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Letter: Teachers carry their weight

Editor, The Spotlight:

In response to some recent editorial letters about the Bethlehem School District’s budget process, I wish to clarify some misconceptions that have been printed. In his letters, Mr. Scott Bonnano states that the Bethlehem Central School District teachers have been awarded large salary increases, are enjoying wonderful retirement benefits and other “perks.”

Actually, in the last 3 years, the B.C. teachers have agreed to taking less money in salaries in exchange for a contractual extension. In fact, we were the first school district in the area last year to vote to give up our contractual raises in order to save teaching positions, and subsequently educational programs. In total, the Bethlehem Central Teacher’s Association has saved the school district 2.2 million dollars! It should also be noted that the Bethlehem Administration and the BCUEA also voted to decline on salary raises last year. Other nearby school districts such as South Colonie followed our lead and took similar actions.

As a B.C. teacher of 15+ years, I can assure the community that my fellow colleagues and I did not enter the teaching profession for the money or the perks. Instead, we teach because we love educating children and wish to instill in them a desire for continued learning so they can contribute to society in the future.

This is evident in the many hours we spend outside of the school day, on weekends and vacations working to plan and prepare instructional materials that are based on best teaching practices. Maintaining websites or blogs and writing weekly newsletters to keep parents informed are among our contributions.

Additionally, teachers lead and attend workshops, hold after school science and math fairs and other activities. High quality music and drama productions also require extensive time outside of the classroom.

For the record, Bethlehem teachers and support staff do not have high salaries, 401K options, or other “perks” known in business or sales (monetary gifts or trips, bonuses, company cars, reimbursement of car insurance and mileage costs, spending accounts, etc). I know many teachers that work second jobs to bring in necessary income. Despite this, many teachers often spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on books, instructional materials and technology for use in their classrooms.

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Comments

ConcernedParent 2 years, 2 months ago

Ms. Collette, Thank you for sharing your comments. I would like you and every other educator, staff and administrator in Bethlehem to know that I value what you all do and that my comments are more of an attempt to get to the bigger issues. Essentially our problem is the failure to recognize or admit that the ecuational system is broken.
The district will terminate almost 60 people this year. Add that to the 60 terminated over the past two years and there will be 120 people, our friends and neighbors, that have lost their jobs. Even with losing 120 positions, the total compensation paid out has increased several million dollars.
You speak of perks that the private sector receives. Remember that they work at the mercy of their employers and without cause or reason could be unemployed tomorrow. I ask you to consider the most significant perk that many have forgotten about and that is your pension. No one in the private sector is afforded such a benefit. The private sector has 401K plans, but not everyone does and the average person contributes significantly into these plans with NO GUARANTEES. Your pension is a guaranteed income source for your retirement. When this concept was introduced it was as an added benefit because teacher and administrative salaries were significantly lower than they are now. One "teacher with 34 years of experiene," commented in the spotlight a few weeks back that he was only going to receive $60,000 a year from his pension and for this he contributed not one penny. Is this fair? I know you help pay for this with your dues and contributions but the bulk of this money comes from the community. In tough times the community is hit even harder because these pensions are guaranteed and must come from additional tax levies.

Our problems are not with the individuals but with the laws and the state constitution that have insured that these compensation packages continue to grow. The trouble with this is now, with less aid from the state, they are growing at the expense of lost jobs, lost programs for the kids and the overall stripping down of the educational experience. If the budget passes this year those 60 jobs are gone, FOREVER. Some programs will be saved but no one has an answer for next year. That gap is $4.7 million. Simply put, everything that will be saved this year with a successful budget vote will be gone next year because we have no more fund balance to draw from.
I don't think it is fair to our children to gamble on the hope that there will be additional state money in the future. This budget has to fail. It has to fail in order for people to wake up and get involved in the process. It must fail so that meaningful and productive, long-term solutions can be worked out.

