Regarding Marie Hildebrandt's March 5 column, "Dancing around the problem," we question her understanding of Ohio's school funding and her so-called "options" for fixing it.
What caused the "problem?" Consider inflation, cost of living increases, higher energy and health care costs, and un-funded Federal and State mandates. Then add voter reluctance to pass operating levies. Over 10 years ago Ohio's Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the unfair practice of funding through property taxation, but no legislative correction has yet been taken. Thankfully, Governor Strickland regards school funding a priority.
Cutting salaries and benefits would cut the heart out of incentives. Reducing pension benefits would be against state law. Health care packages require employee contributions and those continue to rise. Employees are entitled to periodic pay raises, and those who stay on the job many years deserve benefits reflecting experience and loyalty. Payment at retirement for unused sick leave is a reward for unselfish commitment to students. Salaries determined by cost of living in each district would be chaotic.
Hildebrandt suggests mandatory retirement after 25-30 years. Believe us, most teachers do retire after 30 years, as teaching takes a toll on mind and body. Are you aware that teachers must get a master's degree at their own expense? There is already a radical shortage of teachers. If all her radical changes happened, who would ever want to become a teacher?
Putting a burden of "fixing" funding on the backs of school personnel wouldn't solve the "problem." Examine a school district budget sometime. Better yet, visit a classroom and see what teachers actually do.
Without strong schools, quality personnel and equipment to educate all students, our state and nation will suffer. Higher property taxes are not the answer. The burden must be more evenly distributed. Lawmakers must change school funding in Ohio.
David and Jane Melle