Columbus Begs for Bargaining Reform

The Dispatch reports that, with Governor Kasich cutting local spending to balance Ohio’s budget and with reduced bailouts from Uncle Sam, Columbus City Schools (CCS) is planning layoffs.

Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris will propose a $739 million general-fund budget for next school year that would eliminate about 259 staff positions.

Of those, the full-time equivalent of about 38 people would actually lose their jobs. The remaining positions would be eliminated through attrition or by wiping out jobs already vacant.

Earlier this month I discussed how easily the Hilliard City School District could cover a $3.9 million shortfall if teachers and staff paid more than $75,000 were willing to accept serious 10% pay reductions. Of course they can’t, because the local branch of the Ohio Education Association ensures pay cuts stay off the table. Even with firings and program cuts on the horizon, the union (whose only concern is the children, until the children come between the union and its dues) protects the step-increased salaries of senior teachers and staff.

Columbus City Schools would save $13.1 million with the sacrifices Superintendent Harris is suggesting. What if desperate times could be answered by the desperate measure of reducing tenured teachers’ pay?

Balancing the Budget With Sacrifices from the Top

A quick search of Ohio records for CCS lists 8,234 employees as of 2010. Of those, 1,381 were paid between $75,000 and $100,000. What if we assumed none of these employees was paid more than $75,000, and asked each of them to give up 10% of their pay? Let’s even exclude the superintendent’s secretary mentioned in the Dispatch story as “a savings of almost $98,000 a year.”

75,000 x 0.1 = 7,500
1,380 x 7,500* = $10,350,000

* Number corrected 05/16/2011. Thanks to a commenter for pointing out my inability to copy a number from one line to the next!

With the firing axe replaced by a salary hatchet, we’ve saved CCS $10,350,000 a year. What if we included Superintendent Harris (paid $185,911.96 in 2010) and the other 77 CCS employees who were paid more than $100,000? This time, assuming no one was paid more than $100,000:

100,000 x 0.1 = 10,000
10,000 x 78 = $780,000

A total of $11,130,000 saved annually, without reducing anyone’s pay below $67,500. For reference, median household income in Franklin County as of 2008 was $51,246.

Maybe I’m being unfair to the Columbus Education Association – after all, the union has made concessions:

She said the district will save about $9.5 million because of recently negotiated union contracts that include freezes to base salaries and limits on raises received through years-of-service bumps.

Though 10% is a lot to ask, consider the context. Consider the Columbus City Schools employees who will be fired because the union’s grand gesture is smaller raises while the district, the state, and the nation struggle financially. Consider the students who miss out on academic or extracurricular programs while 1,458 district employees earn more than $75,000 a year – and pay dues to a union whose key concerns are income and power.

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