Scott Bonanno

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BCParentEmployee 2 years, 2 months ago

Excellent points by Scott and I agree. I don’t think teachers are overpaid and I truly believe many of the teachers at BCSD are “in it for the students”, BUT that doesn’t diminish the fact they have an inflation proof retirement paid for by taxes throughout NYS. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, over 20 years in the private section and quite frankly looking for 20 years at the school district. In the private sector I had to utilize a 401K to setup my own retirement program and fund it myself as well, NO ONE funded any guaranteed retirement dollars for me. As a matter of fact I still use the 403B program in the school system to continue to fund my own retirement. In the past, once I came to BC, I had written letters to our political leaders to address this same issue as I recognized that this would continue to be a tax burden to NYS residents. I was hoping that the state would convert this “poorly self-funded yet over consumed” program and change, yet the governor and the clueless controller have done little to address this to date! I love BCSSD and everything that it offers, but I see my children losing their “benefits” each year and that I can’t stand behind. Teachers do carry their weigh without a doubt, BCSD teachers (& all employees) are wonderful and some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to work with anywhere. Bethlehem is also one of the top districts in the region, not to mention the state and many “eyes” around NYS are focused on BC for all kinds of reasons…. So should BCSD be the sacrificial lamb…you bet ya! VOTE NO ON THE BUDGET IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SALARIES OR IF TEACHERS ARE COMMITED OR THEIR WORK LOADS…ITS A POINT TO BE MADE…. IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

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teachdaddy 2 years, 2 months ago

So, if I have this correct, the writers of the two previous comments feel that since some people do not have a guaranteed retirement, nobody should have one. You know, it wasn't that long ago that most workers in America, both blue- and white-collar, were able to enjoy a worry-free retirement with a "guaranteed" pension. Whether or not they had to contribute, these funds were managed to avoid risk and to provide a healthy return on the investment. These pension funds also helped, through their investment, to build infrastructure and provide more jobs. Then, all of a sudden, the concept of social contract, providing a reasonable living for work done, which had taken over 200 years to bring about in America, was thrown aside by the Republicans with the concept of "trickle-down" economics. The idea was, if the rich got more rich, their money would provide more opportunities for everyone else. And how is thirty years of that working out? In a recent editorial in The Evangelist, Bishop Howard Hubbard points out that, "since 1979, the top one percent of Americans have received 36 percent of all (economic) gains...the top one-tenth of one percent received more than 20 percent of all after-tax income, compared to 13.5 percent enjoyed by the bottom 60 percent of households...in other words, the total of new income going to roughly 300,000 people was one-and-a-half times the size of the total going to roughly 180 million people." It seems to me that, rather to condemn the fact that a segment of the working population actually can make a living wage and take care of themselves after they stop working, these writers should be concentrating their efforts on making the rich pay their fair share of taxes to bolster the society that has allowed them to do so well.

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BCParentEmployee 2 years, 2 months ago

Nice comment…I see where you’re going with this, I won’t waste time debating or arguing the point. Bottom line is its people helping people…teachers are being laid off, students are losing opportunities to enhance their education and getting extra help in their normal studies, neighbors are dealing with the complexities of losing their jobs while trying to pay their school tax bills. You don’t have to be a liberal to see common sense is needed at this time…but like I said it’s not worth any further discussion…over your head!

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teachdaddy 2 years, 2 months ago

"People helping people"? You seem to agree with me! It's the wealthiest people helping those who enabled them to amass their fortunes. It's Wall Street atoning for their role in the housing debacle and subsequent economic breakdown. It's our politicians showing the backbone to enact a reasonable tax rate. Don't forget that every municipal employee, of the town, the county and the state is the beneficiary of a pension. Don't these contribute to the same costs you are decrying? What changes do you want for them?How much have the police given back? How much do the teachers need to give back to make you happy? Oh, nad by the way, the "over your head" comment -- sometimes an insult is easier than proving a point!

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teachdaddy 2 years, 2 months ago

Delmar, May 18, 2012

In a stinging rebuke to the Bethlehem Republican Party, voters overwhelmingly approved the school district's 2012-2013 budget proposal, even ensuring that the "2%" tax cap provision be superceded by a 63% "yes" vote. Republicans, through their chairman Fred DiMaggio, had called for the defeat of the budget in a large ad in the May 11 issue of the "Spotlight". But the "super" majority of residents didn't see it the same way; rather, they opted to keep the same high level of education that has been a hallmark of the Bethlehem Central school system. As one resident put it, upon leaving the polling site, "We didn't move here for the scenery. We came because we wanted our kids to have the best education in the Capital District." Chairman DiMaggio, who plainly misunderstood the role of politics in a school election, is pondering his next move.

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