Counting retirements in context
Reluctant as I am to bite the hand that feeds me, two articles in a row by Troy Laack of the Waukesha Freeman have attempted to give context to the success of the Waukesha School District under the reforms enacted by Governor Scott Walker and the legislature. Twice Laack has pointed to the unusual amount of retirements last year by teachers in the district as a reason for the district’s good financial situation.
What Laack fails to mention is that there were no early retirements the previous year in the school district, so the number of teacher retirements needs to be looked at over a two-year period. There were no early retirements the previous year because the district and the teachers union did not have a contract. The number of retirements last year, when divided in two, is not much higher than if the district had the expected number of early retirements the year before.
Laack could have easily learned this if he had bother to ask school board members or the superintendent.
What’s more, Laack should ask Gray what he thinks of the Act 10 reforms. Gray would point out that going forward the district will have a lot more flexibility in selecting insurance plans, and that it may even be a “win-win” situation for teachers and the district.
The number of retirements did help. But so did the change in insurance benefits, $3 million. Throw in the change in the salary table, change in insurance carriers ($2 million, another Republican initiative), the closing of unneeded schools, and prudent use of federal funds, the school district is in a position to lower the tax levy by $2.5 million and be debt free in 2012-2013.
So while the Democrats wanted to upend the school financing structure (which would have hurt Waukesha more), and the teachers union wanted a referendum, prudent financial management and reforms enacted by the legislature are what worked for Waukesha.
For a more complete look at the school district finances, instead of relying upon teachers union talking points, I would refer Laack (and anyone else) to a column I wrote for the MacIver Institute about the Waukesha School District.