Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's on the chopping block?

Retirement, sick leave and sabbaticals targeted

As the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education argued about increasing public education's Minimum Foundation Program this morning, a disturbing sidebar conversation set off alarms about benefits now offered to Louisiana's teachers and school employees.

The vote centered on about $60 million tacked on to the MFP as a growth factor (see the story below). But as local school superintendents made their cases for the funds, they kept mentioning the cost of three benefits: the retirement system, extended sick leave and sabbatical leave.

BESE member Penny Dastuge, who chaired the hearing, noted that even if the $60 million growth factor is included in the budget adopted by the legislature, it won't be enough to cover those costs.

During the discussion, Central Community Superintendent of Schools Michael Faulk wondered aloud if there could be a "trade" that would allow local districts to make extended sick leave and sabbaticals optional instead of mandatory.

Then BESE member Chas Roemer rhetorically asked "is the current teacher retirement system feasible?"

LFT President Steve Monaghan said that the solution is more revenue to meet the needs of public education, not the reduction or elimination of benefits that educators have earned and deserve.

Look for these issues to play out during the legislative session that opens on March 29.

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