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D-15 Teachers Oppose Budget Cuts

Community Consolidated School District 15 teachers turned out for Wednesday's school board meeting to oppose planned budget cuts.

The school board approved about $6.1 million in budget cuts, despite a big turnout by teachers who said the cuts would hurt students.

Classroom Teachers Council President Lisa Nuss also addressed the school board, decrying "mean-spirited bullies" who spread "proganda" about teachers to paint them in a bad light.

The budget cuts are part of the district's effort to balance its budget and eliminate a projected $9.6 million deficit. The cuts would increase class sizes by elminating teaching positions and drop benefits for more than 100 program assistants.

Although the cuts for the 2012-2013 budget year were approved, school board members instructed Superintendent Scott Thompson to continue to look for ways to reverse them before next year.

Classroom Teachers Council President Lisa Nuss addressed the school board before a gymnasium that was filled with an overflow crowd that periodically erupted in applause and standing ovations throughout the meeting.

"Do you know what it's like to bring your very best only to be confronted with an onslaught of negative, false and misleading information that attempts to paint you as some kind of pariah in the school district?" Nuss said. "District 15 teachers do."

Nuss said district teachers had for years endured proganda and falsehoods designed to paint them in a bad light and blame them for the district's budget woes.

"To make us appear falsely like we were greedy, or lazy, or uncaring," Nuss said. "Falsehoods that are promoted by self-serving, mean-spirited bullies that have little interest in the truth but serve a political agenda."

Nuss said that aside from the comments of some in the community, teachers also had at times felt like they were under attack from the school board. District 15's contract with the CTC is coming to an end and a new contract is being negotiated.

"We've also had to contend with a tremendous amount of propoganda and misleading information," Nuss said. "Much of this negative information about teachers revolves around inaccurate information regarding school finances."

District 15 has more than $50 million in reserves. School officials contend that unless dealt with, the structural deficit would quickly reduce the reserves to about $4.8 million in 2016.

"We have a very large structural deficit," school board member Scott Herr said. "The growth in salaries and benefits have outpaced the growth in revenues. It's very unfortunate and it puts us in a difficult situation. Unfortunately the difference is so large I feel it is necessary to take some short-term actions to stem the flow of red ink."

School officials scaled back their first plan – – . The district now will use about $3.4 million in reserves and the $6.1 million in cuts to balance the budget.

As part of the budget cuts, the district is converting all program assistants to part-time, saving about $1.258 million in benefit costs.

The district would strictly adhere to class size targets, resulting in the elimination of 13 full-time staff members for a savings of $715,000. In the past, if a school was on the border of needing another teacher, the district would round up and add the staff member. Under the new policy, the district would round down.

The district also would increase class sizes for kindergarten to sixth grade to 26 while class sizes for seventh and eighth grade would rise on average to 28 saving another $715,000.

In all about 53 full-time teaching positions would be eliminated, however, 22 of those positions would be lost through attrition thanks to retiring teachers.

School Board President Tim Millar said the district would look for options to reverse the cuts in the future.

"I think the entire board does not feel comfortable with the current levels of students in the classroom," Millar said. "This is not an easy thing for any of us to do...we don't want to cut any positions. We don't want to cut classroom teachers. We don't want to cut benefits. We don't want to do any of these things."

