August 26, 2006

Zero sum

Allen Kemp, former head of the group Citizens for Fair School Taxes, is back, I see, still portraying teachers' salaries and benefits as a zero-sum game. I saw him first do this in 1994 during a meeting about a major district's upcoming referendum, and I sure wasn't the only one giggling at his flawed logic. More on that in a sec.

In his News Journal op-ed today he writes:

The expenditure report for fiscal 2005 shows that in the four biggest districts in New Castle County, costs per student (excluding building alteration, construction and debt service) were: Brandywine, $12,226; Colonial, $11,128; Red Clay, $11,925; and Christina, $14,075.

One of the contributing factors to these high student costs are that the four districts pay for the supplemental medical benefits that other state employees pay themselves.

These benefits are dental, life insurance, disability insurance, prescription plans and vision care. The cost in fiscal 2005 out of local tax funds was $12.3 million. Why should they get benefits that not all taxpayers, state workers or school employees outside of New Castle County get?

Emphasis mine. Kemp is either deliberately leaving out a key distinction, or, remarkably, doesn't know ... and that's that the districts pay into the supplemental medical benefits for their teachers (and other employees). Employees have many choices from which to choose, and if they choose some of the "lesser" benefits, then the result may be that they do not pay any extra (have withholding taken from their paycheck). However, those many school employees that I am familiar with do not elect these minimums, and hence do pay some for their benefits.

Now Kemp's general overall point -- that districts tend to spend in the wrong places and need to clean up their act -- is a valid one. But like in 1994, he believes that the savings districts would garner by eliminating the offer of medical benefits would come without the obvious consequences. In 1994 he put up numerous transparencies on an overhead projector that "showed" how many more teachers districts could hire with the savings from eliminating benefits. What Kemp failed (fails) to realize -- is that you wouldn't be attracting teachers to these districts whatsoever (and current ones would be leaving) as they'd hightail it for [very] nearby Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland districts where, even if their benefits packages may not have been as good as what the DE districts used to offer, the increase in salary would surely work to offset this.

Posted by Hube at August 26, 2006 08:41 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

On the other hand, Texas law says that teachers are to get health insurance comparable to state employees. Somehow it works out like this.

They pay nothing for their insurance, but we pay through the nose for ours.

Their families are subsidized, but ours are not.

And it is up to each district to define "comparable" -- although there is a state program they can participate in that is inferior to what state employees get.

But we are allegedly putting education first down here in Texas!

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at August 26, 2006 11:40 AM

Getting rid of benefits is the first step in outsourcing all NCC school district jobs to India.

Teachers make $3.00 a week in Bombay. It just makes good economic sense.

Posted by: jason at August 26, 2006 07:06 PM

On the other hand I'm 5'8" so I might be wrong.

Posted by: jason at August 26, 2006 07:08 PM

At 5'9", I guess that means i'm smarter than you are, Jason.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at August 27, 2006 02:17 PM