Aug 12, 2007

Shortsighted privatization is just one more assault on unions and reason

The all-out attack on unions launched by the Republicans with the push for right to work for less laws has a new ally called privatization.

This enemy of decent wages and quality workers allows public schools and government to fire quality workers who earn a living wage in order to hire a private company to hire other workers for minimum wage. Granted, this is not just a push from Republicans, but it stinks no less.

The latest assault has come here in Howell Public Schools where the school board is considering a resolution at its regular board meeting Monday to fire its union custodians in order to hire a private company to supply the services. According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “the union has offered to accept a wage freeze and have members contribute $2,400 yearly to health insurance benefits.” School districts all over the state are struggling to stay afloat with shrinking revenue from the state, but this is a shortsighted move. The board just approved its $67.1 million budget in June with $517,000 from its ending fund balance – money set aside for emergencies - and it expects to save $400,000 or more by privatizing custodial services.

This comes on the heels of news the school board wants to give raises to its top five administrators. Great, let’s give raises to the people who helped get us in this mess, but cut the wages of the people who are making do with less. According to the Press & Argus, those administrators being consider for raises include Superintendent Chuck Breiner, Deputy Superintendent Lynn Parrish, Assistant Superintendents Jeanne Farina and Rick Terres, as well as Paul Pominville, director of technology, and Mike Peterson, director of operations.

Howell is the largest public school in Livingston County, which is also the fastest growing county in the state, and Breiner is the highest paid public school employee in the county, as well as the third highest paid public employee in the county, raking in more than $140,000 a year. He only comes in behind U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and the county administrator.

Public school administrators are always at the top of the pay scale, and both Terres and Parrish each earn more than $120,000 a year. Howell has the highest paid principal in the county at $111,000. I don’t have a problem with people earning the most money they can, but not on the backs of those below them and if it hurts the quality of the services provided like this will.

Board President Phil Westmoreland is the second board member to make the shortsighted proposal to suggest the swimming pool at the high school be shut down in order to save $100,000. In the interest of full disclosure, one of my part-time jobs is teaching swim lessons to kids at the pool.

But as such, I see the segment of the Howell community it serves, and it provides services from the cradle to the grave, from teaching infants and their parents how to be safe in the water to exercise classes for seniors and those with arthritis. When the millage was passed to add the pool onto the high school in the early ‘90s it was sold to the voters that if they voted to approve it the pool would be a community pool available for use by everyone.

I don’t mind paying school taxes even though I no longer have kids in public school anymore because it’s my patriotic duty to do so, and it’s our responsibility to provide a quality education for all children. However, as such the school and the swimming pool are community assets. It seems the board wants to go back on a promise, and I cannot see the sense of a useful asset like a swimming pool sitting idle when you are asking those who used the pool and don’t have kids in the schools to continue to pay school taxes.

I supported this board and administration when it stood up to anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) that tried to ban books by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors from Howell High School classrooms, but their financial decisions have left something to be desired. The district's second high school is set to open this fall. But after getting voters to pass a $90 million-plus bond issue in 2003 to build the high school it realized it did not have the money to operate two high schools.

Back to the swimming pool issue, Parker has a new, eight-lane, competitive swimming pool that will, and can, only be used by students and swim teams. They ignore the success the newest high school in Livingston County, located just a few miles east down M-59, is enjoying.

Some three years ago when Hartland opened its new high school it built a swimming pool and fitness center that the community can use, and they can buy memberships to, as well as by the day. The swimming pool is the standard 25-yard, six-lane pool that the swim teams and physical education classes use, but right next to it is an indoor water park that is always crowded and draws people from all over mid-and southeast-Michigan. If it does not actually make a profit, it breaks even. Why that was success was not considered when the new pool was built is anyone’s guess.

The school board has to do a better job that it’s doing with the public funds entrusted to it.


Chet said...

I'll agree certainly that the administrators at Howell shouldn't be getting pay raises. It's ironic for you to want to deny anyone a pay raise.

I assume you oppose leaders at all the major universities taking large pay raises "on the backs of those below them", and you blame them for the recent tuition increases.

Hey, we also agree that the attempt to ban books (what difference the prize-winning status makes baffles me from a First Amendment perspective though) was wrong.

As to minimum wage, your side had the opportunity last year to amend state law to increase it. The Governor signed the bill. Are you blaming her here? And what's the difference between a private janitorial company making money and a private company stacked with MEA board members making money on MESSA and then moving it into political lobbying to guarantee it continues to make money? I take it you oppose MESSA as well? At least the private janitorial company is honest and admits they are a business in business to make money.

Communications guru said...

I’m missing the irony. If we agree banning books is wrong then why do you have ties with the group that tried to do it?

What does minimum wage have to do with it? No one can earn a decent living on it. My side did increase it. I know you hate unions, especially one representing public school teachers, and that’s what I got out of your post.

Chet said...

Because I don't have ties to that group, contrary to your attempt to fabricate threads out of thin air.

We agree that banning books is wrong. Can it ever be that simple with you?

Hey, you and I have ties because we agree on that. Hmm.

Communications guru said...

You certainly do have ties to the anti-gay hate group known as the “love” PAC, and you have admitted that. I hear you talking that banning books is bad, but those are just words. Actions speak louder than words. You posted a comment on the blog of the school board member who was a member of this group, but you never let her know you that you thought that her group trying to ban books was bad.

We have no ties because, unlike you and “love,” I do not hold or support any positions or causes you support.

Chet said...

I have not admitted ties to LOVE PAC, and I deny them directly here, in plain language. First, you have even demonstrated Wendy Day is part of LOVE or agrees with them, and second, even if she did, my asking her a question as a citizen journalist does not obligate me to tell her my entire editorial history or mean that I support or oppose her or her positions on anything, let alone other issues completely distinct from the question I asked her.

You are fabulously amazing your rhetoric. "We have no ties" because you do not support "any positions or causes" I support.

You oppose banning books, particularly the proposals of Vicki Fyke. I oppose banning books, particulary the proposals of Vicki Fyke. We have a mutual position. QED. I suppose I could find a few other things we agree on, but its pointless.

Your politics of guilt by association (even the tiniest threads of it) and personal smears is morally repugnant, polarizing to the nation, and disgusting. Nonetheless, I defend your right to engage in them and respect at least your willingness here to let me tell you how repugnant your views are.

Communications guru said...

I have provided proof you tried to contact LOVE member Wendy Day on her blog, since discontinued, and then you admitted to me you called her on this blog. I have no idea what contact you have not admitted to.

You can’t be serious? Wendy Day was a founding member of “love.” Plus, she was endorsed by them for school board. You say you do not support banning books, but those are just words. Your ties and agreement with the people trying to ban them say otherwise.

I don’t see how pointing out the truth and your motives is smearing you. What do you call what you did to Dough Norton and the Howell teachers?