Have you noticed that despite two significant recessions over the last 10 years, the local teachers union has enjoyed average raises of over 5-perccent per year? Have you heard that although we passed a levy just six months ago, Worthington Schools will likely need a sizable new levy next year, and every two years thereafter, while we continue to cut student programs in order to sustain rapidly rising salary and benefit costs?

To the editor:
Have you noticed that despite two significant recessions over the last 10 years, the local teachers union has enjoyed average raises of over 5-perccent per year? Have you heard that although we passed a levy just six months ago, Worthington Schools will likely need a sizable new levy next year, and every two years thereafter, while we continue to cut student programs in order to sustain rapidly rising salary and benefit costs?

This situation is not unique to Worthington, as similar raises and similar program cuts have been common among our local school districts. In other words, the unions have done their jobs - jobs which are not about educating children, but are about securing district dollars for generous salaries and benefits.

In light of the dire circumstances this has created in Worthington and many other districts, Educate Worthington has a question: "Does the union's success in negotiating salaries and benefits have anything to do with the increasing levy demands and significant program cuts we now face?"

The answer is yes, and the proof is undeniable once we acknowledge that 87-percent of all levy dollars are for compensation, driven by the union contracts, which are negotiated and approved by the school board.

This compensation includes raises at double the rate of most American workers, and these raises have increased our average teacher salaries to over $72,000 for the 9 1/2 month school year. Taxpayers then contribute approximately $10,000 for pensions that allow full retirement in just 30 years, guaranteeing a lifetime retirement benefit of $4,000-$5,000/month.

As for healthcare, taxpayers cover 88-percent of the teacher's insurance premium, and the first $2,000 of the teacher's annual deductible. The bottom line is that these union contracts have become pretty expensive.
On May 12, The New York Times ran a story titled, "Greece, Debt and a Lesson," and correctly summarized the cause of Greece's severe financial crisis by saying, "They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford."

Can Ohio's local school districts (and our federal government) learn any lessons from Greece? Or will we instead choose to dismantle school programs and services for our children and our districts, while we accept $450 tax increases every two years so we can ignore the obvious - the union contracts that drive school spending have become more generous than we can afford. (And we know that Greece funds its unsustainable spending with "debt," while we fund ours with "levies.")

So as not to end this conversation without a suggestion on addressing this critical issue that is so harmful to our students and our communities, consider this: What if Ohio school district leaders openly admitted that the expensive union contracts are the primary cause of this problem? What if they then organized to lead the charge in educating our communities and our lawmakers about the growing financial crisis in our schools, while honestly acknowledging this "cause"?

Can Ohioans handle this truth, or will we continue down the road toGreece?


John Herrington
EducateWorthington.org