-percent BONUS. That way it does not build-in future spending.
(remember - they are getting a raise this year; it is called a 'step')
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm
Agree with Anon - the PiE donation does directly benefit students in the form of Classroom aides, Science enrichment, College and Career Counseling, additional counselors at the middle and high schools, Spectra Art, additional electives, etc. Where did you assume the money went?
Posted by Confused, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm
Bank the money for a rainy day! How is there a surplus when we are always being told there won't be enough and we need to renew the parcel tax. Also, why were summer school classes for high school free this year?
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm
Last Friday, the June 15 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly had an article about the 2012-2013 school district budget: "Mak proposed a 2012-13 school district operating budget of $163.2 million, using reserve funds to make up for a $5.5 million shortfall in revenue."
I think a more prudent use of the surplus for this year is to applying it to next year's budget, so that the district does not have to dip as deeply into it's reserve funds to make up for the expected deficit.
Posted by GougedInMidtown, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:11 pm
Like so many others who have commented that not every surplus dollar needs to be spent immediately by way of a pay raise to someone or the other, I am mentally exhausted at this action. Expenses and rents have increased for everyone not just government employees. In fact the rest of us dont have the ability to make these demands - and we definitely have to save for our own retirement. There has to be a way to prevent this from being spent.
Posted by Give Teacher's a Break, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm
In response to "Don't agree".
By the way, PA teachers are a privileged bunch.
-You really think teacher's are a privileged bunch? Take a look at the salary schedule again and reconsider if this is fair pay based on their training and expertise.
In other school districts there are cuts all over the place because budgets are down.
-We are having an economic crisis that is devastating our education system. So your argument is because we are neglecting it elsewhere even more severely than Palo Alto, we should do it here, too?
Second, teachers and city employees have the best benefits there are.
-That is not the case anymore. The PPO health plan for teacher's has become prohibitively expensive. Most teacher's use Kaiser and HMO plans similar to what employee's of most private company's receive. Yes, they get more vacation and a pension but they do not receive stock options or employee stock purchase plans. There are tradeoffs of working in public service but I don't see how these are the "best benefits there are".
Posted by PA Parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm
I've read the District budget and the teachers are asking for a surplus that won't be there UNLESS the Governor's budget passes. The District has planned and cut for the past several years and gotten lucky with what they call "one time money" and built a good cushion. But it could vanish in an instant if the governor's initiative fails to pass. Sadly, I'm betting on it failing.
Personally, I think that the employees DO deserve a pay increase...But not right now. A lot of staff aren't eligible for automatic increases - especially the support staff. They've maxed out or are in a place where the increases are 3 or more years apart. And they've seen pay stay flat for several years while costs go up.
I've also experienced pay freezes over the years, but at least there was always an upside -- I knew that I might get a bonus or my options might increase in value. For better or worse our school employees don't get bonuses or merit increases. So, if they're at the top of their range, there is nothing left. I find it incredibly disheartening when my boss says there are no raises possible for anyone -- I bet they do too. I remember one year my boss went to the wall and got me a 0.5% increase (yes, really, it was a tough time in the valley) and at least I felt valued even if the raise didn't buy much. Our teachers want to know we value them AND they want to put food on the table.
SO, once the District gets through this crisis all the staff deserve cost of living adjustments. I want good teachers for my kids; teachers who can afford to live in our community rather than commuting from Gilroy! Our kids are worth great schools and great staff make great schools.
But, right now, the District needs to hang on to every penny it can get because November is WAY iffy and $5M is a BIG hole to fill.
Posted by Frank, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm
@neighbor- thanks for getting that info. If it is true that teachers are getting an automatic annual step increase every year for 12 years on top other other incentives for education, etc., I would agree that they are a lot better off than most of us.
I am all for paying our teachers fairly, along with our other public servants, but everyone is doing more with less these days. I think the city cops just took pay cuts and I know they don't get automatic raises every year. And my check sure doesn't go up automatically every year at my private sector job.
Posted by PAUSD Classified, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:35 pm
Reading these comments, I want to clear up something. As a classified staff member, I do have to save for my own retirement and so do the teachers. I have to pay social security - just like all of you. I also pay something like 8.5% of my salary into CALPERS (not sure I'll ever see the money) and because I'm not sure that I'll ever see anything from social security or CALPERS, I put as much as I can into a 403(b) - the government equivalent of a 401K.
I figure that 30% of my salary goes to retirement funds, only one optional. IF I see all that money, I'll be happy... But I don't count on it.
Then there are taxes. I take home well less than 1/2 my pay.
So, to those of you who think that ALL public employees get a free ride in the state pension system, think again.
Posted by GougedInMidtown, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 7:19 am
Some posters seem to assume that everyone receives a bonus, stock or options just because they work in private / public companies. Good for those of you that do but most of us dont receive any of this. And to attempt to make a case for spending every dollar is reckless spending at its worst.
Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 8:05 am
Have any of you stepped foot in a classroom lately? It's a wonder we have any teachers left to teach your children. Those figures in the article regarding salary, though accurate for purposes of this article, are not accurate in terms of take home pay, for obvious reasons. Most every teacher I know is teaching summer school, or tutoring or keeping their second job so they can afford to live. It's ridiculous. And next time you think giving a teacher a teeny tiny raise for the first time in 3 years is a bad idea, YOU teach a 5 year old, 25 five year olds, how to read and write their feelings about what they read in English. YOU teach a 7 year old, 23 7 year olds, how to add and subtract fractions and take multi hour standardized tests. YOU teach a 13 year old, 35, 13 year olds, to learn anything. YOU teach a High School student, 38-40, high school students, how to maintain their sanity, develop identity, and set their futures in motion. Or you could just come out and do Yard Duty. Teachers have to do yard duty 5 days a week because there is no money to hire people to supervise children during their breaks. Forget going to the bathroom between 7:50am and 3:45pm. You will also be eating out of ziplock on a weekly basis. If you are not currently a PAUSD teacher or the spouse of one, son, daughter, family member of a teacher, you really have no business declaring that teachers don't deserve a small one time raise.
Can you imagine if the teachers walked, hmmm, that little 1 time per teacher raise might then look like a pretty good deal.
Posted by Yes we do, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 8:19 am
"If you are not currently a PAUSD teacher or the spouse of one, son, daughter, family member of a teacher, you really have no business declaring that teachers don't deserve a small one time raise."
Yes we do. We're the taxpayers. And while we appreciate and support our teachers (often with our own private dollars), we've seen what happens when our elected officials do the "easy thing" and give "surplus funds" to the public employees (who already get automatic raises of course, plus good benefits and pensions). Pretty soon there is no surplus, the high costs are built in, and the alternative is to cut the services we value or jack up the taxes. No thanks.
I'm not sure what the right answer in this case is, but the logic isn't "give them what they want, they are so deserving."
Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community, on Jun 20, 2012 at 8:50 am
JUST BECAUSE THERE IS A SURPLUS....
in all cases you should SPEND IT!
Please keep in mind that you're SPENDING OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY.
Would you toss it around that way if it was coming directly from your pocket?
Property Owners are really tired of footing the bill for EVERYTHING.
Whenever any municipality needs money they AUTOMATICALY turn to Property Owners.
I agree the teachers may need a raise, but perhaps, as others have posted, the money should not be spent 100% for that. How about 1/3 SAVE for a Rainy Day, 1/3 for the TEACHERS and 1/3 REBATE back to where it came - to property owners.
You'll have abetter chance of getting another Parcel Tax or School Bond measure Passed next time the Administrators come up with a "need" to spend the Property Owners' money they have extracted if you prove yourselves o be good stewards of that money now.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 9:07 am
> Most every teacher I know is teaching summer school, or tutoring or
> keeping their second job so they can afford to live.
Ah .. this seems a little hard to believe. Any proof?
Oh, and while you’re at it, keep in mind that most families enjoy two incomes. Are you suggesting that teachers are different? That the compensation for teaching such be sufficiently high to reduce the need for both parties to work? Or are you suggesting that teachers (about 75% nationally), should be paid so well that they don’t need to marry, and engage in a traditional home situation?
Posted by resident, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 9:54 am
This is a tough situation. Personally, I think teachers should get decent pay, however, there is no money for CA public school. PAUSD has been depending on raising tax to meet their budget. With the economy is bad and many companies stop annual salary increase, for sure, taxpayer will scream for any more benefit for school because PAUSD is taking away taxpayer's tight home budget. It is like, "I don't have enough money to cover my own food, but I have to pay you for a raise?" I don't blame these residents.
As I see, CA just don't have enough money to support K-12 education anymore. Jerry Brown's tax bill may not pass at all in Nov. So, what is the plan? Maybe we should take UC/CSU model now for K-12. UC/CSU are public schools but every student has to pay some amount of tuition unless one qualify for financial aid. I know school has been asking parents to donate money every year, however, only 50% families actually do so although some families do have money and living in a nice house. PAUSD needs to find a way to "collect" money from those "cheap" families who have kids in PAUSD, instead of asking every taxpayer in Palo Alto.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:46 am
Resident -By law, K-12 schools can't charge for tuition- they can't even "charge" for field trips per ED code section 35330-35332 which says that no one can be excluded from a field trip if they can't pay and "the governing board shall coordinate efforts of community service groups to supply funds for pupils in need"
I do wish that we had a higher percentage participation in PiE since EVERY student benefits - whether their family donates or not. Menlo Park has a 74% participation rate and was able to donate over $3 million dollars for just 2700 or so students (as opposed to our 11,000 students). Is Menlo just a more generous community?
