Your Yokels’ thoughts and ideas about teacher salaries

We know Whiskas, we know.
We know Whiskas, we know.

I know it isn’t pleasant, but for a moment let’s take a trip down memory lane. Back to the dark days of the BOCC when the education budget wasn’t funded above the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) required by law. People came out in droves to testify before the BOCC, to no avail. This frustration helped usher Jan Gardner into office in 2014. To her word, County Executive Gardner has increased funding for our county schools. This year she allocated $10.5 million over the MOE funding from the previous year. County Superintendent Alban wanted $13.8 million for salaries in order to revamp the pay scale. The BOE slowly shook it’s collective head from side to side and reallocated $7.4 million from the salary pool. We think the title of FNP’s coverage of last night’s meeting kinda says it all:

Board of Education slammed by teachers, community during final budget approval

We know budgeting is hard, and there will be winners and losers. However, the teachers are sick and tired of being the losers. Every single year. And we are sick and tired for them. Friend of the Yokel Casey Day-Kells was quoted in the paper as saying this:

The FCTA secretary, Casey Day-Kells, offered an alliterative description for how teachers are feeling: “disheartened, discouraged, disrespected, demoralized, dismayed, depressed.”

“Not only one, is the scale broken, but at this time, so are many of your employees,” Day-Kells said.

You business people out there know that demoralized employees are not good for your bottom line. And while we know our county teachers are professionals who put on their best face every day, we can’t help but think this will affect how they perform their jobs.We want to help come up with some solutions, unlike some of our county politicians:


Sorry to have to keep using this one folks. But it's kinda not our fault.
Sorry to have to keep using this one folks. But it’s kinda not our fault.

We are going to try to follow this logic. So since the BoE cut the money from salaries , Tony should have been allowed the amendment to do away with over $6 million from the total budget because that would have made this all better…how? So confused. Are we to forget the past, Mr. Delauter? Are you now painting yourself as a “friend of education” who has no problem raising teacher salaries???!!! PLEEAZZZEE!!! What about all those years you voted to keep the budget at MOE and therefore directly contributed to this problem? And how about that other time when you cut that Head Start program because all the women should be at home with their kids baking your pie? Our memory is long and detailed, councilman. As for the teachers voting on their salaries, we’ll let the above gif take care of that. We can’t keep addressing that issue over and over again. We just can’t. But, it sure seems like a hollow complaint, when the “get rich quick plan” to become Frederick County’s brand new council member teacher millionaire hybrid class is nakedly hogwash. Obvious to literally everyone with two brain cells to rub together is that they are not able to control that money pot.

Now onto our Yokel brainstorm. Since we cannot guarantee that money allocated to the school system will be used to increase salaries how about a special little tax increase that is specifically and only for this purpose?  Now before you get all:


on us, just hear us out. Things cost money people. And yes, the government should do the absolute best job it can spending it wisely. (That doesn’t mean cutting just for the sake of cutting, Kirby!) However, sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to and in order to get what we want we have to pony up!  So let’s say that we have a special fee just for this purpose. Whatever goes into this fund can and will only be used for salaries. The CE, Council, and BoE cannot use it for anything else ever. Kinda like the Chesapeake restoration fee on your water bill. And it wouldn’t have to be much. If every county resident (census prediction is 245,322 for June 2015) paid $41 a year we would have an extra 10,058,202. If you spread that out in monthly payments it comes to $3.42 a month. If you are ready and able to add more, feel free. And if we ever have a year that our teachers are paid a competitive salary, we can take a break from it. What say you, Yokels? If you have any other ideas, please put them in our comment section. Let’s start a dialogue on  how to fix this so we don’t have to have this same cycle of disappointment year after year after year.

Tony’s Brave New World. No, wait this sucks!

Why do we keep having to talk about this ?
Why do we keep having to talk about this ?

In this morning’s Frederick News Post we have more evidence of just how important the teaching of history is in our schools. Here’s what County Council member Tony Chmelik has to say about Maryland’s prevailing wage:

Councilman Tony Chmelik said he wants to reverse that change altogether. He said the change was a “political boondoggle” meant to please labor unions.

Deep breaths! Count to 10! Repeat! Seriously folks, if one is not able to see how the labor movement has benefited this country we really, really question that person’s ability to  govern our fair county.  This whole Republican attack against the labor movement and fair wages is so reminiscent of how rich plantation owners manipulated the poor whites of the South into supporting a system that was against their own economic interests. I think it’s time for a nice Upton Sinclair quote from his book, “The Jungle” about conditions in the meat packing plants in Chicago:

Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers; under such circumstances immorality was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable went on there in the packing houses all the time, and were taken for granted by everybody; only they did not show, as in the old slavery times, because there was no difference in color between master and slave.

