Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror: How the Teachers' Unions Are Destroying California's Economy

Nearly 10,000 California state retirees pull down more than $100,000 a year, thanks to public sector unions and the Democrat politicians who support them. For just this tiny group of retirees, the expense represents almost $1.5 billion a year for California's taxpayers.

Of this total, 3,090 retired educators in California receive more than $100,000 a year.

The Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) is but one example of the dysfunction. The district is nearing complete insolvency thanks to the teachers' unions. 85% of CUSD’s budget already goes to salaries, pensions and benefits; but that's apparently not enough for the unions.

Total Expenditures per year, 2009-2010, $381,716,882

Certificated Employees, 2009-2010 - $193,507,709
Classified Employees, 2009-2010 - $57,262,822
Employee Benefits, 2009-2010 - $72,388,03
Total Salaries, pensions and benefits - $323,158,586

Meanwhile, the teachers' union (CUEA) has not yet negotiated a new contract, which means the old contract remains in force. Thus, the union has not agreed to a single cut in salaries, pensions, or benefits and even have projected salary increases.

The cuts that are being proposed instead target the kids and parents.

$1.66 million: Eliminate funding for all extra-curricular activities, and all stipends for department chairs
$1.30 million: Eliminate funding for all sports programs
$1.20 million: Capture savings from lower-than-anticipated costs for employee health insurance
$1.20 million: Eliminate 25-to-1 pupil-teacher ratio in the first grade
$1.00 million: Eliminate elementary school block music
$1.00 million: Remove money from fund for facilities maintenance, leaving only $2.6 million over next four years
$0.70 million: Close two small elementary schools
$0.50 million: Delay purchasing new textbooks per the standard textbook adoption cycle
$0.25 million: Eliminate all summer school in grades K-8
$0.21 million: Reorganize the district's business services department
$0.14 million: Eliminate the college-level International Baccalaureate program in high schools
$0.10 million: Eliminate resident substitutes at high schools, use district list instead

The recent history of the district is enlightening. Union officials have fought school choice, sensible compensation models and other necessary reforms tooth-and-nail. And the tale of a former CUSD superintendent provides a glimpse into the failures of the system.

Convicted and sent to jail? Not to worry: you'll still get to keep your pension

Retired Capistrano Unified School District Superintendent James A. Fleming could face jail if convicted on a felony indictment over the use of school resources to track his political enemies. But conviction won't stop Fleming from receiving his pension funds: $141,000 a year from California and $64,000 from his 27-year stint in Florida.

While overseeing the school district, Fleming and other board members were accused of violating open meeting laws, retaliation against political opponents and creating "enemies" lists, which contained the names of his critics, their children and even the schools they were attending.

Prior to his retirement in 2006, Fleming's total compensation was more than $348,000 a year. After moving to California from Florida, the district agreed to add five years to the 15 he'd worked. In addition, the district agreed to cover Fleming's medical expenses in retirement though he hadn't worked the requisite 20 years.

Even if he is convicted on all of the 2007 charges, both his pensions will remain in force.

California State Teachers' Retirement System: Double- and Triple-Dipping

Rudy Castruita is a typical double-dipper: he's currently the Professor of Clinical Education at the University of Southern California. But, having served as the San Diego County Superintendent of Schools for 12 years, his pension payments are also a quarter of a million dollars a year. The fact that he's gainfully employed as a professor appears not to affect his extremely rich defined-benefit pension.

Karen Colby, former superintendent of the Ocean View School District, received a "golden parachute" pension of $134,515 a year despite issues raised concerning her performance. Likewise, retired Orange County superintendent Thomas Godley pulls in over $210,000 a year despite an extremely troubling career. He served as a budget chief for a school district when a finance worker stole $3.7 million.

Retired school superintendent Theresa Daem receives $235,000 a year, though she ran a small, four-school district with less than 4,000 students. Cameron McCune, the retired superintendent of the Fullerton School District, lives in Palm Springs pulling down a cool $244,000 a year.

Chaos and Misery Await Californians Thanks to the Unions

In the Capistrano district, teachers earn an average of around $82,000 a year in salary, which does not include extra assignments or benefits. Because of the state's immense problems, the CUSD budget shortfall has risen to $34 million since the first of the year.

Despite all of these issues, the teachers' union hasn't formally offered a single real concession to the district.

It's time that California officially banned the public-sector unions. The choice is clear: complete insolvency and disaster -- or survival. Right now, the unions represent a cinder-block tied to the state's feet as it tries to stay afloat.

Linked by: The Washington Examiner and Pension Tsunami. Thanks!


Bones said...

The politicians that allowed these contracts should have their pensions cut off. The unions demanded the sky and these idiots gave it to them.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in Capistrano.

The main problem is illegal immigration.

Anonymous said...

We have this in NJ too - Being a public school teacher is like winning the lottery. Double dipping abounds (not just in education).

