Sunday, April 29, 2007

Just Kidding

I was grating the Parmisano Reggiano cheese for the top of the baked polenta this morning thinking what a great stress reliever that task turned out to be. Standing there grating hard cheese, by hand not machine, really did the trick.

I must remember that.

So, here's a question I have been pondering this weekend. In the local newspaper Friday morning I read about eleven Houston Independent School District teachers who have as of yet returned their bonus from earlier in the year. Turns out there were ninety-nine, yes, 99, employees who got a bigger bonus than the school officials said they deserved. Three teachers have hired an attorney to keep the bonuses.

The superintendent of the district says the staff miscalculated the bonuses of part-time employees. But, by the time the request came out, a month had passed. Some had already spent the bonus money.

"They gave them a bonus, It was a gift. Nobody stole anything." That's what the attorney representing the Houston Federation of Teachers.

Keep in mind the sheer size of the school district. With over 30,000 employees, HISD is one of Houston's largest employers. HISD is the largest public school system in Texas, the seventh largest in the country. So, mistakes are bound to be made from time to time. I'm thinking the bonuses aren't too large to begin with, on an individual basis. The newspaper article states the amount as $73,700 being asked to be returned from the total ninety-nine employees. So, it would appear to be well under $1,000 a piece.

This isn't big money. Of course the people have spent it. I'm sure they paid off credit cards, paid college tuition of children, or maybe enjoyed their Spring Break. Who knows? I'd have done the same.

The rub is that it is taxpayer monies. My tax money, as a matter of fact. I have a child in a high school in HISD. The superintendent says he's looking into deducting the money out of the paychecks of the teachers who haven't voluntarily returned the money. The catch is that he has to have the teacher's written permission to take money out of the paycheck.

This whole can of worms was opened in January. HISD had a big cheerleader style of news conference to announce the award of more than $14 million in performance bonuses to about 8,000 teachers, librarians, nurses, and other employees. Teachers complained that they didn't like the formulation of the bonuses based on student improvement on standardized tests.

Union members don't like merit raises it seems. They just feel entitled to the money for everyone.

Socialism doesn't work so well in a republic. Different amounts were distributed to teachers determined by merit.

The real losers will be the students, of course. Teachers will be thinking of leaving. There is a turnover every year due to retirements and transfers, sure, but I can't help but think this whole new bonus thing will end up causing more problems. According to my son's high school principal, he anticipates filling at least 35 slots in their school alone for next year.

I'm just thinking if I received a bonus, and already spent it, I'm not so sure I'd be rushing to pay it back. Since it is taxpayer money, though, I hope I would.


srp said...

This would be a real problem if they had to pay it back all at once. Or perhaps they should just forgo giving any bonuses this year.

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