FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - The Education Action Group, based in Muskegon, Michigan, has released a critical analysis of the teachers union contract on Fort Wayne Community Schools budget.
"This wasn't an analysis done by an unbiased third party. The Education Action Group is a group that is pro-charter, they are anti-teacher union. You can look at their website and that is very clear," said Fort Wayne Community Schools Spokesperson Krista Stockman.
"Just so that people understand, this isn't a national unbiased group, that is analyzing teacher contracts. They do go into this with some preconceived notions," continued Stockman.
The Education Action Group estimated the following expenses in the 2009-10 school year tied to the union contract:
- FWCS spent $609,644.82 on professional conferences and travel expenses.
"Over the years we worked more to bring trainers to us and to have the professional development done here, in-house, so that we don't have to send people away to conferences all the time," said Stockman.
- FWCS paid retiring educators $91,297.14 for giving early notice of their intent to leave the district.
"In those years when we have had to layoff teachers, if we know that this person is retiring and we know this person can move into that slot, it does make a difference in how many people have to get those (layoff) notices," explained Stockman.
- FWCS paid teachers $103,841.84 for unused sick days.
"Teachers can get $25.00 per day for up to 10 days per year. That is correct," replied Brace to Indiana's NewsCenter in an e-mail interview conducted on Tuesday, February 15, 2011.
- The average FWCS teacher was absent 6.8 percent of the contractual work year, compared to a student absentee rate of 4.55 percent.
"Teachers are subject to the many germs and illnesses associated with working with boys and girls. This is not an anomaly among any group of adults working with children. Additionally the aging teacher population does bring with it more susceptibility to sickness. Once again this is common among any aging workforce," wrote Brace.
- FWCS spent an estimated total of more than $7.5 million on teacher absences that consisted of about $5.2 million for personal or family illness, and nearly $800,000 for personal business leave.
"They actually calculated that number but we do have things that are in place. One, we offer an incentive for people to not abuse sick time. Not that we think people would but it's always good to have that incentive," replied Stockman.
"Teachers do not take advantage of these days. They are provided for illness as in most workplaces," wrote Brace.
"While that may look like an astonishing number, if people stop to reflect and think, well if I'm sick do I deserve a day off. If my father dies, do I deserve a couple days off. It really just comes down to treating your employees decently," continued Stockman.
- FWCS also spent more than $4 million on substitute teachers to cover the absences.
The EAG summed up their report by writing the following statement.
"It quickly becomes obvious that by eliminating or modifying wasteful provisions included in the 2009-10 contract - such as retirement bonuses ($91,297), unnecessary attendance incentives ($103,841), union “release time” ($40,000), excessive leave allowances ($7.5 million), and automatic raises ($1.5 million) – much more money could be available for student programs and other, more effective, efforts to improve instruction," wrote Education Action Group Communications Specialist Victor Skinner.
"FWCS teachers are a valuable resource to our community. They provide above and beyond what is required of them on a daily basis," wrote Brace.
"They deserve respect and recognition. They do not deserve to be denigrated and ridiculed because they are provided paid sick days, increments for experience, remuneration for conferences, or incentives for making early decisions to facilitate FWCS needs," concluded Brace.
Brace also added, "the association stands behind step increases for experience."
"The teachers here want what's best for the students. The administrations wants what's best for the students," proclaimed Stockman.
"It is important to have a good working relationship with the teachers. We don't think it's a bad thing that the teachers have an association that speaks for them or that advocates for them," explained Stockman.
Indiana State Teachers Association Nate Schnellenberger made the following YouTube video about the Education Action Group in October, 2010.
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