To the Adirondack Journal:
Decades ago when I was a kid, many of my teachers were very dedicated, adequately educated and underpaid. They were well respected because it was clear that they put educating students way ahead of compensation and the results with kids were good.
Public sentiment agreed that the teachers were underpaid. Then the New York State United Teachers was incorporated in 1971 and the union did a very good job. Teachers ceased being underpaid. Now, however, teachers in Lake George enjoy steadily increasing compensation packages, including many at the six-figure level. (See www.lghalt.org for details — a total of 29 Lake George school employees, including teachers, receive over $115,000 in total compensation annually, and a large number of these receive from $125,000 to $149,000.)
Decades ago, kids came first. Now, the teachers’ union looks out for the teachers’ best interests first. The pendulum has swung, first to the center where it should have been, then way beyond center to where it is today.
Teachers also now benefit from the state’s overly-generous 1982 “Triborough Amendment” which guarantees raises even if the unions cannot come to terms with the local school board. That’s right: if the school board doesn’t make an offer which the teachers accept, they continue to get raises anyway!
NYS School Board Association President Florence Johnson admits that the Triborough Amendment has resulted in teachers getting much larger raises than executives and workers in the private sector and this amendment tilts the advantage toward the teachers in their negotiations and contracts. The private sector taxpayers have no Triborough Amendment to fall back on and guarantee an increment in salary every year.
According to an article from the Empire Center for NYS Policy dated Oct. 17, 2007 on the cost and consequences of New York’s public sector labor laws, the State Conference of Mayors noted:
“…the compulsory arbitration process is an unfunded mandate and should be repealed. If school districts are compelled into arbitration, a recommendation should be made to make arbitrators consider affordability. The most heavily weighted issue in interest arbitration should be the question of whether there is ability to pay on the part of the community whose taxes must support a pay increase. In making this determination, the arbitration panel should look beyond simplistic fiscal capacity measures, such as constitutional tax limits, to consider and analyze potential tax burdens and the income of the taxpayers who live in the community.”
The Lake George School District and the Board of Education would be wise to take note of the aforementioned in their ongoing contract negotiations with the teachers union.
With more than 500,000 members, NYSUT is huge, well-funded and well-organized. Their professional lobbyists know how to reach Albany legislators. According to research by Hunter Raines of the Albany Government Review, NYSUT and their affiliates lobbied the legislative branch for a total of $11.2 million dollars in the year 2008-2009.
New York State taxpayers are not nearly as well organized and as a result, our taxes have gone through the roof.
It is very important that the Triborough Amendment be revoked or modified in order for local municipalities and school districts to put a stop to the escalating costs to the taxpayers. This cannot be done by the local school district and taxpayers alone. It must be done by the state Legislature and our Governor.
If Albany cannot rein in NYSUT and the Triborough Amendment, the future for taxpayers in this state is very dim. New Yorkers are already fleeing the state in record numbers. It was recently reported that well over one million people left the state in the last 10 years.
Will the last one out please turn off the lights?