Posted by Jim H., a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:20 am
I agree, a reserve fund is the most prudent use. However, I foresee the district spending the reserve fund on non essential items, or, more likely, spending their current budget on non-essential items, thus necessitating the use of the reserve fund.
How about a bonus pool, and each principal is responsible for doling out the money to each school's top performers. Or is that too much like the real world???
Everyone get's 1%, everyone gets tenured, everyone is equal, everyone is unique.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:30 am
Jim H. - teachers can't receive bonuses per their union. Pay is based on years of experience and education levels. Period. Bummer huh!
BTW -I don't think the District spends money on non-essential items (which is why the Tower bldg at Paly looks so bad, very few classes take place in the building and the District tries to keep the money they spend with the kids).
Posted by Former Gunn Mom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:36 am
The last time the board voted for a pay increase, they had to increase the size of the parcel tax. Just wait for the next time it needs renewing....
And the recent changes to school policy--the A-G requirement will have an impact on costs--more support services will have to be put in place to make sure kids who want to pass that hurdle do--more summer school classes, more remedial help in all grades.
And if Gunn is forced to implement the Paly TA system, that will add at least $300K to the expense line. Suddenly a surplus of $1M seems like too little to cover these recent policy changes.
Nowhere except in these union jobs do people get raises for just showing up for work. It is time to deunionize teachers and treat them like professionals who should earn the right to keep a job and earn a raise based on performance just like all the workers in
Posted by Mary, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm
We have gone w/o a raise for three years. Other districts surrounding us have received salary increases and they do not have a $13million surplus. The one time "stipend" to the average PAUSD teacher would be approximately $1000 or $100 increase per month. Let's see...that would mean per month about 20 gallons of gas, 10 lunches, or average PG&E payment. Wow! Gold mine? NOT!!!!
Posted by Marie, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jun 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm
When I worked for HP, everyone received the May & December "bonus," or profit sharing. It was NOT based on performance of the individual employee, but the performance of the company as a whole. Each employee also receive a the right to purchase stock at a discount. Teachers spend 100s of bucks on classroom supplies and copying each year. They do NOT get this money reimbursed. Try teaching 150 kids per day at the high school level? Many weekend hours are spent correcting papers and doing lesson planning.
Most of you wouldn't last a week under these conditions. Give 'em the stipend!
Posted by Jim H., a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm
Palo Alto Mom - Maybe they can call it something other than a "bonus". Must be a loophole. As for waste, I'm sure there's plenty. Do you know how they maintain that new grass softball and baseball fields? One guy pushes a 36" mower over the entire field. No joke. Must take him 5X the time it would take with a rider mower the city uses.
And, pretty sure PAUSD still pays Bob Golton who retired 5-7 years ago, as a business consultant. When they re-hired him they said it was to help in the transition of the new business manager.
Posted by Whoa, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm
It's not really a surplus. We have a parcel tax in place and PIE donations are expected in specific amounts from students' parents. The expected PTA contributions are on top of that. The justification is that the schools are underfunded, so if there is some leftover this year, we need to save it for a rainy day.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm
I think it is best to save the money for the reserve fund - California's finances are precarious.
Actually, there might be a way to give this money to the teachers if the overall budget were re-examined and pruned (a great idea that won't happen -- we all know there is tremendous padding in such budgets).
The teachers' unions are the most powerful unions in the U.S. - National Education Association (NEA), CA Teachers Association (CTA) are unarguably very powerful over politicians at all levels.
One thing I do know is teachers have excellent holidays and summers off.
I remember working here in Silicon Valley all around Christmas, yes, in industry where they did not do an (unpaid) shutdown - yes, SOME companies and SOME job functions get that SOMETIMES....unpaid shutdowns - take your vacation time or go unpaid..I envy teachers their schedules. They have great holidays - engraved in stone.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm
@PAUSD classified. To clear up several things:
First, your contribution to the government pension is 8%, not 8.5%. Second, health insurance for employees and two dependents is FULLY paid s if you have Kaiser, $36.00 for one dependent, $72 for 2 dependents if you have Blue Cross PPO. Each dependent is worth $500/mo benefit. It is important to look at all benefits tied together to understand compensation packages.
Additionally, if you can afford to put 30% of your income into retirement every month, you are doing much better than most of the people I know (including me). Pension + social security = 14%, which means you can save an additional 16%. Couldn't make my condo mortgage payments if I did that. No, most public employees don't get a free ride, but they do get a solid one (there are some city and counties that do not require contributions, which is one of the reasons they are in such bad shape).
@Elizabeth -- do teachers work hard? Of course they do. Do they deserve our respect. Definitely. Have they gotten raises? YES, they have. If you have a chance to read some of the posts and links, you will see that teachers are given automatic raises every year for the first 12 years of teaching, then raises at year 13, 16, 20, 25, and 30 with review. ADDITIONALLY, they are given raises automatically when they seek additionally education and credentialling. It is important to be accurate. The pay scale for PA teachers is amongst the best in the state (not THE best, though).
