Employee unions must re-open contracts

The Board of Directors of Rockford Educating All Children (R.E.A.CH.) state that it is imperative that the Rockford School Board formally request to all of the employee unions to re-open their contracts for concessions. Over the last three years, the hard-working taxpayers have passed four referendums and have paid more in property taxes to the district, and the students have felt the burden of the cuts. It’s time for the employees to bear some burden.

1. For the district to avoid state financial takeover and keep the district from having to make draconian cuts, the following CONCESSIONS must happen from employee unions:

• Eliminate retiring teachers’ bonus ($10 million in savings)

• Wage freeze ($12 million in savings)

• Increase employees’ contribution for insurance

• Teachers pay part of their retirement ($1-$10 million in savings)

• Reduce amount of stipends

• Bring back retiring teachers at beginning salaries.

Without concessions, the following classes/popular programs may be eliminated to balance the budget:

A. Reduce high school to a four-period day and close two high schools

B. Reduce middle school day to state minimum

C. Reduce elementary school to state minimum

D. Eliminate all non-mandated programs.

E. Eliminate kindergarten and preschool and close elementary schools

2. RIF all employees immediately to avoid any error in notifying employees about job elimination and to help recruit new teachers.

3. Ask state legislators for a waiver to hire a non-certified superintendent and to vote in legislation that will eliminate the right to strike by public employees.

4. Eliminate present administrative structure and create a lean administrative structure with a CFO leading the district financially and a CEO leading the district educationally. Both positions would report to the board.

5. Research outsourcing all possible positions to eliminate paying insurance, holiday pay, vacation pay, unemployment benefits, etc. (if applicable).

6. Research privatizing more special education service.

7. Eliminate choice and go to proximity (neighborhood) schools.

8. Eliminate all magnet schools since the magnet grant ($1.39 million) has ended.

9. Reduce the graduation requirements to state standards of 32 to decrease dropout rate.

10. Adopt state minimum of four-period high school day with possible additional periods for those who wish to take more classes.

11. Do a zero-based budget for the 2004-05 school year and add only the mandated programs and personnel. If there is any money left, then evaluate all remaining programs/personnel and prioritize them. Stop adding programs when there is $10 million left so that you have a “financial cushion” in case there have been miscalculations.

Other suggestions:

12. Make algebra, geometry and chemistry optional courses to decrease the dropout rate.

13. Evaluate grant spending and reduce administrative personnel in those grants and apply money toward successful educational programs/personnel.

14. Create an education plan that prepares ALL students with skills needed to be successful in life regardless of whether they go on to college or not. Evaluate ALL programs. Eliminate those with little to NO educational benefit and replicate successful programs.

15. Create a facilities plan to maintain buildings.

16. Implement tuition-based summer school, night school or weekend school.

17. Evaluate grade configuration for elementary and middle school.

18. Dissolve District 205 as of June 30, 2004, and split into two-four districts. Hold special elections in the spring to elect new school boards.

19. Residents of Caledonia, Cherry Valley and New Milford should look into forming their own district or joining other districts.

Barb Dent is president of Rockford Educating All Children (REACH).

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