Aimee Jordan March 15, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Amazing there were exactly $0 in administrative costs in the budget. How is the board willing to increase class sizes but not cut $1 in admin costs???? Makes me sick.
Susan E. Gould March 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Nuss has some nerve talking about spreading falsehoods and mean-spirited bullies. Just look at the CTC ads in the Daily Herald that are factually incorrect and portray everyone but the teachers as greedy and self-serving. She is not helping the district or the teachers by opening up her comments with nothing but whining. If she wants to help the teachers, the students, and the district, she should have spent her time at the microphone identifying ways to help the District save money.
CaB March 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM
If it's true that the administration had no cuts, that's an embarrassment. Our 5th grade classes already have 30 kids in each. Have you ever been in a classroom with 30 kids? It's ridiculous. I don't know how our teachers have the positive attitudes day in and day out.
Scott March 15, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Nuss last night said 'dont cut this, dont cut that' but does not offer up any alternatives. She says the CTC offered concessions last year but does not offer up the details so we could judge the validity of that claim.
Scott March 15, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Aimee - that is true; there are always some cuts to be found and there should be some in the admin area also
Bucephalus March 15, 2012 at 01:18 PM
So you're calling her a liar. You're saying she just made up a claim of offered cuts. I heard her say that there was documentation showing that the board received their list. How strange that we haven't heard a response about them. And calling her a liar couldn't possibly be part of the vilification she talked about. No, never.
Catherine March 15, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I'm with you Aimee! I'd like to see administration take some hits too. After all, they don't have any direct contact with our children. Some of these admin positions could be made part time with loss of benefits, just like the PA's. No I don't work for the district, nor have I ever. I just don't understand why the people who work with our children are the only ones taking the hit for mismanagement by administration and previous school boards. There are 13 different departments that "serve" our children according to the D15 website. Each dept should be required to eliminate one position. For heaven's sake, there are 10 listed employees for the technology and data services dept. As someone who has worked in the tech area, I am confident, 1 or 2 of those positions can be eliminated.
Matt March 15, 2012 at 01:34 PM
After hearing Ms. Nuss's comments at the board meeting last night, two points come to mind that she did not address that I think are fundamental to the budget discussion. Specifically, those questions are: 1) Does Ms. Nuss and the CTC believe there is a structural budget deficit coming for D15 in the near future if current spending patterns continue? If so, how large of a deficit do they expect over the next 5 years? 2) If they do expect a deficit, what do they believe are the causes of that deficit? If they do not expect a deficit, why not? It seems to me that the D15 administration and at least some of the board members believe there is a large deficit coming, and the primary causes of the deficit are salaries from the Education fund (I believe this includes certificated staff, teaching assistants, and administrators) and benefits from all funds (everyone - janitors, teachers, administrators, etc.) rising faster than overall revenues during the past several years. Honestly, after studying the data, their case sounds plausible to me. I understand CTC's concern about not wanting to base contract decisions on inaccurate data, but I also haven't heard them provide an alternate financial projection or alternate explanation of why the deficit is coming.
Wise March 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Administrators pay $0 in healthcare costs from what I understand.
Susan E. Gould March 15, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Nuss offered nothing except complaints about how the teachers have hurt feelings.To each Teacher, I urge you to educate yourselves about district finances and do no listen to your union leadership. Your leadership wants to portray you as victims incapable of understanding sophisticated finances and desperate to keep your jobs. Many, many of you (teachers) are incredibly effective in the classroom. Please bring those skills to your union meetings and stand up for reasonable discussion, and do not send your leader to a meeting to bemoan about hurt feelings. Show the high level of professionalism that you bring to the classroom every day by sending a leader willing to discuss any and every way to manage the costs in the district. Everything needs to be open for discussion. By sending a leader to discuss real cost saving measures (instead of whining and complaining), you will gain significant support in the community. Tell your leadership that running ads talking about last year's negotiations (despite an agreement by both sides not to talk about those negotiations) is morally unacceptable and does not help your cause. Teachers, stand up to your leaders for reasonable discussion and you will be amazed at how supportive your community can be. Let your leaders continue on this path of ineffective, distracting, demeaning discussions, and you will see that the public is fed up with that type of discourse. The choice is yours.
Jennifer Mondy March 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
VIDEO: Lisa Nuss CTC Presidents addresses the Board, Mar. 14 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jdW0_Sjt7U
LS March 15, 2012 at 03:33 PM
BPA - Very well put. The situation is not personal. It is not driven by emotion, name calling or hurt feelings. It is simply a reality that we are faced with globally as a result of economic issues. It is not particular to publicly funded staff, but has affected corporate America over the past three years in the same way. Contraction of the economy has led to many, or all, of the following effects on the corporate workforce: salary decreases, elimination of raises, elimination of benefits, increased out of pocket costs for the same or lesser level of benefits and dramatic slashing of the number of employees which has led to dramatically increased workload for the remainder. All of these things have occurred, yet those who still have jobs feel truly lucky that we have remained employed. A little less income, a little less benefits, a little less in the retirement pool, a little more work, a little more worktime - all of these little adjustments can be worked around and are certainly better than no paycheck, no benefits, no work. The world economy has contracted and we all need to contract with it to survive.