This isn't to say that they don't deserve more. My point is that the taxpayers are also paying more each year as the parcel tax INCREASES AUTOMATICALLY. An automatic increase in our liability when there is a surplus doesn't quite make sense. Again, I'd advocate for holding onto the surplus to replenish the reserves. Funding is unpredictable these days.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm
> My point is that the taxpayers are also paying more each year
> as the parcel tax INCREASES AUTOMATICALLY
Not certain this is true. It was my understanding that it was a fixed amount for each of the years authorized. Now, under Prop.13 every parcel's base assessment is increased by 2%, and therefore all property value-based taxes increase (base tax assessment + construction bonds).
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm
According to California Proposition 13 (1978), local districts can levy this type of non-ad valorem tax if a supermajority of two-thirds of the voters approve. (A non-ad valorem tax is one that is not based on the value of the property that is being taxed.)
Since parcel taxes are non-ad velorem, they can't increase as the base assessment rises.
Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm
Why are some parents allowed to game the system? - they sue the distict and after the district caves they collect many thousands of dollars to the detriment of the students, the teachers and the parents. If people want to cheat the district why not fight back?
I heard of one couple - the wife actually teaches one day a week at Nixon and the husband is a professor at Stanford. They have sued the distict a number of times and have collected over $100K. They have taken advantage of the district and as a result one teaching position has been cut and Nixon will have 3 kindegarden classes instead of four and 15 students need to be reassigned to other schools. The woman has not regard for the damage she is doing and in fact used the money to buy herself a car. It is time to get rid of families like this and expose them for what they are.
Posted by PAUSD Classified, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm
@Neighbor: Instead of quibbling as to whether I put 8% or 8.5% into my pension, you could pay attention to the point. There is a perception that government employees receive a free ride with our pensions. I worked in industry for MANY more years than I have worked in government. While in industry, i had a defined benefit pension (yes, unusual, but I did) and I paid NOTHING for it. At PAUSD, I pay 8.0% (not 8.5% as you pointed out) for the benefit of a defined benefit pension that I'm much less confident of receiving that the pension from my former employer. I'm not allowed to opt out of the system and I continue to pay social security as well -- another myth that exists is that public employees don't pay social security either.
And yes, since retirement is a priority, I scrimp in many other areas so that I can max out my 403b. So, yes, I do put over 30% of my salary into retirement. My priorities are clearly different than yours. Not better or worse - different.
Government employees pay for their retirement too. So, you can pay me more now or you can pay my retirement (if CALPERS is solvent) but don't complain that my retirement package is high when it's time to collect. I paid my share and wasn't given a choice to opt out. And, I made less in the short term against the promise of a pension in the long run. It's part of the social contract. You get an opportunity - not a guarantee - of raises and stock - and I get certainty of no raise but a pension (if CALPERS remains solvent).
For the record, I'd prefer a system of merit pay and I'd love to see the union go. But that's NOT THE SYSTEM WE HAVE. Don't beat up the people working in the system. Fix the system.
Next, you brought up benefits in the context of total comp. I was talking about retirement, not total comp. But if you want to talk about benefits, you are right that the HMO plan is quite affordable. But the PPO, if you want one, costs over $1000 for two people. I pay slightly less for insurance than i did with my former employer, but I'm stuck with the choice of an HMO and my college aged child has only emergency room coverage at school even though the District pays a fortune to insure her - because she goes to school out of state and the district doesn't have an HMO plan with coverage in the state where she attends school. It's a pretty crappy situation and one that I didn't have to deal with when I worked in industry.
I know that many of you think we're all lifers in the system with no industry experience and we all think unions are wonderful. Some of us left good careers in industry later in our lives to make a difference and we haven't drunk the kool aid. But it is disheartening to get beat up by the community and treated as if we're money grubbing and wasteful. MOST of us are hard working and responsible - just like you and we'd like the same respect that you expect.
Posted by Don't agree, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm
@ PAUSD classified
Anyone in the private sector or in the federal civil service would gladly switch places with you when it comes to retirement plans. We would love to pay into a plan with the prospect of collecting something close to our highest salary for the rest of our lives once we retire.
Sure, your retirement may never materialize, but our retirement may never materialize either, and, again, yours sounds very good compared to what we get. Most of us don't have the defined benefit plan that you had in the private sector, and we have to pay into our 401k, hoping not only to get enough to cover our retirement, but also that it won't collapse in a financial crisis like so many did in 2008.
BTW in the federal civil service, the pay is less than in the private sector AND you need to have a 401K if you want to save money for retirement. You also pay social security.
So, please stop complaining. You have it very good compared to others.