New Republican gov'r Chris Christie is already ruffling the feathers of the public teacher union NJEA by enforcing an immediate spending freeze. Ahhnold unfortunately never had the cajones to take on the union, did he?
The Jewish Republican's Web Sanctuary

Anonymous said...

CUSD, in South Orange County, California, has a high cost of living. It cover seven cities, bordered by mountains and a military base, so employees are geographically isolated from competing jobs. Local teachers are not overpaid - if the district accepted the teachers last offer, CUSD would be the third lowest paid district out of 28 in our county. School districts typically spend 85% of their general funds on employees (it's a service industry.) Our worst
"double-dipper" is our interim superintendent collecting a triple-digit pension and almost $1K/day for her services in CUSD. Why did our trustees hire her? No one else will work here. Our school board is corrupt and sends hundreds of thousands in dollars in payouts to their campaign supporters and friends. Who has the most to lose here? Parents and children. And they are not blaming their local teachers.

PK_Handmade said...

Much the same here in Illinois

Nahanni said...

I love the brave "Anonymous" posters who are trying to spin this into being anything but overpaid teacher union members and their Rolls-Royce level benefits. Trust me, brave "Anonymous" posters, the only ones who are still buying that crap are your fellow travelers.

Now ask yourself how is it possible that countries around the world can crank out kids who know more by the time they are in (the equivalent) of sixth grade then an American kid does after 4 years of college.

How can that be?

We spend more per pupil then anywhere else on earth. In fact in places like Washington DC and Detroit they spend more per pupil then it costs to go to college.

I can tell you why.

Because that money goes to the greedy teachers unions who fight tooth and nail to stop anyone from holding them accountable and they fight everything that might actually improve the state of education in this country because it might cut into their exorbitant contracts and *GASP!* it just might mean they lose their jobs because they are incompetent.

Unknown said...

I am the brave "anonymous" poster. I am a teacher. I drive a '98 Oldsmobile because I believe in supporting American businesses. My family gets benefits through my job. My spouse works part-time after being laid off two years ago. I took a pay cut to become a teacher. We are both Republican. Our incomes are relatively the same. My district is not facing fiscal problems caused by teachers, and teachers cannot fix our state's problems.

You could hold me accountable for test scores. I work in a suburban district and have only a handful of new immigrants (Iran and Korea). But other teachers have no test scores... What about evaluating them? How do you tell which PE, art, music, elementary science, middle school history and high school photography teachers are incompetent?

You can generalize and victimize and proselytize, but you clearly don't understand teachers, who unite to protect a system that is about raising a generation of individuals to think critically.

Anyway, there is enough inaccuracy in this article to warrant my comments. And there is enough corruption in my district to warrant an anonymous posting, but if it makes my message less credible, I will change.

directorblue said...

VSavoni, thank you for the thoughtful remarks. Couple of reactions:

1) The teachers' unions have doomed you and others in your profession to fiscal disaster. The states can't possibly afford the pension plans that it negotiated (see Pew Research's "Trillion Dollar Gap"). So you're never going to collect on any of these "promises" in the years to come. Just how painful the reckoning is depends upon whether the union monopoly is broken sooner rather than later.

2) Every honest measure shows that school choice increases student and teacher performance; reduces costs; and improves teacher job satisfaction. Yet the unions protect their worst employees year after year and help crush school choice by electing Democrats. Competition, not monopolies, is the only route to freedom for students and teachers.

I'd be interested in your take on these issues.

Carolyn said...

But it's still FOR the Children!! Doesn't matter that their education stinks and there will be more cuts- it is still for the children! Some how, some way, it is ALWAYS for the children!

Alz said...

In Illinois, guess what we owe the top 100 School Administrators for pensions???????

Remember, I'm talking about the top 100 paid administrators - just 100 people.


For those in Illinois, there is a salary list on that site too. You will be amazed at what some teachers and, especially the administrators make.

Liberalism is bankrupting us. Everything Liberalism/Progressivism touches gets ruined over time.

Unknown said...

1) The union (which is teachers) didn't doom us, anymore than the nation's workforce doomed Social Security. No employees have contracts that management did not also agree to, so that one-sided blame is self-serving. If cuts are inevitable, they will come with warning, alternatives, and a progression of steps. Promises made are sustainable in the short term and modifiable for the future. "Sooner rather than later" only sounds good when you're talking about sticking it to someone else. Teachers are humans. I've sure you've known some.

2) School choice benefits populations that can provide their own transportation, understand their choices and can evaluate their options. Public schools educate the children of people who cannot meet those obligations and have a DUTY to protect them from being left behind. Unions protect their best and worst employees equally, with due process. I personally believe in competition, but in the classroom I know that some students do not respond best in competitive environments. Teachers are those students all grown up. Individuals find more satisfaction in one environment or the other. Public schools serve everyone . "Choice" and competition already exists for those who want them: private and charter schools. Dismantling public schools will reduce competition and harm those least fortunate. That seems unChristian.

Jack Dean said...

