Updated (below): Peter Szalai, the Oak Harbor Education Association President, penned a letter to the editor in which he denies that the teachers’ union he leads will receive additional Time, Responsibility and Incentive Days (TRI-Days) as part of the Oak Harbor School District’s proposed doubling of its Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Levy.
I had outlined my claims in a letter which the newspaper titled “Proposed levy is a scam, vote against“. Mr. Szalai’s letter, written in direct response to my letter, received the moniker “Calling levy ‘a scam’ is shameful“
In reality, Mr. Szalai’s letter solidly re-confirms that the teachers’ union is purporting a scam. Moreoever, it’s essentially the SAME kind of levy scam that Ed Beeksma, the gentleman whose name adorns Oak Harbor’s Beeksma Gateway Park, also wrote to the newspaper about over 20 years ago in Oak Harbor, when he was an elected local school board director.
Let’s examine the actual facts of this latest proposed local K-12 property tax levy and the TRI-Day scam.
1. The teachers’ union local negotiated contract currently provides for “14.0 days of supplemental (TRI) pay” as delineated on “APPENDIX 2-B Total Compensation Salary Schedule for Certificated Instructional Staff 2012-2013”. Also at the OHEA website, this page titled “OHEA Bargained Supplemental Pay Explained” delineates that the 14 TRI-Days comprise 14 of the 19 supplemental days for which the teachers’ union members are paid from local discretionary revenue. (Local discretionary revenue is made up of revenue from Federal Impact Aid AND the Maintenance and Operations levy, a point upon which I will elaborate further, below, if this seems doubtful to you in any way.)
2. In a local newspaper article in March, 2012, tilted “Oak Harbor School District levy may include staff pay, benefits“, the Whidbey News-Times reported that Mr. Szalai wants “$550,000 for five and one-half additional TRI days; and $130,000 for retired teachers’ medical coverage” as part of the proposed 2013 levy.
3. An internal levy committee document from last school year, courtesy of Peter Szalai posting it to his public OHEA Facebook page, delineates the specifics of the levy proposal that was eventually adopted to be (it’s now being called “$1.98” versus “$1.94”):
*$485/year for $250,000 home
*15 teachers (8 to restore 30 minutes to the middle school day; 3 SPED; and 4 for K-4 class size reduction)
*6 IAs instead of 3 teachers
*Adds back 3.5 school days
*$900,000 in textbooks and technology (1/2 adoption per year; science first, then social studies; art,P.E., music, and world languages)
*$600,000 in athletics and activities (shifts funding of all 6-12 programs from federal impact aid to the levy)
*$900,000 in maintenance and grounds (restores 6 positions; materials and equipment)”
4. In another local newspaper article from April, 2012, it was reported that the school board chose to proffer a levy which “would charge property owners more than double what they’re paying now with a rate of $1.93 or $2.15 per thousand of assessed value” and which would “would collect $8.1 million, including state levy match funding.”
5. The campaign for the school levy claims that, in totality, the levy would pay for $8.35 million of various stuff.
Now, notice above in #3 the bolded “$600,000 in athletics and activities (shifts funding of all 6-12 programs from federal impact aid to the levy)” from the levy committee’s internal analysis.
That shift-in-funding “from federal impact aid to the levy” is a simple but succinct example of how either Federal Impact Aid OR money from a local Maintenance and Operations levy can be spent via local discretion. That $600,000 shift-in-funding is also the source of the increased TRI-Days that the Mr. Szalai and his bargaining team have already pre-negotiated into the proposed levy.
Federal Impact Aid dollars and Maintenance and Operations levy dollars are equivalent in their ability to be spent at the local level via local discretion. In the districts that receive NO Federal Impact Aid, ALL TRI-Days are paid from local Maintenance and Operations property tax levies. In the Oak Harbor School District, however, school district administration the elected school board and, especially, the teachers’ union, work very hard to keep this connection between Federal Impact Aid and the local Maintenance and Operations levy hidden from the voters in order to purport their TRI-Day levy scam upon the voters.
In fact, the Federal Impact Program itself states:
“Most Impact Aid funds, except for the additional payments for children with disabilities and construction payments, are considered general aid to the recipient school districts; these districts may use the funds in whatever manner they choose in accordance with their local and State requirements. Most recipients use these funds for current expenditures, but recipients may use the funds for other purposes such as capital expenditures. Some Impact Aid funds must be used for specific purposes. All payments are distributed by wire transfer directly to the bank accounts of school districts.
School districts use Impact Aid for a wide variety of expenses, including the salaries of teachers and teacher aides; purchasing textbooks, computers, and other equipment; after-school programs and remedial tutoring; advanced placement classes; and special enrichment programs. Payments for Children with Disabilities must be used for the extra costs of educating these children.”
