Mr. Chairman, our employees need a STEP. Not just this year. They need a STEP every year. When they signed their contracts and were presented with their salary scales, an annual STEP was our school system’s promise to them—a promise that, if my amendment does not pass, will continue to go unfulfilled.
I think all of us can agree on the basic premise that our employees need a STEP. I think we can also all agree that sometime within the next two years we must give our employees a STEP.
We can also agree on another point: that the STEP puts more money in the pockets of our employees over the coming two years than does a 2 percent market scale adjustment (MSA). Just look at the chart that [Chief Financial Officer] Ms. Quinn provided us: for an employee with a $60K salary, the 2 percent MSA gives employees $1,920 over two years. The STEP, on the other hand, gives employees $2,106. In sum, the STEP gives employees $200 more over the two-year period.
So if this board (of all boards!) can agree that (1) our employees need a STEP, (2) we want to give them a STEP, and (3) a STEP gives them more money. Then what, Mr. Chairman, are we waiting for?
Well, some on this board are worried that a STEP doesn’t sound like a salary increase, whereas a 2 percent MSA is much easier to grasp. Frankly, I think our teachers understand the difference. They are smart enough to realize that we just continue to take the easy way out by inching along with market scale adjustments.
Put simply, by supporting a 2 percent MSA instead of a STEP, this Board is using the governor’s shortsightedness to justify its own shortsightedness. Our governor created his 2 percent plan for one reason: to make positive headlines. It was simple to grasp, cheap to fund (since it doesn’t cover all school employees!), and even simpler to cover up the ugly truth: that it’s another one-time, henceforth unfunded, mandate. With a 2 percent MSA, this board is buying into a fiscally irresponsible, unfunded mandate.
This board is also doing the exact same thing as the governor: going for the easy headline and thinking that 2 percent increase is sexier than a step increase. This board doesn’t want to take the time to explain that STEP, in fact, provides employees with more take home pay. For some reason, this Board thinks that our employees can wait another year; that our structural imbalance can wait another year.
Mr. Chairman, we cannot wait another year. Our employees cannot wait another year. Our structural imbalance cannot wait another year. Why? Because in another year we will be exactly where we are now—scraping for the pennies at the bottom of the barrel.
Through the two budget cycles during which I’ve sat on this board, I’ve received emails from countless employees asking that, in lieu of a market scale adjustment, we please provide them with a STEP. In fact, I received an email this morning from a teacher on longevity who said that, even though she wouldn’t be receiving the STEP, she knows it’s in the best interest of the employees in years 1 to 15 of service to provide the STEP.
Mr. Chairman, I beseech you and this board not to let Richmond’s shortsightedness breed our own shortsightedness. We need to stop playing Richmond’s games. This is the perfect opportunity to take a public stand against Richmond, and most importantly, take a public stand for our employees and the fiscal responsibility of our system.
For a thorough explanation of the budget vote, you can view Ryan's video blog on the topic here.