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The news was not good for the students of Levy County, Florida the final week in March, 2009. This marked a week when beloved and well respected veteran teachers received pink slips after lifetimes of commitment to a profession that has now not only betrayed these teachers but the students they should be teaching.
We are losing the best of the best in a time in America’s history when we should be applauding these fine educators for remaining in the classroom when so many before them have left for greener pastures. We are not losing them because of poor performance but rather because they make too much money. Imagine a public educator making too much money. What is too much to pay for 30, 35 or more years experience in the classroom? Some teachers are called double dippers since they have retired and then returned to teach. Their retirement checks amount to around $24,000 a year. This brings their total salary to $73,979 before taxes.
So their reward for years of dedication to Levy County Public Schools and the students they served is now a monthly check of $2000. Not close to Social Security age means they now either shell over $400 per month to cover health insurance or go without. This amount is even greater for family coverage.
Levy County School Board is the largest employer in our county. This means as more and more educators lose jobs our local economy continues to nose dive. Within a short time teachers’ homes could easily be in foreclosure, cars may be repossessed and their meager life savings depleted. Bankruptcy at any age is rough but at this stage in their lives it will be unrecoverable.
Our teachers work harder and harder with less and less every year. Not to mention the time and money they devote to the classroom. Things in the classroom have changed a lot in the past ten years. There is little to no respect for those that inspire and ignite the fires in the minds that we touch everyday. Those that chose to spend a lifetime caring for the least of our citizens are now terminated by a stroke of a pen and no recourse. This is not just a budget crisis but also a disgrace of mankind.
This all happened prior to the state providing the district with its final budget. The news out of Tallahassee is much better then we thought:
The House proposes to spend $6,890 per student, an increase of $30 over the current year, while the Senate's proposal is the same as current year funding at $6,860 per student.
The final budget will be available May 1. Hopefully, at this time the district will sit down with the Union and have an open and honest conversation about our financial picture.
What we do know is that last fall our director of finance Mr. Clemons provided the School Board with a letter stating that we should not have filled 25 positions in August 2008. What this means in today’s terms is that we need to not rehire at least 25 positions for the 2009-2010 school year. As of April 6, 2009 we already have 14 VOLUNTARY retirements and resignations and we still have two more months of school. We are on target through attrition to meet or exceed our salary issues.
So the best news is that we CAN afford our veteran teachers who have taught our personal kids, mentored many of us and given so much of themselves to this district we just need to make sure priorities are in order. After all it is about what is best for our students!