Legacy costs the root of APS’s financial issues
Since 2011, state spending on public schools increased by 6.4 percent. The problem is not with Lansing. The problem with our predecessors became symptomatic in 1982 and a solution is not as easy as cutting salaries. The difficulty Alpena and other schools are having is legacy structure. Cutting teachers’ salaries isn’t a sustainable solution because teachers’ salaries are not the problem – public school pensions and retirement benefits are the problem, and that is where the majority of the “per-pupil” funding increasingly goes – not to actually educate the students.
In any organization, it is easy to promise a future reward – it allows the management to reduce current costs in exchange for future retirement/pension rewards. For unions it is easy to extract this promise in exchange for wage concessions as the management is not personally held liable for future failures. No retirement program assuming an increasing “buyer” population number (in this case students) is viable, yet that is what all government programs promise.
However, a political promise that does not set aside actual financial resources will be broken. If your retirement isn’t an actual account with your name and your money in it, it isn’t yours – it is someone’s “promise.” A government promise is worth as much as a government excuse, and often interchangeable.
The School system continues to require major reinvention of structure to sustain its laudable education of our children. Slashing current teachers’ salaries will not solve the long-term legacy problems. According to Alpena City Councilman Sexton’s recent comments, we voters are lazy and stupid. Let’s ensure our School Board does not share that in either attitude or attribute. The turnout at the School Board meeting was a nice start – now the community must push to a strong sustainable finish.
Allan P. Frank