Portland schools: choose teachers, not pay increases

by Richard Leonetti

The big 12% drop in teachers in Portland School District 1 is directly related to increased compensation. The State support remained the same and the total salary and benefit spending by the District is dropping by less than 2%–it is actually the same as the 2009-10 school year when the recession started.

If you have the same funds and lay off teachers then you must have increased their compensation. In Portland’s case, both salaries and benefit spending were increased.

Our anger should be directed at the School Board for paying the increases and the teachers who chose, in their new contract, more compensation and big layoffs.

The budget numbers for Portland Public Schools salaries and benefits:

2009–2010 salaries and benefits $422 million

2010–2011 salaries and benefits $431 million

2011–2012 salaries and benefits $423 million


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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Portland Schools | 40 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    Schools are the only thing that continually costs more and gets worse. Take a look at your cell phone. Probably cost the same as the one you bought 6 years ago, but with twice the features. TV? Yep, a flat screen might cost more, but has a way better picture and isnt a giant hulking box. When you get a cup of coffee does it cost more? Yep, but its a hell of a lot better than that crap you drank 20 years ago isn’t it?

    Now how about schools? They cost a whole heck of a lot more in constant dollars than they ever did. And are the results better? We have schools wired with more internet and computer labs and lots of gee whizz stuff, have grades improved?

    Nope – They don’t even pretend with schools anymore. No one talks about spending more and we will have great schools. Now they try and scare you that if you don’t spend more the schools will collapse. In other words – things suck, but they will suck even more unless you pay ever more.

    What a load. You only get more when you pay more in a free market. In a monopoly, which public schools are, paying more doesn’t mean jack. Except to shift the focus of schools from education of students to job program for the marginally adept.

    • Ardbeg

      So What’s the solution?

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Introducing competition in some way shape or form. Allow parents to put their kids in a school of their choosing, not where the system assigns them.

        You could also do a simple voucher program. Right now it costs about $10k per student per year. Take $4k of that and leave it with the public school. Take the other $6k and allow the parent to send their kid to private school. It’s win win. Public schools are relieved of overcrowding, parents get to send their kids to private schools, and public school teachers are relieved of a vast amount of their work load.

        Essentially what has to happen it stop running public schools as a jobs program for powerful unions like the OEA, and start running them as a government service. We have lost focus on that. Public schools are not about preserving union jobs, they are about educating students. If they are not fulfilling that purpose, and I doubt anyone would argue they are, then that is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed. Right now it is impossible to address it because teachers jobs come first, student education second.

        As the founder of the teachers unionization movement, former AFT head Albert Shanker put it – “I’ll start worrying about students when they start paying union dues”.

        We need to move on. Pay teachers union membership to stay home and twiddle their thumbs, as was done with longshoremen unions when container ships were finally allowed into some US ports. Pay them twice as much to teach half as many kids, whatever. The point is our education system is far more expensive now than when it worked. We have one of the most expensive education systems and one of the poorest performing on the planet. It’s time to start worrying a little less about the concerns of the NEA or OEA and a little more about whether we want to educate our kids are not.

        • valley person

          We already have competition and parents already can “put their kids” in private and/or religious and/or home schooling as an option to public schools. Just like they can choose private colleges or universities instead of public ones.  You of all people should be aware that private schooling is permitted. It just isn’t supported by taxpayer money. People, myself included, object to our tax money used to fund religious institutions, just like some people, including yourself object to your tax money used to fund private sector abortions. I don’t want my tax money used to indoctrinate kids into a religion.

          The voucher program sounds great. But reality is that it logically leads to the more motivated parents & students going to the best schools, whether public or private, leaving behind the lesser motivated or mobility challenged (mom works 2 low wage jobs and doesn’t have a car or time to drive junior across town to great school). This leads to a further degrading of public education. I mean, how many inner Portland poor kids are going to be accepted at private schools, especially the elite ones like catlin Gabel, where education costs $20K a year, not $6K?

          You way overstate the role of teachers unions. They negotiate on behalf of teachers for pay, benefits, and working conditions. They don’t create curriculum, decide how much schools have to spend, decide which textbooks to buy, what sort of education or skills teachers have, or much else. Workers have a right to this representation. I know the right wing wants to undercut workers, but that is an old story. With he decline in private sector unions, your war is now on public sector ones. But it is a war against workers, not just teachers.

          • Wagontire2

            Oh come on now. All those items you claim the union doesn’t have control over are decided by the legislature, the department of education or school boards. Do you contend that the oea does not influence those entities. You’re either naive, uninformed or being deliberately dishonest. Which is it?

          • valley person

            I reject your 3 choices. I simply have a different opinion based on observation. 

            Teachers, who are OEA members certainly have influence over what they teach, as they should. But the OEA seems much more focused on pay, benefits, and working conditions, not curriculum. To the extent their members want them to lobby for or against some aspects of curriculum, they do that. Sometimes they get their way, often times they don’t.

            The teachers union helps elect representatives, as is their right. But legislators primarily decide on funding, They have limited influence over curriculum.   

        • Ardbeg

          I’ve never figured out where the $10,000 per comes from.  The state of Oregon gives about $6000 to schools for most students and more for a student with more needs.  The voucher system makes sense.  I think it gives parents choice but fail to see how it will improve the school system.

  • Bob Clark

    Obama’s “job bill” would probably result in mostly higher pay increases for teachers and administrators, beyond the normal pay increases already scheduled.  Bama’s job bill is mostly designed to throw out more bennies to groups who normally support him such as the NEA and OEA so as to firm up their votes for Bama in the ’12 election. 