Scott March 15, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Bucephalus- I did not call her a liar. I asked for the details of her claim. Perhaps I should have said 'validity of the concessions' rather than the claim. I don't doubt there was an offer; I just want to be able to see it.
Scott March 15, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Matt - exactly! Lisa Nuss and the CTC provides no alternative solutions.
Scott March 15, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Wise - everyone at all levels should be contributing to their health care costs.
D15 Resident March 15, 2012 at 03:59 PM
LS - exactly! It isn't personal. It is basic. simple. math. And I, for one, appreciate the more conservative approach that the Board is using - let's not spend revenue that we don't have. If we all operated the way the CTC apparently wants us to, by making assumptions that "it won't be as bad as they say", a lot more of us would be losing our houses. You just can't spend what you don't have yet. And you can't spend money that you HOPE will be there in the end. Lisa Nuss' use of the word "bullying" is salacious and inflammatory. And continues to make it personal. Nobody wants teachers to lose their jobs. Nobody wants more kids in a classroom. And yet, it seems like the CTC wants everyone to think that is all this is about. It isn't. It's about being fiscally responsible in an economy that is in disarray. It will get better, but not if we continue to be loose with the budget in the hopes that the numbers won't be "as bad" as they say. Oh, and Aimee - I totally agree. There should be at least some type of concession made by the Administration in addition to the teachers. Personally, I think that every employee of the district, whether they be a teacher, administrator, or maintenance worker, should contribute an additional $50 a month to their benefits plan and increase their deductibles to the next level. This would be a substantial savings; not millions, but still a respectable amount that could save a few teacher's jobs.
Norma Holmes March 15, 2012 at 04:02 PM
BPA & LS - Both Very Well Put ! Thank You ! We need a Reality Show about The REALITY of the REAL EVERY DAY WORLD outside the doors of our schools - where our children live with their parents facing the scenario LS provided. So Sad.
Maryb March 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I would add a bit more. 3) If they do expect a deficit, what do they offer as a corrective solution?
Bucephalus March 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Wow BPA. Your entire point boils down to "give me what I want and you'll find I can be receptive." The teachers vote on the union leadership. It is my understanding that each building also has union representatives. I'm pretty sure the teachers, especially given their turnout last night, are already educated about the district finances. You are insinuating right here that the teachers are inept and are practically mindless lemmings just blindly accepting their union's leadership. I'm pretty sure that qualifies as the complaints that Ms. Nuss was talking about last night. Reasonable discussion is your way of saying that only the topics you want discussed and only the offers you want to hear are reasonable. Is it at all possible that the union, and the teachers who comprise it, might have some other offer that doesn't meet your ideas? Absolutely. Your way is not the only reasonable way.
D15 Resident March 15, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Bucephalus - do you ever have anything constructive to say? I see your comments everywhere and you never say anything positive. All you do is attack what others (i.e. those that have opinions opposite to yours) are saying by twisting their words around. Two can play at that game, so we could go around and around all day. But we won't because we are too busy actually discussing possible solutions than to take your words and make them into what we want them to be. Uggh. I should just ignore it. But I couldn't do it anymore. For weeks this one-sided argumentative stuff from you has been grating on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. Bring us some ideas and solutions!! Stop attacking and grow up!
Bucephalus March 15, 2012 at 06:03 PM
I do have plenty to say that's positive. Unfortunately, most of the comments and stories here are negative. I like Starbucks and would like to see them here. Defending their right to do so apparently isn't constructive. I support the teachers of D15 in this. I believe that supporting them is constructive. Where are your comments on other issues? Where was the support for the girl scouts 100th birthday? I felt that was a story praise worthy. But what I choose to comment on isn't the issue. The issue is the budget. Its not my job to present ideas. I don't know the intricacies of the budget. I only have the information that the district has released, and I consider that one sided. I don't believe that it should be incumbent upon the teachers to do all the budget process because they disagree with the only solution put forward by the board. The Board presented one list of items that equated exactly the amount needed. There were no alternatives listed EXCEPT to put the onus of any saving entirely upon the teachers. And look what happens when the teachers try and respond. Everyone has been clamoring to hear what the teachers offer. Well now they announced they offered 5.2 million in cuts, that was both in the Herald and last night in Ms. Nuss's speech. What is the response? Scott Herr derides them for ostensibly violating last year's agreement. -More to come.
Ken March 15, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Well......one solution would be to act like other private sector jobs, and open positions up to competition. That would let us know what the open market price is for the skill set required. I will try to get some math here to compare what somebody in any particular profession in the private sector would have to earn as a salary in order to accrue the retirement package at a particular age for these people. Given a certain % of return, as well as healthcare costs, I guessing somebody without a state sponsored pension would have to sock away quite a bit of money to guarantee their income and healthcare for their lifetime. What is frightening is that I believe many of these formulas have not been altered for life expectancy increases as well. The general idea has been to lock a contract in, and say .....'what about the children...." every time the budget is short. 200 day man-year, 8 hr day in the private sector.......(I'll assume we all put in a little extra, so nobody is any better than anybody else in that dept.) This is really a simple math problem.....yet these are the people supposedly teaching children how to solve problems......hmmmmm, how ironic.