Posted by PAUSD Classified, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm
Let me try this one more time. I'm not complaining. I'm saying that each choice - private and public has it's own challenges. If you want to trade places, give it a try and see how much you enjoy being vilified for collecting the retirement you earn. In the corporate world only CEO pay is routinely questioned. In the public sector everyone gets criticized for collecting a check or retirement. Oh, and 'close to 100% of your salary in retirement takes 40 YEARS OF SERVICE in a school district.
Remember, I've been on both sides of the fence. Have you? And I'm telling you that my experience is that they're both equal - just different. But I didn't have people telling me that I didn't deserve the money I earned when I worked in the private sector. Try it and see how it feels.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:09 am
> There is a perception that government employees
> receive a free ride with our pensions
And with good reason—they pretty much do. Pensions are not generally discussed as a part of the compensation package—and as such, most people come to believe that this is “free money” that is given to employees who retire after some number of years.
Because of the far-too-generous pensions that have been promised to public sector employees by unaccountable publicly-elected officials, we (as a nation) are just now coming to understand how ruinous these pensions are, and how much money is involved in the payouts. (The numbers vary, but the estimates for public sector pension underfunding is in the $1T-$5T range.)
Pensions are deferred salary. As such, the pension payouts need to be on the table when compensation packages are negotiated. Unfortunately, with CalSTRS and CalPERS being the money managers for most public sector pensions, few local government agencies seem to know, or want to know, anything about how pensions work, or the long-term obligation of the local agencies to make good the promises of these lavish pensions.
CalPERS offers something on the order of 15 different pension programs; CalSTRS has its own programs. With about 2,500 local governmental agencies in California, it’s difficult to keep up with more than one or two of the pension programs for government sector people. Some agencies have not required their employees to contribute to the funds, others do. Without a complete list of all of these 2,500 agencies—it would be futile to attempt to make generalized claims about what public sector people do, or don’t do, when it comes to contributions to their pension funds.
Public safety employees receive the most generous pension payouts in California, at the present time—
Using a COLA of only 2%, public safety retirees receive the following payouts:
Police and Fire Department employees are routinely drawing over $100K in the larger cities, with their pensions at 90% of their high salary. In another decade, or so, the public sector will totally bankrupt the private sector with their pension demands.
PAUSD teachers, exiting the system at 30 years, will make a little less than public safety people—drawing somewhere in the range of $3.3M over 30 years of retirement.
With teachers in the PAUSD often making more than $100K/year, the total lifetime compensation for teachers is now in the range of $5M-$6M before the healthcare costs, and other benefits are considered.
People on Social Security do not draw multi-million dollar payouts—making this pension issue one that is not only bankrupting the nation, but one that pits public sector people against ordinary people, often living on fixed incomes.
So—when you look at the vast sums that are paid to public sector people, over their working years, and their retirement years—it does look like they are getting a “free ride” to many of us.
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:18 am
One of my favorite works is "chutzpah". If you are not sure what it means -- this is it!
Most of us with jobs are happy to have jobs at all. Given the uncertainty of every public and private budget national state and local-- put any left over money in reserve! Do you have any idea how many unemployed teachers there are out there who would love to work for a district with a salary range of $50K-$100K ?!?!
Posted by jb, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:57 am
I have a question about the bile directed toward people who belong to unions and people who will draw a pension. Why is everyone so jealous? Over many years I have seen employees roll over while unions are broken,and the right to unionize is destroyed in legislatures. Unions negotiate pensions. And if the news is to be believed, the money for pensions is socked away all over the Pacific and Atlantic island nations by companies that don't wish to share.
Instead of tearing down anyone with a pension or a union, go to work to get one for your own employee group.
Bumper Sticker: Enjoy your weekend. It comes to you courtesy of a union.
Posted by Ernesto USMC, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 11:22 am
"Instead of tearing down anyone with a pension or a union, go to work to get one for your own employee group."
This is an arrogant argument that the public sector often makes to the taxpaying public. It conveniently ignores economic reality: the private sector is not backstopped by other people's tax dollars, and is therefore not able to pay itself the same out-of-market compensation that the public sector has extracted via its unions and bought politicians. In the private sector, the only thing a union can negotiate for is its share of the value created for the company by its membership. There is no taxpayer trough to fall back on.
Rather than complain about the taxpayers (who fund your benefits) right to complain, the public sector should focus on delivering the value to the taxpayers that justifies what we pay you. The problem is that public sector labor costs are so much above value delivered that this isn't possible. There is no way the 100K Palo Alto streetsweeper, for example, can increase his productivity to produce double the output that his outsourced private sector counterpart at 50K could produce. With that hard reality in mind, the only way to fix this inefficiency is to pay the PA streetsweeper less or outsource his position to the private sector. As a taxpayer, its a waste of my hard earned money to pay such outlandish union wages for work that is worth in many cases less than half what is paid. The amount of waste in local government is staggering.
