April 5, 2011

Bianco Needs a Reality Check

In a story straight out of the "WTF" category, Buffalo Business First has identified the Niagara Falls School District as having the fifth most generous pay scale for teachers out of 98 school districts across Western New York analyzed. The irony? The same periodical ranked the Niagara Falls School District 91st in academic performance.

91st in performance, 5th in pay. Wonderful.

According to Niagara Gazette reporter Rick Forgione, Falls Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said the district ranks high on the salary list because it employs professionals who are willing to work with at-risk youth, comply with the residency policy and engage in continual job-embedded staff development.

What a crock of shit. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Excuses are like assholes; everybody's got one and they all stink. We want to know two things: 1) That are children are getting the best education that can be offered, and 2) our tax dollars are being used in the most efficient and prudent manner possible. Bianco's rationale delivers neither. Instead, we get rhetoric that does little to ease the concerns of city residents.

What most stands out is Bianco's assertion that they must pay more to teachers who must comply with a strict residency requirement. If you need to pay more to employees as a mechanism for forcing them to reside in your community, your problems are bigger than you realize. In addition, the concept of mandating residency virtually ensures that students do not have the opportunity to be taught by the best teachers out there while at the same time driving costs up for taxpayers. Students lose and taxpayers lose.

Forgione went on to state that, including administrators, Niagara Falls had four employees making $150,000 or more a year. Bianco’s salary was listed at $155,000. In addition, seven employees made between $125,000 and $149,999; and 28 employees earned $100,000 to $124,999. A total of 217 employees made between $75,000 and $99,999 and 358 employees made between $50,000 and $74,999 during the 2009-10 school year.

Spending per pupil in Niagara Falls was listed at $17,119 for the 2008-09 school year. Nearly 29 percent of the district’s budget was devoted to teacher salaries, with an additional 12 percent for health benefits that same academic year. That's 41% of the district's budget being devoted to the compensation of teachers. That figure does not take into consideration the compensation of administrators, so it's probably safe to assume that the percentage goes well over 50% after adding those costs in. Think about that - less than half of every dollar spent on educating students in Niagara Falls actually goes to programs to educate students.

The bottom line is that we, the taxpayers, demand better. School administrators must come to the realization that we cannot and will not continue to subsidize a failed system that rewards incompetency. We certainly will not accept lame excuses for their repeated failures, as in the case of Bianco, while attempting to justify their existence and sickeningly bloated salary and compensation packages. Bianco needs to step up, tell the truth, and present a plan to address both student performance and taxpayer frustration. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut - we don't want to hear it.


sundayniagara said...

Let's not blame the parents for sending their ill-prepared children to school!

Niagara Prognosticator said...

You wrote: "Think about that - less than half of every dollar spent on educating students in Niagara Falls actually goes to programs to educate students."

To further quote you "WTF?" Do you think teachers are mere props?

By your logic, if only teachers were cut from the classroom, less cash can be spent on some mysterious program to educate our young.

It would be interesting to hear what sort of programs you think can be inserted in place teachers? Computers?

One can argue over an appropriate compensation level, whether there is enough bang for the buck, etc.. For instance, would you go so far as to suggest volunteer teachers? How low would you go to attract skilled, motivated professionals? What's the tipping point? But to assert that somehow teachers are not part of the educational "programs" is overreaching, in the least. Overwrought hyperbole that offers nothing to solving the conundrum that is providing quality education to our young citizens while fairly compensating those who toil trying to make it happen.

As long as the debate over this issue, and many others in America, are led by agitating rhetoric such as yours, rather than by principled argument focussed on finding solutions, some of which require great compromise, America's great challenges, including American education, are doomed to remain great challenges amid such bombastic drone.

Apple Pie Bunker said...

Until receiving an education becomes more profitable than a welfare check or worse yet, a life of crime, there will be no improvement in the classroom. When I was growing up there was nothing more important than an education, a vehicle to raising one's social class. Today too many children are born to absentee parents. Throwing more money at the schools is not going to fix a social problem. This is why the voters in Niagara Falls failed to pass that $130 million for a capital projects plan. Maybe we need to spend more money on police and prisons. Stop glamorizing the "Hood".