Below is a repeat of a post from March 26. Unfortunately, much hasn’t changed in six months.
The Quincy Federation of Teachers last week voted down a contract proposal from the Quincy School Board, apparently, in part, because the salary and benefits package being offered wasn’t good enough. We say “apparently” because neither side is releasing any details of the proposal for us to judge. Another round of negotiations has been scheduled for Tuesday.
School Board member Bill Daniels outlined the plight of the district’s self-insurance fund in a story in Thursday’s Herald-Whig. Perhaps the report will silence those who like to stand on their anonymous soapbox on local websites and question where the surpluses went. Perhaps it won’t, given that some never let facts stand in the way of a good rant.
One of the biggest problems facing the Quincy School District — even before economy tanked and the state of Illinois quit paying its bills on time — is $1.84. That’s the education fund tax rate here, the lowest allowable by law. That rate is now in its third decade on the books. Quincy voters continue to elect Melvin “No” Niekamp but won’t budge on the education fund tax rate (which may be the only explanation needed for why we are where we are), and it continues to strangle the district financially.
Name something that hasn’t increased in price or value during that time?
Now name something more important than an education?
The post from March 26:
So here we are. The Quincy School Board has been forced to slash another $4 million from its budget because the state of Illinois cannot pay its bills. For those keeping score at home, that’s more than $8 million in reductions the past three years combined because the folks in Springfield can’t balance a checkbook.
And yet, if you read some of the comments posted on whig.com, it’s not enough that more than 100 full- and part-time employees will be losing their jobs. It’s not enough that schools will be closed. It’s not enough that kids who have trouble learning to read won’t be given the necessary one-on-one instruction so they can have a chance in life.
No, a community that has not supported a referendum to raise the education fund tax rate from the lowest allowable by law in more than three decades would like to see more pain. They remember when schools were built and then closed and sold. They remember when former Superintendent Michael Anderson was paid $190,000 to walk away and not say why. They remember when there were insurance and pension perks not available to most people.
The problem is, that was then and this is now. Mistakes no doubt were made in the past, given that we are an imperfect people living in an imperfect world, but there should be a statute of limitations on sins of the fathers, whatever they were. After all, we’re talking about the education of our children, not Enron.
This School Board, and the ones that immediately preceded it, and this administration have worked to be good stewards of taxpayer money. They have identified problems, such as the financially draining self-insurance fund and the state-sanctioned pension padding, and worked with employees to correct them. They have tried to do more with less — a popular corporate slogan that, by the mere definitions of those words, is impossible to accomplish.
So when is enough enough? What is it going to take for us to believe in people to make the best decisions for our school system and trust their judgment? When are we going to put aside grudges and misconceptions and a little paycheck envy, and realize that our future rests on our children and grandchildren being more successful than we are?
It’s time to put aside differences, quit the finger-pointing and start believing in education again.