So to the poster above, I say as long as you are eating from the trough that I'm filling with my hard earned tax dollars, don't question my right to hold you accountable for your output.
Posted by someone, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm
I can't believe PA teachers' logic.
They let room parents collect money for the whole year's activities. Then they cancel some of them. The room parents usually say it is too hard to return money to each family. The "surplus" usually become monetary gifts to teachers besides half-obiligated gifts twice a year. They collect money for a teacher appreciation day, now a week (soon to be a whole month of appreciation).
PIE makes schools compete each other for us to show our school spirits. Even our principal was wearing a funny costume and beg us to donate money. They say music and art teachers have to go if we don't donate. I will not donate next year due to this article.
Please reserve the surplus this year and do not collect extra money next year. We, parents, have to save money so that we can supplement our kids' math and writing at home such as tutors and educational centers when they get non skilled or lazy teachers. when students are doing great, that's PA teachers' credits.
I must emphasize, though, that some teachers are amazing.
I hope the surplus only goes to those teachers if the money has to be given to teachers.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm
@PAUSD teacher writes:
"Thanks. You guys are great. Appreciate all the kind words of wisdom and support."
You're welcome. Sarcasm cuts both ways.
Here is what you are welcome for, seriously: if you are an average teacher, you received a 2.7% raise last year. Many people did not. If you are an average teacher, your retirement benefits are deferred compensation worth something like $50K+. These are DEFINED BENEFITS. You negotiated for them, you get them; good for you. Nobody else gets this - do you know why? Because private sector workers cannot manipulate the political system to extort money from the entire state.
The rest of us? We have defined contribution - we (might) be able to save something every year, but I doubt it is worth $50K. And we are subject to risk of investing in this market. Do you know how fun it is to wake up some morning in 2008, and discover you have to work another decade? Good times.
As to the general issue of taxation, and pulling the state out of its permanent shortfall, here is the deal:
I will pay more money. I'll do it. I'll vote for Gov Brown reaching into my pocket and stealing my money. On one condition: fix the broken pension system.
You can have more of my money when you show good stewardship of it.
Anyone else want to tell us what it would take for them to vote for a tax hike? I am curious...
As for the teachers, god knows you have a difficult job. I love many of my teachers. Some not so much. I donate to PiE and will continue to do so, as it benefits the kids through enrichment. PiE money is not entitlement to teachers; it is benefit to kids. Yes we pay teachers to deliver that service; and I am sure they work hard for it.
But a pay raise? You are already getting a pay raise. It's called step-and-column. In fact, you have a guaranteed pay raise. It's almost obscene to ask for an even bigger pay raise.
Wait for Gov. Brown's tax to pass, then you can go back to the trough.
Meanwhile, you should lobby for pension reform - that will win Gov Brown 1 more vote.
Posted by Maya, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm
This thread makes my blood boil yet I keep coming back to it like a $3.00 box of wine, disgusting. I guess I keep hoping to find 1 or 2 people willing to state, GREAT JOB teachers, there isn't enough money in the world to pay you for what you do! Let's be honest, not all, but most people can't tolerate other people's children but in small doses. Try making them your 7:00am-5:00pm, a lot more messy than a cubicle. Anyway, Teachers, I hope you stick around, I hope you get some props, and thank you for teaching such a diverse and wonderful lot of children.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm
I have had GREAT TEACHERS for my kids. Thank you to the Teachers.
There, I said it. And I meant it.
And it still has nothing to do with the availability of funds. The issue, AS RAISE BY THE UNION is not whether they are GREAT, but whether we should give them more money.
If we make the decision of pay based on GREATNESS, then why not give them 100% raise. I think every teacher that has my kid deserves a 200% raise. But that does not make the money appear out of thin air.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm
My kid's 3rd grade was great, adapted the lesson path to each individual kid, and deserves a raise. My kid's 4th grade teacher was a turkey; wouldn't teach the next set of concepts until each and every kid was at the same level. Deserves to be fired, but got tenure instead. That's why this proposal is so bogus - as every teacher regardless of performance would get a raise.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm
> This is an arrogant argument that the public sector often
> makes to the taxpaying public. It conveniently ignores
> economic reality:
It’s really beyond arrogant—it has become dangerous to the financial stability of the country. Public sector pensions are so lavish, that many people (depending on agency and years of employment) can expect to make more than twice in their retirement years what they made in the working years! This money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the future--to be paid off by our children and grandchildren.
The current magnitude of the unfunded liabilities ranges anywhere from $60T to $200T, depending on who is looking at what Federal and State ledgers—
The $61.6 trillion in unfunded obligations amounts to $528,000 per household. That's more than five times what Americans have borrowed for everything else — mortgages, car loans and other debt. It reflects the challenge as the number of retirees soars over the next 20 years and seniors try to collect on those spending promises.