Bucephalus March 15, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Well look at the comments here. Scott and BPA both demand facts and more information from CTC. They apparently want to see the details of that 5.2 million offer. Citizens for Accountability has taken a similar stance. They want more information, they want the teachers to open up their books and their offers. And then when the teachers begin to do that they get slammed from the other side for doing the very thing people here want. The teachers are being demonized. Either they're secretive and selfish or they're unprincipled lemmings who can't be trusted to keep negotiations private. Why is it so much to say, "Hey D15 can you present some other ideas for reductions so that perhaps we can pick and choose from reductions?" I truly find it hard to believe that the ONLY reduction the Board could tolerate would so nicely exactly equal the deficit. Why is it incumbent upon the teachers, who don't have the total access to D15's budget to come up with more solutions that are palatable? This isn't CTC's budget. This is the Board's budget. Opposition to that does not shit the budgetary burden to you. I'd like to see the district work with CTC some more. Again, according to Ms. Nuss CTC presented a list of budgetary ideas several months ago. This is the first I've heard of it. I didn't hear of them at the January BoE meeting. So did the BoE reject them, ignore them, study them? We don't know, the Board hasn't said anything. Why aren't we concerned about them?
Matt March 15, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Bucephalus, while I don't think the CTC should duplicate all work done by the administration to produce a budget, it does seem prudent to at least have some commonality in opinion as to where revenues and expenditures are heading. Ms. Nuss talked about inaccurate projections and misconceptions in her statement, but it's not clear (at least to me) what the CTC says is inaccurate regarding the administration's projections for the next 5 years. If there can't even be an agreement regarding whether there is a problem and how big it is, how should the parties decide on what size of cuts (if any) to make? I also think it would be interesting to understand what the CTC believes to be the cause of the coming deficit, as that could provide some insight into what they think should be done to correct it (i.e., where to make cuts or increase revenues).
Scott March 15, 2012 at 06:46 PM
"I truly find it hard to believe that the ONLY reduction the Board could tolerate would so nicely exactly equal the deficit.:" If you've read the proposal you know thats not true. They had to take millions from the fund balance to equal the deficit.
Bucephalus March 15, 2012 at 07:35 PM
That was after the initial outcry. The original proposal, as submitted to the public back at the January meeting, eliminated the deficit for this year EXACTLY evenly and without tapping the reserves. That's the budget that eliminated all elementary band and orchestra. The reason they're tapping the reserves now is because the eliminating band and orchestra, as well as activity buses, was decided against (I hope because of the public outcry). However, since their original proposal was the exact amount of the deficit, reducing the list of cuts meant a deficit still existed. Had there have been other options presented, perhaps less palatable options even, we the public could have made other decisions. As it was the list that was presented was given as a "this is all we could come up with" list. So yes Scott I have read the budget, and what you are saying is incorrect. Perhaps you'd like to review the initial proposal from January?
Jennifer Mondy March 15, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Video from the Jan. 23 D15 Budget Forum for community members shows the district was planning to use fund balance reserves to eliminate the deficit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqbPbD6f0Jg Six BOE members were in attendance that evening as well as approximately 70 others.
Mark March 16, 2012 at 01:31 AM
To me it seems that the central criticism that CTC makes towards the administration is that the deficits that were projected at the beginning of the budget often times turn out to be significantly less as for 2008, or in the case of 2010 even a surplus. It was previously pointed out that the entire 2010 surplus was attributed to $3 million in one-time Federal Stimulus funding that was unknown when the budget was drafted. The remaining $5 million of the surplus was not really a surplus when one examines the cause. The cause was a new law enacted as before AFTER the budget was drafted that merely increased the Spring 2010 estimated property tax payments to 55% from 50%, resulting in an equal amount of money being reduced in the Fall 2010 "true-up" payments which fell into the following year's budget as the District's budget ends June 30. This was simply a budget anomaly that CTC used to misrepresent to the public as "new money" which the administration failed to project.
Mark March 16, 2012 at 01:41 AM
It is also not surprising to me one bit that the financial condition at the end of those years where deficits were projected often times turn out to be better at the end. That shows that the administrators are doing their job, to try to minimize the "red ink" throughout the school year. If positions become open, say through attrition in a year we are running a deficit the responsible action would be to not fill it if possible. To hear CTC's arguments, the district should spend all of the budget no matter what so that it "doesn't look bad" as if having less of a deficit at the end of the year somehow might make them look bad. I really don't understand the logic in that, how CTC could spin a good thing into a criticism. We should be thankful the administration did cut spending as in 2008 when the projected deficit would have been even greater as revenue came in less than expected. In the end they actually reduced the deficit. If they had not done so we would have had several million dollars more of a problem today.
CASA June 01, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Given the discussions going on in Springfield where they are working to shift the cost of teacher pension contributions to school districts, I wonder what scenarios are now being considered as realistic and affordable by both parties? As I see it, any impression that D15 has spare funds is likely to be overturned by the spectre of the Springfield moves. As property tax payers are also income taxpayers, residents have to ask where is the leadership to develop appropriate solutions and make sure taxpayers are not left with 100% of the cost.

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