Long ago, after George Washington cut down that cherry tree, he donned his powdered white wig, and became the President of the United States. Then in 1792, he approved a total federal spending budget of $5.1 million. All inflation talk aside, $5.1 million is practically a coin in the penny jar these days. In fact, it’s barely enough to cover our school district budget let alone the entire country’s.
I’ve avoided talking about money as much as possible this school year for a couple of reasons. 1. At the end of last year, my district closed one of our six schools to balance the budget. It was a painful experience not only for those at that school, but it also involved major growing pains for my school because our two schools merged. 2. Even though my school district does have a Budget Committee, the Committee didn’t start meeting until the last two weeks of school because we’ve been waiting for the state budget. And 3. I hate talking about budgets and pots and pools — none of it makes much sense to me anyway.
Each school has a couple of staff members on the district-wide Budget Committee and they tend to report back to us at staff meetings about how things have been going, whose hours are getting cut next year, and once in awhile, they share some good news. Last year when our district was in major trouble, we were given frequent Budget Committee updates and it was generally pretty scary news.
This year, because of carry forward, increased 301 monies, some Indian gaming money, and the ability to push some money from one pot to another, we’re actually in pretty good shape. Also for the first time in many years, the Board is considering a proposal to revise our salary scale. The current salary scale is this crazy antiquated step system that few people understand. Lack of money has also resulted in nobody moving up any steps for years. A few of the veteran teachers can tell you they’re on a step 12, but what that means, is nothing since they’ve been on step 12 for the last 10 years. So if you really think about it, our current step salary scale is really “step-less.”
All of this is pretty ironic because the Budget Committee is now recommending that the Board approve a new step-less salary scale, which I’m told is more inline with the rest of the teaching salary world. Those with more degrees will get paid more; the same goes for those with more experience or more certifications. Is there a down side? Of course there is. This step-less scale costs the district more than our current “step-less” scale, which means Developmental Preschool aides’ hours will be cut fairly aggressively resulting in no insurance coverage and the same goes for our night custodial staff.
I suppose this is why they call it balancing the budget. There are always pros and cons to every scenario and no scenario benefits all parties especially since our current teacher salaries (from what I’m told) are about $10,000 less than our comparable districts. However, the one positive thing that comes out of incredibly low salaries and difficult budget times is that the teachers and staff that stay are those who really want to be here. In the end, for what we lack in monetary value, we probably make up in spirit.