This source makes the liability out to be about $110T—
This is the "Unfunded Liability" that is in our future. The generally accepted amount is that110 trillion dollars will be needed to meet the requirements of our senior citizens over the next 50 years. Whether the total is more or less is essentially irrelevant because we don't have the money to meet this future obligation regardless of the amount.
Notice the per household obligation of over $500K per household--which is currently ignored by just about everyone. And given that only about 50% of the American people actually pay Federal Income Taxes, this per household number is zero for some families, and over $1M for others.
With the comment “we’ve got ours—go get one of your own” becoming so typical of government sector labor unions, where this issue is concerned, the bankruptcy of the US will sit clearly on their heads. Even though the media has become aware of this matter in the past of couple years, the numbers are so staggering that it’s doubtful that many people are aware of how precarious the situation is.
Even two-tiered pensions are not the answer, albeit popular at the moment. The whole pension system needs to be dismantled, all of the contracts voided, and something that does not destroy the future conceived. At the moment, it’s not clear that anyone in the US has the slightest idea what that new system might be—since Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid are also on a collision course with bankruptcy in the not too distant future too.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm
@PAUSD classified. Am only trying to encourage accuracy. In terms of understanding the point, you mention priorities and treat my "priority" of paying my mortgage and property taxes (+$800 PAUSD parcel tax) as if it is optional. My reality, as well as others, is that if there is no extra 16% to put in a 401 without skipping mortgage, insurance, or property tax payments. Not everyone in Palo Alto is well off. And no, don't say they should move if they can't afford it. I can afford it, but can't afford 16% in additional funds for retirement. BTW, I am a public employee, so you're arguing with the wrong person. Additionally, it is my understanding that teachers do NOT also pay into social security (my mom did not), so you must be an administrator or non-union employee?
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm
@Wayne Martin -- yes, in fact, language on the PAUSD mentions a 2% annual adjustment to the parcel tax. BTW, I was not accurate in stating the parcel tax was $800 (just feels like it!); it's closer to $600.00.
To those providing figures for public employee union obligations:
As a public employee (state), I agree things are not sustainable as is and change is essential. I do, however, encourage people to recognize the incredible range of public employee unions, benefits and retirement plans. Some, amazingly, have never required their employees to contribute to medical or retirement benefits, others very minimally (UC and many safety worker unions belong in this category). The UCs changed this several years ago. Others have followed policies that never made any sense, such as the city of San Jose giving bonuses to retirees if there was "left-over money" in any given year, without considering long-term obligations. This also is changing.
Some allow retirements at age 50 (again, primarily police and fire) and allow "spikes" in salaries during the last year of service by providing overtime and last minute "promotions", most do neither. Public employee retirements should NEVER be based on overtime. Some provide 3% per year of service (again, safety workers), most do not. The vast majority of state workers cannot retire until age 60+, with many in the 63-70 range. And yes, while very good, the max retirement is more likely to be 40-60% with 20-25 years of service, and 60-75% with 30 years (vs. 90% with 30 years of service at age 50 for safety). Bottom line: not all public employee retirement benefits are equal, and most studies show that comparably-educated state employees make less than those in the private sector. This is neither a complaint or an attempt to advocate in any direction, but an attempt to encourage accuracy.
Posted by hard-working teacher, a resident of Mountain View, on Jun 22, 2012 at 12:24 am
Step and column raises are not a substitute for cost-of-living increases. Never were intended as such. Think about it. If they were, after 30 years of teaching and maxing out at the original step and column system I was hired at, I'd be making the same in 2042 as was thought to be a top salary in 2012.
Put another way, I now make about $100,000 a year as a PAUSD teacher. I've been in the district a dozen or so years. My salary is not going to grow much any more via step and column increases. If I stay another 20 years -- which is what it looks like I'll need to do to retire with all the benefits that everyone is talking about -- how will my salary have kept up with inflation? It won't have, at least not without continued raises outside the step-and-column schedule. What might a livable starting salary be in 32? Surely not $100,000. More likely it'll be upwards of $500,000 or more (just an off-the-top-of-my-head guess).
So, yes, teachers need to continue to push for COLA and more to keep up -- especially in Silicon Valley, where COLA isn't sufficient to keep pace.
And the proposed one-time raise doesn't even become embedded in COLA or step-and-column raises -- so there is no long-term benefit to teachers.
As for the idea that unions are evil. Nonsense. I'm delighted -- ecstatic -- that I have an organization that represents me and my interests, not just in wage negotiations but in many other aspects of my job. Because the alternative is that I'd be totally on my own against the district, county and state? Which model would you pursue for yourself?
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2012 at 7:20 am
> 2% increase in the parcel tax ..
Thanks for the correction. I should have taken the time to look up the language on the ballot. There have been three parcel tax elections in Palo Alto over the past ten years or so. The first two ballot items did not have such a provision.
> and most studies show that comparably-educated state employees
> make less than those in the private sector.
