By Steve Gunn

PITTSBURGH – We agree with the general consensus that it’s preferable for schools to keep class sizes as small as possible.

But we also realize that many public schools are nearly broke, so sometimes having the ideal number of students per class is just not possible.

That’s why we think it’s incredibly stupid, not to mention wasteful, for school districts to pay classroom teachers extra money for having a few extra kids in their classrooms. The practice is commonly referred to as “overage pay.”

The Keystone Oaks school district is one of thousands across the nation with overage pay mandated in their teacher union collective bargaining agreement. But the payment system in that district makes a distinction between elementary and secondary teachers.

Elementary teachers get a $1,000 per semester bonus when their classes exceed 23 students. Secondary teachers get the same amount for every class period that exceeds 23 students, and they probably teach four or five class periods.

The teachers union recently protested this disparity to an arbitrator, who ruled that every subject an elementary teacher covers in a day should be treated as a separate class with a separate $1,000 bonus.

That means the Keystone Oaks district may soon be forced to pay thousands of dollars in extra bonuses to elementary teachers. The article was not clear about whether the extra bonuses would be retroactive, and if so to what date.

We suppose the union may have a point on the fairness argument. But more importantly, we think this story magnifies the flaws of offering teachers overage pay in the first place.

What working person hasn’t had to do a little extra around the office or shop during tough times? It’s part of working and being a team player, and it rarely comes with extra compensation. If there were money available to pay someone to do the extra duties, more employees would be hired.

Many school districts have been forced to lay off younger teachers because their older colleagues have refused to make contract concessions to help save money. That means more students for the senior teachers who aren’t laid off. Since the unions frequently make layoffs and larger classrooms necessary, they shouldn’t expect their members to get extra pay when they are assigned extra students.

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