    As for Portland Public Schools (PPS), I hear there was recent discussion of fixing fired- destroyed-Marysville somehow or another.  I wasn’t able to attend this board meeting, but maybe it’ll show up in the meeting notes.  The Superintendent said after the defeat of the construction bond measure this past May the community needs to engage in a discussion about funding school renovation.  But so far, except for Marysville, I haven’t heard what if anything is cooking; not even this discussion the Superintendent talked of.

    One thought I have is PPS should maybe concentrate renovation only on elementary and middle school buildings, while just trying to maintain high schools.  I think maybe PPS should allow community colleges and other entities to take over the educational function in the last two years of high school.  Children one way or another achieve a level of independence by the time they get to 16 or 17 years of age.  Many of the more independent teens want to launch off into a more individually designed path, such as the freedom provided by community college.  Even PPS hinted at this direction in their failed bond measure with its proposed Jefferson school joint venture with Portland Community College. Even governor retread, whose narrow focus remains growing the state government franchise in health care, wants to break from the traditional k-12 public school monolith (frees more state government resources for growing a state monopoly in health care.  Government will be not be denied its corner of business, not unlike the Mafia.)

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t it just swell…in the private sector wages are stagnant, maybe even decreasing. But don’t tell the teachers union that they can’t have their big raise every year. Well, what the heck…they make an annual salary for about seven and a half months of work…and some teachers even put in six hour days…hey, it’s tough being a teacher.

    • Ardbeg

      The private sector isn’t as bad off as everyone says.  Government
      workers earn an average of 11.4 percent less than private-sector
      workers of similar education and work experience and local government
      workers earn 12.0 percent less.  Government worker do receive better benefits and that closes the gap to: 6 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. 7 months? 6 hours a day?  Where are you getting that information from?  Were you a teacher?  If you only worked 6 hours a day I hope your not still in the profession.  My sister, and other family members, are teachers and I don’t begrudge them their salary.  Why do you?  Yes, some of the private sector is down but that’s the nature of the sector.  It goes up and it goes down. 

  • Prof

    Anyway you look at this, one thing is clear. Teachers do not make enough money for a living wage. Of course they would take more money and fewer teachers. The ones that are left will finally get paid what they are worth for their years of difficult studies and training and the enormous hours they work each and every year to teach.
    They should be getting even more, but only in America can a CEO get millions while a teacher only gets tens of thousands.

    • Dangfitz

      Only in America?

      Teachers don’t make a living wage?

      Have you spent any time on the planet Earth?

    • Ardbeg

      I disagree, teachers used to make ridiculously less than the private sector.  Of course no one cared.  Now that SOME of the private sector is suffering there are people hating on teachers, firemen and police for making a living.  A PPS teacher makes between 35 and 72 thousand in salary (https://www.pps.k12.or.us/files/hr/PAT_Teacher_Salary_Schedule_10.pdf) plus benefits.  To earn at the top of the scale you need to have a Masters degree plus another 45 credits (how much did that cost?) and have been in the district for 12 years or more.  The uninformed complain teachers only work 5-6 hours a day for 7 or 8 months of work.  Anyone who knows anything about education knows that’s just silly talk (my sister is a teacher) and I know better.  I think reality is somewhere between yours and Joels opinion.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >I disagree, teachers used to make ridiculously less than the private sector. 

        Not true, on average private school teachers make about 60% of what public school teachers do. They get far better results to boot! Basically our education system is three tiered

        Public schools – Most expensive worst results.

        Private schools – Often less expensive generally better results

        Home schooled – Least expensive, generally better results.

        >Of course no one cared.

        More like “of course some were tricked.” Teacher pay has been a major issue for about the past two decades. In constant dollars teacher pay has gone up dramatically in that time.

        It is hardly a recent phenomenon that people are having some big problems with how much schools costs versus the results we are getting.

        If it is new to you, then welcome to the debate. However being upset with what we are paying for public schools and dissatisfaction with the results is neither a new event, nor related to the recent economic downturn.

        • valley person

          Of course an “average” private school teacher includes a large number of religious zealots who take vows of poverty. Around 90% of all public schools are religious, with half of those Catholic.

        • Ardbeg

          Rupert, lets take Jesuit, their teachers make much less that is true.  Their students perform very well athletically and academically, that is true.  So your conclusion is private schools are better?  Ok then, take all the students from Jesuit and switch them with the students of Tualatin HS.  Guess what, Tualatin will out perform all public schools both athetically and academically for the next decade.  It’s not about the schools, it’s about the kids. 

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >Teachers do not make enough money for a living wage.

      Yawn – I really hate this kind of drivel. The average teacher salary in Oregon is about $49k. That’s pretty damn good considering the amount of time off you get.

      >but only in America can a CEO get millions while a teacher only gets tens of thousands.

      Not “only in America”

      In fact – in most every country on the planet a CEO will make more than a teacher. 

      Why? Well, in part because a CEO is a way scarcer job. I can pop out of high school with some really unimpressive grades go to college, take a year of education school after and violla, in five short years being nothing special at all I can get a job as a teacher.

      Do you think in five years someone can pop out of high school and be a CEO of a major corporation? They sure can do that and be a teacher. And after two or three years its virtually impossible to fire them.

      Only in America is our education system so horrible that someone could pop up and think teachers make more than CEO’s everywhere else.

      • Anonymous

        Good pay for working 2/3 of the year.

        • Prof

          I work really hard. I have to grade papers at home sometimes. I often use some of my three month summer vacation to “bone up” on my skill set. I wear many hats as a teacher. The 59K I make plus benefits is not really that much considering that I am a professional.
          And don’t harp on my time off. That is one main reason I went into teaching.

  • Edwardio

    Valley is stuck in the blob


    The answers are always obstructed by the no progress progressives.t

  • Teacherboy

    Anyone who thinks they are so smart and can teach students of today should try it. They would not last a minute!!

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