So, now consider from my letter-to-the-editor my statement that “TRI-Day dollars could pay for anything and everything that this giant unnecessary levy might.“
Of course they could, since Federal Impact Aid AND local property taxes collected from a Maintenance and Operations levy can be spent for the same things at the local level.
The Oak Harbor School District likes to maintain that only Federal Impact Aid is ever used to pay TRI-Days, but even the teacher’ union negotiated contract states that TRI-Days are dependent upon the levy. For example, on page 23, it says:
“…the District agrees to provided each employee a responsibility stipend in an amount equivalent fourteen (14) days, provided that two (2) of these days of this responsibility stipend shall be suspended in the event of a double levy loss by the District pending passage and first collection of a new levy by the District.”
NO Maintenance and Operations levy that the school district has EVER proposed to the voters has EVER specified or asked the voters to raise their property taxes in order to provide even ONE TRI-Day to pay-pad teacher’s salaries. Why? Because the voters would likely resoundingly say “NO”. They should say “NO” to this levy, too. Over the years, while the school district has perennially cried “poor!” local discretionary local spending has somehow always been available for more and more TRI-Days after each so-called ever-increasing levy “renewal”. So, while we now pay-pad the teachers with 14 TRI-Days from local funding, the new levy would bring that number up to 19.5. It’s simply one big TRI-Day SCAM levy after levy.
If the teachers feel SO strongly about how much they “deserve” their TRI-Days, prove it by putting your money where your mouth is: petition the elected school board to run a separate Maintenance and Operations Levy for all your TRI-Days. If the levy passes, you get as many TRI-Days – and only that many – as the voters would approve. If the levy fails, you lose all your TRI-Days until you can ask the voters for them four years later, when the next Maintenance and Operations levy is offered to the voters.
Here is my letter to the editor that Peter Szalai says was “shameful”
“Voters should reject the Oak Harbor School District’s (OHSD’s) proposed 2013 Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy. That levy would literally double local property taxes presently being paid towards that single M&O levy and would raise property taxes overall by about 10%. The OHSD’s existing and ongoing property tax bonds – paying for things like a new high school and stadium – are already programmed to increase local school property taxes by 4% to 5% annually, and even so if property values drop more or stagnate for years. An additional 10% plus-up in local property taxes is unjustified as I have demonstrated in an article titled “Oak Harbor School District claim of “massive cuts” is phony baloney” available via a Google search on the internet.
A main reason our local teachers are so gung-ho about the proposed levy is that they have been promised a 39% increase in local supplemental pay if the levy passes, via more “TRI-Days”, so they are literally campaigning for their own paychecks. Via TRI-Days, the teachers’ union already skims about $1.5 million annually into their own pockets from local discretionary revenues such as Federal Impact Aid and the local M&O school levy. TRI-Day dollars could pay for anything and everything that this giant unnecessary levy might.
Local teachers have threatened local business owners (themselves retired teachers) who spoke out against TRI-Days and teachers are conning students in school about school revenues. Educate yourself and then vote “no”. The teachers are militant and the levy is a scam.”
Here is OHEA President Peter Szalai’s letter response to that above letter:
“Bill Burnett’s Nov. 9 letter labeling the school district’s maintenance and operations levy “a scam” is shamelessly inaccurate.
First and foremost, property taxes will not “double” should the levy pass. The owner of a $250,000 home will see an increase of about $20 per month. The school levy is about 10 percent of all of the property taxes that a property owner pays. Whereas it is true that the February levy request is an increase, it is about as close to doubling a property owner’s taxes as Burnett ever gets to the truth.
I know that in some quarters it is fashionable to beat up on public unions — especially those that represent teachers. Unions help secure fair compensation, benefits and working conditions.
Oak Harbor’s children are better off because of the Oak Harbor Education Association’s unrelenting efforts to lower or maintain class size, secure supplies, materials, textbooks and technology for the classrooms, and bargain reasonably attractive salaries to attract and retain high-quality professionals.
Burnett claims that teachers are supporting the levy because they have been promised a 39 percent raise should the levy pass. On what planet is Bill living on? The planet Make Believe where gravity and reality are both suspended? It would be a violation of law if any bargainable issue, such as salary, were conducted outside of the negotiations process. Teachers are supporting the levy because they see the needs every day.
Please visit the school district and levy campaign websites, and attend school board meetings for information.”
There were various responses to Mr. Szalais’ letter, one of them being:
“Mr. Szalai: do not doubt that our community is committed to funding education. In our boom and bust economy, we seek sustainability. Those in support of an equal education for all children are deeply concerned over the growing segregation seen in Washington schools.
We can no longer ignore the demographics attributed to bonus pay for teachers (Time, Responsibility, Incentive Pay) TRI pay, especially as districts throughout the state are reporting that the increasing costs for TRI pay are not sustainable. This is not a new issue: Bethel’s stipend at issue.