Sound even a little bit familiar to some issues we may be having today? So please Mr. Chmelik do go on about how giving people a living wage is a boondoggle. Please feed us more rhetoric about how labor unions are ruining this country and how rolling back the prevailing wage will solve all our school construction woes.

There couldn't be any reason to set wages could there? Won't corporations just do the right thing on their own?
There couldn’t be any reason to set wages could there? Won’t corporations just do the right thing on their own?

We like our readers to be informed so we want to talk a little about the prevailing wage here in Maryland. It was first enacted in 1945. Yes, that’s right 1945. It’s not a new thing at all. What does change is the numbers. The State now requires that if a public project costs more than $500,000 and they contribute more than 25% of the costs, the county must pay the prevailing wage. In 1999, Prince Georges County asked Mark J. Prus, Associate Professor of Economics at SUNY Cortland to do a cost analysis of the prevailing wage and school construction costs. Read  the whole study here, and let us highlight some main points. First of all, why historically do states (Maryland is not the only one) enact prevailing wage laws?:

Prevailing wage laws emerged from a concern that cutthroat competition over wages in construction would lead the industry down a low-wage, low-skill development path. This was said to put the quality of construction at risk and lead to an itinerant, footloose, low-wage construction labor force. Poor construction workers would make poor neighbors and potential burdens on the community. Reasonably paid construction workers, on the other hand, held out the possibility of being solid neighbors, good citizens and productive members of the community. Government, by the operation of prevailing wage laws, was supposed to get out of the business of cutting government costs by cutting the wages of its citizens. Whatever labor standards had been established, whatever wages prevailed in a local community; that is what the law said government should pay on public works.

Hmm, so the goal is to make sure that good work is done, people are skilled and are paid enough to become economic participants in the community in which they live. The horror! So what was the conclusion of this analysis? (We know it’s an older study, but  it’s still relevant):

A “here-and-there” linear regression model was developed to estimate the effect of prevailing wage regulations on total construction costs for schools, controlling for other factors. This model controlled for the type of school, the size of the project, and building characteristics. It also controlled for general differences in construction costs between states with and without prevailing wage laws and general differences between the cost of public and private construction (whether or not done under prevailing wage regulations). Controlling for these factors, this model could find no statistically significant impact on total construction costs due to prevailing wage requirements.

In comparison with states that did not have these laws, there was no statistical  difference. Now, in the study, it did show that there was an increase for high schools as compared to elementary and middle, mostly because they are bigger and more complicated structures and therefore take longer to build.

We are quite aware that Frederick High’s construction costs are well over the estimate. And yes, some of that cost is due to the fact that in the original estimate this wage increase was not factored in. But that is not a reason to fight the prevailing wage law. We need to have the governor release our funds. And perhaps we need more help from the State in general when it comes to school construction. The answer does not lie in a cheap labor force. It never does.

We will leave you with this nice poster that we got from our Republican Rebel friends:

What the hell happened?
What the hell happened?


Board of Education meeting (FYI: our community is awesome)!

Psssst…it should have the contraction “it’s” instead of the possessive “its” here. We didn’t make it. Education matters, evidently!

We were afraid that last night’s Board of Education meeting was going to turn into an ugly us vs. them shame fest.( If you want to watch the meeting, click here to get to FCPS’s TV channel). Thankfully, we were all so very wrong. First off let’s give an old yokel tip of the hat to Board of Education President Brad Young for setting the tone of last night’s meeting:

There has been a misrepresentation that this is an either/or situation. I don’t want to see this as one vs. the other. Both schools are needed.

This entire board 150% agrees that both schools are needed.

Just for you Mr. Young. Thank you for setting the tone for what could have been a very contentious meeting.
Just for you Mr. Young. Thank you for setting the tone for what could have been a very contentious meeting.

County Executive Jan Gardner also spoke:

We need to advocate together for our community’s needs. We are all in it together.

The Frederick News Post also reported that the speakers also kept that tone of togetherness. At the end of the meeting, it was reported, that the PTA Presidents exchanged contact information. Way to go ladies!

Brad Young, and others, have told us the main reason that we have these money problems is due to the prevailing wage. Back in 2014, the State passed a law that if they provided more than 50% of the school construction bill, wages need to be set at a certain level. This is why Frederick High’s costs have skyrocketed and also why these construction projects are in jeopardy. Now, before anyone villianizes the prevailing wage, let’s all remember to look at the big picture. We have a huge problem in this country of  good folks working hard and not having enough money to pay their bills. If the prevailing wage measure helps with that, then it’s a good thing. We need to find a way to pay people well and get what our school system needs to educate our children properly.

