Layoffs? Or pay cuts?
Florida's school districts face some tough choices as money gets tight. They face the first year-to-year decline in spending money for the first time in about three decades, if lawmakers stick to their budget plan. As a result, leaders have begun talking about eliminating field trips, increasing meal prices, scaling back sports.
But everybody recognizes that the 800-pound gorilla is employee salaries and benefits. They make up about 85 percent of spending in most districts, as superintendents regularly point out. So while trims in transportation might make up some financial ground, the districts increasingly find themselves needing to cut pay or cut positions.
Manatee County officials like the former better than the latter, and they've proposed slashing salaries by about 5 percent for teachers (and 7.5 percent for administrators) rather than laying off more than 400 employees that key leaders estimate would have to go to balance the budget.
"Our attitude was, everybody gives a little so nobody has to give everything," School Board member Jane Pfeilsticker told the Bradenton Herald.
But will teachers take it? Unlike parents, who have only PTAs and SACs to wield some influence, or kids, who have just student government, teachers have legally enforced collective bargaining on their side. And they can fight. (Look no farther than the Collier teachers and their yearlong battle over a 1 percent bonus. Or consider Pasco teachers' rejection of a proposal to delay their step increases for next year.)
So while families watch their programs get cut without much say, teachers actually might be able to choose whether they like less pay for all, or no pay for some. Wonder which one looks better (especially to the ones getting pink slips).