You can follow the escalating public pension crisis daily on

Anonymous said...

Public Sector Unions = Cancer

Seamusmeboy said...

Ahh, the teachers union. The irony is that they use the term union. There is no unity, the union will throw its own under the bus and then back up and level them again , if given the chance. I currently work in a district in Illinois. I am an administrator. I have belonged to the union, and now I do not. As an example. Our district is $7,000,000 in debt. To close what we need of the debt, we proposed to either let 25 teachers go, or have the union reopen the contract specifically for the purpose of diminishing the upcoming payraise from 4.5% to 2.5%. That would allow us to keep the 25 teachers, and close the gap at the same time. You guessed it, there was a large bump as the bus flattened those 25 teachers. People on this site, can defend the unions all they want, (and I hate to go biblical) but you cannot serve two masters. The unions impede progress, and they only exist to serve the power elite within themselves.

Unknown said...

Unions don't make all members equal; they give all members a vote. Decisions benefit the majority - just like in the real world. Consider the fact that experienced teachers have seen these offers before and been burned. Nothing keeps your board from taking the 2% from the union and STILL laying off the 25 teachers. In CUSD, teachers were told if they gave up 10%, it would save 220 jobs. But before the contract negotiations began, the 220 jobs were lost and the district still wanted 10%. Then, during negotiations, they increased it to over 11% -- but now to save programs, not jobs. Do we trust them? No. Will they save jobs? Only their own. Is it the "union's" fault? Not hardly. The district hires a PR firm to feed misinformation to sites like this, to promote an "anti-union" agenda, hoping to garner support from people with unrealistic expectations of "unity" or anger over their own personal economic situations. Blaming teachers is wrong. Unions are our only way of countering out-of-control school boards.

Anonymous said...

vsavoni, you wrote "Unions are our only way of countering out-of-control school boards." Wrong. They are *a* way, but not the only way, and are always the worst way. Only in a union shop do these pension problems exist. I would suggest you ask your union bosses how they got you into a situation where the state is going to cut or eliminate your pension at some point because it is insolvent. Hey, maybe you can form a union and protest your union bosses! After all, a union is the only way to counter your out-of-control union bosses.

Unknown said...

This article cited my local school district and included so much information I was compelled to respond. My local association needs our state union because of a corrupt school board that continues to spend money we don't have suing parent groups. My pension is not negotiated locally, but will be based on my salary, so the issues are related. I think my union bosses are necessary to protect my working conditions and the quality of education in my town and the long-term survival of my school district.

Many private companies have gotten into trouble with pension and retiree benefit obligations. They have left loyal employees high and dry. This is not isolated to unionized work forces. Even Social Security has made adjustments. So will teachers' unions, when treated respectfully and fairly.

Anonymous said...

A few big companies have made bad investments that have cost their employees dearly, and they went to jail for it. A few big companies have been duped into making bad investments, and the guilty there went to jail. No non-union company was so stupid as to sign a Ponzi scheme pension plan like GM, Chrysler, Ford, and the public schools. Are your unions bosses going to jail when the Ponzi scheme that pays your pension is unraveled?

Unknown said...

IBM and Verizon execs went to jail? Was a crime committed? These are completely rhetorical questions, for I won't be back. I combat ignorance for a living, but I'm not paid to take on the world. Good luck to all of you. In my world, our former superintendent has not been found guilty of any crime, our school board is the target of a recall, our teachers are organizing, our district has a 'qualified' budget but no teachers' contract for this year or next, and our schools will cut inevitably services. (Meanwhile, the owner of our local baseball team has avoided paying income taxes for the $108 million he's made in the last 4 years -- roughly $2 million per month -- and American anti-tax politics makes that legal.)

Unknown said...

Because the truth matters to me, I wanted to tell you, directorblue, that the charges you refer to for Dr. Fleming were dropped today. Unfortunately, our school board already authorized a settlement on civil case (almost immediately after gaining a majority on our board) for hundreds of thousands of dollars, because their campaign donors were the plaintiffs. And last Sunday, our board met secretly in our dark District Office, setting off an alarm -- and their response to the six sheriff's cars that responded was to turn off the lights and "play dead." So much for respecting "open meetings law." You did many people a disservice to run this story, using CUSD as an example, without digging deeper into the propaganda you're provided. You and your readers should know there's another side:

Princess Consuela said...

vsavoni, I applaud your grace and forthrightness. It is people like you that give me hope. :)

Kevin said...

I feel like I want to vomit. This reminds me of tree borers. These nasty little bugs that infect and kill fruit trees by sucking all the sap out. The only way to kill them is by using a poison so toxic that you can't eat the fruit from the tree any more. Too bad. But that's what all these trough feeders are doing. Bleeding the system dry. And they don't care about anyone but themselves. Ugghhhh.

anthony said...

Keep watching education spending, Doug. That's all the unions care about and it's about time we paid attention. Hope you don't mind my quoting you on my blog.
Very best,