An Open Letter to Donn Esmonde
Dear Mr. Esmonde,
With today’s anti-school piece about Clarence’s difficulties with its school taxes, you’ve hit a new low. Frankly, given that you’re usually a reasonably progressive thinker who may have more than a passing interest in education, it’s appalling.
Did you speak with your anti-tax friends how the school tax rate – even with the 9.8% hike would have been significantly less than it was in 2003? 2005? The rate would have risen to $15.52/$1000. In 2007 it was $15.86. In 2003 it was $16.85. Did you know that in the last 4 years, Clarence has lost $13 million in state and federal funding? No, you didn’t. If you did, you ignored it.
Did you happen to mention to them that the tax rates in other highly-ranked districts like East Aurora, Williamsville, and Orchard Park are in some cases 2x the ~$15/$1000 it is in Clarence?
Did you mention to them that Clarence has the 2nd best district and is ranked 6th most cost-effective in the region by Business First? Did you know it’s 93rd out of 98 districts in WNY in per-pupil spending?
Did you mention to your tea party friends or your readers how the district cut 60 full-time staffers since 2011? That the proposed budget that failed would have cut another 24?
Ever heard of the Triborough Amendment or the Taylor Law? Did you know that the union agreed to a lower salary increase in its most recent contract than they would have received under Taylor? Did you mention to anyone that, even if the teachers and administration contributed 25% or 50% towards their health care, it wouldn’t close this year’s budget hole?
Did you happen to question whether they knew that state pension costs are completely outside of the control of the local district and the teachers (and their union)? Did the issue of the pension and the recent recession’s affect on it come up at all? Did you know that pension costs take into account the past five years’ worth of investment income, which includes the crash of 2008-2009? Did you happen to mention that the district had basically played Giambra-type games with the budget in past years, leaving us with a green/red budget type situation now?
Did you happen upon the fact that the so-called “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a local front group for Americans for Prosperity?
Why are we comparing what an educator makes to what someone at DuPont makes? In what way are they similar, except for the fact that they are “jobs”?
Did you happen to ask your friends what they think an appropriate salary for a tenured teacher with 20 years’ seniority should be?
Did you happen to speak with anyone who supported the tax hike and could have explained why it was deemed necessary? If so, why wasn’t that included in your piece? Why did you simply digest as fact what you were told by opponents?
Welcome to the tea party.