SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Everyone knows that California is a wonderland for Big Labor.
And there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection between increased salaries, more lucrative benefits and success in the classroom. If you’re in the union, you’re getting a raise every few years, whether you deserve it or not.
Some other states have taken some financial pressure off their schools by limiting union collective bargaining privileges. In Wisconsin, for instance, teacher unions can only negotiate for relatively small annual raises, and benefits are not open to negotiation. Those rules have allowed schools to save millions of dollars every year.
But the unions still wield a lot of clout in the Golden State, and the taxpayers foot the bill.
One good example seems to be the San Bernardino school district, where a lot of employees command a great deal of money every year.
A total of 1,194 employees made more than $100,000 in salary plus benefits in 2013-14. Collectively they cost the district $135.4 million in a single year.
That figure suggests that they all make very high salaries, but that’s not the case. Of those 1,194 employees, only 195 had a base pay of six figures. Only 226 had base pay and “other income” totaling six figures.
Benefits make everything more expensive, and that’s where the union influence is obvious. Organized labor continually pushes for more expensive insurance and other perks, making school labor budgets much higher than they could be.
Of the $135.4 million spent on those 1,194 employees, $107.9 million was base pay and $3.4 million was “other income”
A whopping $24.1 was paid in the form of benefits. That’s roughly one-fifth of the total.
All but 16 of the employees on the $100,000 list had benefit packages worth at least $10,000 in 2013-14. The packages ranged in value from the $49,606 given to Superintendent Dale Marsden to around $12,000.
The continual union push for higher compensation is easier to understand in academically successful school districts. Educators are important, because children are important. Administrators and teachers who produce positive results for kids have a stronger argument when they want more from the communities they serve.
But in San Bernardino, the generous compensation for employees hasn’t translated into success in the classroom, based on student scores on California state tests.
On a recent district report card, based on testing for grades 3-8 and 11, the San Bernardino district failed miserably.
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations fell far short of the state average in all 16 categories of English language/literacy and math. And the percentage of difference between the district and the state was double-digits in every category.
The worst example was in English language/literacy for all students taking the test. Only 27 percent of San Bernardino students met or exceeded expectations, compared to an average of 54 percent statewide. That’s a gap of 27 percent.
The difference was 19 percent in three categories – third grade English language literacy (only 19 percent of district students made the grade), third grade math (21 percent of district students passed) and fourth grade math (16 percent of district students passed).
The next time the teachers union approaches the school board about higher salaries and benefits, the board should say that it will talk about big money when the staff produces big results.