How can Philly schools hand out raises during a financial emergency?

November 26, 2012

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Kyle Olson Kyle Olson

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By Steve Gunn
EAGnews.org

PHILADELPHIA – It’s no secret that Philadelphia schools are in deep financial trouble.

Just weeks ago the district had to take out a $300 million emergency loan just to make it through the current school year.

District officials have been asking union personnel to make financial concessions to help deal with the crisis, and they’ve been floating a controversial plan to close many neighborhood schools. Those moves are obviously necessary and we credit the district for going in that direction.

But district officials are hurting their own cause by issuing significant salary raises to 25 non-union employees, according to a report from Philly.com.

More than $300,000 in salary increases will be handed out to employees in the information technology, human resources, finance and grants, and compliance departments, according to the news report.

School officials tried to explain away the raises, claiming they are merely “adjustments” for employees who have not been getting the same type of raises as union members over the years. They also admitted they were “trying to communicate a certain prominence about a certain position,” the report said.

It’s all completely unnecessary, and more than a little foolish, at a time like this.

The district is going to have a hard enough time convincing a pampered teachers union to give up some perks for the common good, and a nightmare of a time convincing local residents to shutter a bunch of neighborhood schools.

Selling those ideas now becomes even more difficult, because the administration has foolishly decided to play favorites. Now nobody is going to want to sacrifice anything.

We’ve said it a million times and it must be repeated: Leadership involves walking the walk, not just talking the talk. When leaders say everyone must sacrifice to make ends meet, they should back up their words with strict policies.

Perhaps the employees getting the raises are very important to the district and deserving of more money. But raises for anyone are a very bad idea at the moment. This is a district that needs to save every penny possible to eliminate a huge deficit and maintain crucial student programs.

The adults in the district – and that means all of them – should have to wait for a brighter day to improve their income status.

Unfortunately that will only be true for most employees. A select few will actually get more money while most are asked to cough up some income. This is no way to promote solidarity and shared sacrifice.

Officials in Philadelphia schools ought to have their heads examined for making this boneheaded decision.

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