The problem with these studies is that they do not factor in post-retirement benefits, or the value of jobs-for-life employment status. As I have attempted to point out in the previous postings, government sector workers receive, in many cases, pensions that are actually deferred salary, which can, with COLAs and "spikes", provide them more compensation in their retirement years than in their working years.
To explain this issue of total-life-time-cost-of-compensation, I wrote this 8-page paper a couple years ago—
Another shortcoming in these so-called “studies” comparing the private sector and the public sector turns out to be that the continuity of public sector jobs, compared to public sector jobs, amounts up a difference in total income that tends to favor public sector employees. In other words, when people are out-of-work, they are not receiving a salary. When total revenue during one’s working years is considered, even if there were a salary differential that favored the public sector, then the months/years that people spend without gainful employment will reduce the accrued income of private sector people.
So, without considering total-lifetime-income (working years + retirement years) .. then these studies are not to be taken seriously.
Locally, the City of Palo Alto now has over 40% of its employees making over $100K, with pensions that will generate from 80% to over 100% of their exit salaries, for life! The yearly salary lists for the City show that the Public Safety employees are now pushing those numbers into the $200K/year range.
How many private sector companies here in the Silicon Valley can anyone name where over 40% of the employees are compensated so lavishly?
The PAUSD is moving in the same direction. All of the Admins are paid well over $100K. One PAUSD employee, in fact, having retired, and now back on the job—is drawing over $400K/year in retirement and active employee payouts.
This year, “government” is consuming about 50% of the GDP. If the current President is re-elected, it’s hard not to believe that “government” will not continue to absorb ever larger slices of the GDP until it collapse,--because there is not enough capital in the system to sustain the economy.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2012 at 7:28 am
> As for the idea that unions are evil. Nonsense.
I wonder if this teacher has ever seen the devastation of the Unions in the Rust Belt, of the US? The Maritime industry was destroyed first, then the Railroads .. then the Steel Industry, and the Auto industry has almost been destroyed by Unions that have driven the price of labor to the point that companies American automobile companies are barely able to compete on the world market.
There are other reasons, such as environmental regulations here in the US that are not in place in other parts of the world, as well as previously pre-industrial societies (India and China) beginning to industrialize over the past fifty years, having access to labor pools that work for 10 cents on the dollar, compared to the US.
But when one looks at the effect of labor unions on the demise of the industrialized regions of the East Coast, anyone who does not see the toxic effects of labor unions is simply delusional. (Not to mention the fact that both the Communists and the Mafia were able to gain significant hold of these unions during the 1930s-1950s.)
Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2012 at 8:15 am
I believe that as long as there are government unions funding politicians we will continue in this unsustainable cycle of ever growing government union employee compensation. It seems we need to do the following:
1.) eliminate collective bargaining for government union employees
2.) convert all government employees to 401k style retirement plans
3.) outsource to the more efficient private sector as many functions of government work as possible
4.) eliminate tenure for teachers
While frustrating to deal with, I appreciate the attention the unions have brought to these issues (by increasing their unreasonable demands).
The most important step we can take is to remove from office the politicians who prioritize union compensation and benefits over the needs of the community. The first to be removed should be Price, followed by Shepherd.
Posted by village fool, a resident of another community, on Jun 22, 2012 at 10:39 am
I used to be very opinionated as to the need to eliminate the unions. Not any more. Especially in the public education system.
Unfortunately, I realized that unions are the only mechanism which can "watch" the fox, guarding the chicken coop. Watch, protect the weak (employees and public being served) from the whims/ego/power drive of many foxes around.
Until a serious mechanism of checks and balances is place, processes guaranteeing transparency, protecting the interests the tax payers are defined/installed/tested/proven - unions are the single, close to everyday events mechanism available. The legal system can not support. Unions are a tiny check, in a very needed checks and balances system that must to be in place to monitor that tax $ is spent the way it should.
And no, I do not think that it is the right time for teachers to ask for a raise. It goes without saying that there are some great teachers. And some not so great.
And then, again - check the salaries of the foxes, performance, admin. structure, regulations/corporate culture protecting the fox.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm
let's not forget that teachers work only 9 out of 12 months, so their $100K equilibrates to $133K or so. (yes, 2 full months of summer + 2 full weeks at xmas + spring break + every government holiday = about 3 months off that idustry workers do not see)
Posted by K, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm
I think teachers should not complain about their pay. They get the summer and all the other non-school days off, so that saves them a lot of money if they have kids themselves. I have a graduate degree (Ph.D.), 15 years of experience in my profession and make 75K annually working a full-time job, i.e. with 15 days off per year. My salary is pretty much standard in my profession as a scientist in academia. I need to pay for summer camps for my kids plus after-school care and daycare during other school breaks. Just imagine how much that eats off my meager income. Combined with the high cost of living in the Bay Area that really makes it hard to survive, especially as a single mom. Please teachers, be considerate!