Taking a closer look at fiscal priorities

Posted: Monday, October 06, 2003

It's that time of year. Juneau teachers are working without a contract as the school district puts a spin on its financial woes. Even the district's "independent auditor," Max Mertz, expressed his opinion of JSD's fiscal problems in last week's Empire. (It should be noted that Mr. Mertz's company has already received over $22,000 in compensation this school year.)

So let's take a closer look at the district's monetary priorities. Hmmm, I see that over $1 million was cut from the budget this year to make ends meet. Busing for kindergartners was cut, as were seven teaching positions. But no cuts were made in any administration budgets. In fact, the district just added two new administrative positions this year at a cost of $172,000. This expansion in administration is not new but rather has been the trend over the last 10 years. The district also continues to fund over $250,000 worth of "special contracts." What makes these contracts special is that virtually no teacher knows what these people or companies do or how or if they benefit teachers or students. The district has also approved the use of a professional negotiator who has racked up over $31,000 last fiscal year alone. Combine that amount with the cost of the lawyers they flew in for arbitration, the $600 in subs hired for each day of negotiations, and the cost of the administrative personnel. These negotiations are rapidly approaching $100,000 in expenses. Don't forget the cost to the children as the teaching staff must spend time and energy fighting for this contract rather than focusing on their students.

So who approves these budget priorities and budget changes? Answer: The School Board. With elections rolling in, now is the time to make changes to that board for the benefit of Juneau's students. With five seats open, vote to replace the incumbents with some fresh ideas that work for kids, not the administration.

Craig Mapes


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