So what can we do?

As we reported yesterday, we can petition Governor Hogan to release some of the education funds that he’s been holding on to. Click here to get to the petition.

Jan said she is going to work on raising the impact and school development fees so the developers pick up their fair share of the price tag. These builders shouldn’t be allowed to come into our county, make huge profits, and then leave us with clogged roads and overcrowded schools. When her bill comes to the county council, make sure they hear your voice. We suspect there may be, umm let’s see, at least three people who will be against this.

Email, call or visit our state and local officials. Here’s a nice list of all of them. Make sure they know how you feel about school funding in our county. Because……..

images (1)

Beating that ethical dead horse

It’s summertime. Many of us have been relaxing on beaches, seeing the roadside sights,  dining al fresco on fresh and abundant summer veggies. BAM: Farrell Keough dumps all the logic you would find in a lumpy bowl of split pea soup into this LTE about the get rich quick schemes of our educators on the county council. It’s like he has no idea how the budget to the BOE even works.

Do you suppose they might see 12 more cents through some happy accident if they expanded the budget allocated to the Board of Ed, and after buildings and buses and divvying up of money for everyone from crossing guards to cafeteria ladies, it magically trickled down out of all the other stuff they need to pay for? Luckily, we have a handy dandy visual guide all ready to recycle. This easy-to-understand matter should have been filed away as DONE and WELL DONE months ago.

 Imagine if you had to be Farell Keough's teacher. Does that illustrate how hard this job is?
Imagine if you had to be Farell Keough’s teacher. Does that illustrate how hard this job is? (Click to enlarge image).

Return to your happy place everyone, lest you find yourselves in a picked over Target trying to find a purple folder WITH BRADS (or, in the case of our teachers, spending countless dollars from your own bank account to prepare your workplace for the commencement of the school year). Our thoughts are with ya, teachers.

Scrooge-ing the BOE, time and again.

End of 9th grade sports got you in a tizzy? What about textbooks, academic after school programs and summer school?
End of 9th grade sports got you in a tizzy? What about textbooks, academic after school programs and summer school?

Well, we hear that last evening’s Board of Ed meeting was quite the affair. For a few weeks we have seen the anger over the possible elimination of 9th grade sports. We even signed the petition, because hey we love any and all opportunities for kids to showcase their unique talents. However, there were other things on the chopping block besides the $60,000 for the 9th grade sports program.  We have to say we agree with this excerpt from the Frederick News Post:

“Board members had expressed bewilderment that more attention was not called to the academic programs the board was forced to cut. These encompass not only the class-size increase and a slash to class sections, but also a $204,000 reduction to summer school, $350,000 less for after-school or “extended learning” programs and $500,000 taken away for new textbooks.”

Seriously, this is what gets you people riled up? Photo by Graham Cullen Frederick News Post
Seriously, this is what gets you people riled up?
Photo by Graham Cullen
Frederick News Post

We here at Local Yokel appreciate our Board of Ed members and have to say we don’t envy their position. After all, they have no control of how much money is given to them. They are reliant on the State and Local governments to fund them. They then have to take that money and allocate it in a way that makes it impossible to make everyone happy. The county, under the new leadership of Jan Gardner, did fund the schools above the MOE level for the first time in years. Then the new state administration under Governor Hogan pulled back state funding. So, all in all, not a great year to be a BOE member.

It would be wonderful to see the BOE receive funding that would allow us to adequately fund arts and athletics and educational programs of all stripes. We would also like the teachers to be respected and fairly compensated for their time. A few of us here have experience in the education world, and people who express what they think they understand teachers do frequently underestimate the demands of the career and envision a professional situation very different from reality. In a perfect world, we would all value education enough to make sure it is successful.

The angry climate makes us fear that the teachers will be blamed for advocating for their own interests, and we have to believe that having them happy in their profession also benefits their students. We tire of disingenuous claims that COLA and step increases are raises. They are not, and the fact that these salary adjustments are made does not change the relative pay compared to neighboring counties, which makes Frederick County fall behind. We cannot continue to undervalue our teachers and recruit and retain talented educators.

We are speaking to all stakeholders when we make the following observations about education and extra curricular funding. Starving the BOE budget for years jeopardizes our school system. Schools can have effects on things such as crime and teen birth rates. Both things that drain financial resources from communities. In short, well-funded education is fiscally responsible.

Salary is not the only thing that makes teachers’ lives stressful, and in the current politicized climate surrounding education, teachers are being beaten down too harshly in many ways. Some states have already seen shortages of teachers. Maryland is not there yet, but the counties that do not stay competitive will clearly be the first to suffer.