Salaries are a major expense in all businesses, including schools. We all know that teachers work part-time hours for full-time pay. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction certificated employees (teachers) work 1,080 hours – a full 1,000 fewer hours than all other public and private employees. By contrast, a full-time classified school district employee works 2,080 hours. A simply comparison: a teacher and a social worker each invested in similar college educations and are dedicated to working with children. Both are public employees with salaries set by our legislature.
The beginning teacher’s salary is $33,400 for 1,080 hours, plus additional bonus dollars of TRI pay; whereas, the social worker’s receives a salary of $26,600 for a minimum of 2,080 hours work with no additional pay for weekend duty and emergency call-outs.
Our taxes support teachers and social workers and all other public programs. We are all about the children — their well-being — supporting them in their “now” and in their future. So, if we expect our local social workers to cheerfully perform their jobs with 1,000 more hours and $6,800 less pay, then we need to talk openly about our district’s use of TRI-pay as bonus pay for teachers.
Gerry C Yakovleff”
Another spot-on response to Peter Szalai was this one:
“I think Mr. Szalai needs to read Mr Burnett’s letter more accurately, the letter does not state that the “property taxes will “double” ” it states that the levy will double the M&O tax that is currently paid.
Mr Szalai is a master of spin and obfuscation and now he even misquotes letters in opposition to his levy. Does Mr Szalai really think that the people of Oak Harbor are really blind to his tactics? I mean anyone can read the letter from Bill Burnett in these same letters to the editor.
“I know that in some quarters it is fashionable to beat up on public unions —”.
Yes Mr Szalai and it is also fashionable to beat up on dissent made honestly by citizens in this community by you and the organization you stand for.
It is time for this to end. You have plenty of money from the taxpayers, use it more wisely, stop building monstrosities you call schools and divulge the school district of all the excess land it currently owns…then we can talk.
Mr Szalai, who is the largest landowner in Oak Harbor? It is the school district you are asking for more money for that is who.
Updated Section (02/05/2013):
To delineate as to how utterly MISLEADINGLY DISHONEST members of our locally elected Oak Harbor School Board continue to be about this perennial issue of co-mingling Maintenance and Operations levy dollars from local property taxes, Federal Impact Aid dollars from the US Dept. of Education, and teacher TRI-Days, Oak Harbor School Board Director David McCool today had a letter printed in the Whidbey News-Times which stipulated, in part:
“Citizens for Academic Success wants you to believe that funding in this M&O levy includes monies for teacher supplemental pay called TRI-Day. Although TRI-Days are a part of teacher’s compensation, there is nothing earmarked in this M&O Levy.”
Apparently, McCool is talking about an ad that appeared on page 12 of the Whidbey News-Times in the January 26, 2013 edition. That edition and that ad can be seen via the “Green Edition” of that date’s publication at the link provided here: Whidbey News-Times January 26, 2013 Green Edition.
Interestingly, while that (apparently) one-time ad against the proposed school levy appeared on page 12, in the same edition of the newspaper, the school district received a much more prominent placement for their own levy ad, on page seven, just below the letters’ section.
At the onset of his letter, Board member McCool opined:
“It’s too bad the First Amendment rights afforded every American doesn’t (sic) include the responsibility to tell the truth.”
Apparently, such responsibility is non-existent on the Oak Harbor School Board, and elected board member McCool is also lacking in some subject-verb agreement skills.
End Updated Section
Other relevant articles about this proposed levy include:
- If you ask for or provide too many facts about the proposed OHSD M&O levy, you must be a Fascist, tin-foil-hat-wearing kid-hating bully
- OHSD Students Being Exploited and Conned
- Oak Harbor School District claim of “massive cuts” is phony baloney: Reject the 2013 M&O levy that would increase by 100% the local M&O property tax for schools
- How high will proposed 2013 OHSD M&O levy go? Teachers’ union president sets campaign theme: “We choose to go to the Moon”!
- Oak Harbor School District teachers’ union members openly threaten business owner who communicated with school district about TRI-Days and school levy
- Nothing has changed in 20 years: 1992 Ed Beeksma letter documents two decades of Oak Harbor School District shill game of using Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy for pay and benefits
- Whidbey News Times editor “Burned Out” on idea to ask local voters directly for ALL Time, Responsibility and Incentive (TRI) pay at each Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy renewal
- Reject Oak Harbor School District Levy until all Time, Responsibility, and Incentive (TRI) dollars are returned to the Kids
- Oak Harbor School District teachers’ union president provides evidence of overpaid teachers while also providing false local salary information
- Teacher Militancy Increases as Teachers Campaign for 39% Increase in Local Supplemental Pay + Video: Union Teachers Advocate for Marxism in the Classroom