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Pay teachers we need, not the ones we don’t

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By BEN CARLSON

The Anderson County Board of Education cannot hope to obtain and retain the best and brightest teachers by continuing to employ even one teacher too many.
News last week that the district employs, by its own staffing formula, 13 teachers it doesn’t need is a slap in the face to every needed teacher in the district.
They are the ones who had to grovel earlier this year to avoid having the number of days they work reduced, which would amount to a pay cut.
They are the ones who have lived through pay freezes.
They are the ones who have worked their way through the district’s tedious salary scale in hopes of earning more money.
They have been forced to accept these hardships in part because the district hasn’t been financially disciplined enough to make sure that it’s own staffing formula is followed.
Given that they are spread over six school buildings, the notion that there are 13 teachers too many might not sound that severe. Heck, rounded down it’s only two per school.
But use what you (should have) learned in school and apply some actual math skills to the problem. A rookie teacher’s annual salary here is about $35,000. Pile on the social security and other taxes, along with health insurance and retirement, and that number conservatively levels off around $50,000. Multiply that times the 13 additional teachers we’re paying but don’t need and what at first didn’t seem all that bad becomes a nauseating waste of $650,000.
What’s even worse is that by the state’s formula, our schools are overstaffed by as many as 18 teachers. Using that same formula reveals that the waste climbs to nearly $1 million.
Can anyone else taste the bile?
Counting the ways that money could have been spent instead of on un-needed teachers could fill the rest of this newspaper. At a minimum, it could have eliminated the endless requests from teachers to have parents send in everything from toilet paper to hand sanitizer.
Another use that comes quickly to mind would be to replace the high school’s heating system — the district’s $3 million elephant in the room it acknowledges but puts off in lieu of other projects.
Or, better yet, it could have been used to provide tax relief for Anderson County residents who have been told in each of the past two years that the school board has trimmed its budget “to the bone,” — a statement that sounds more disingenuous all the time.
But consider this: Had at least some of that money been distributed in the form of pay increases for the teachers who are needed, it would have served as a great incentive to continue teaching here as well as a tremendous recruiting tool.
Or drill a little deeper and realize what it means to retain and recruit top-end teachers. Anderson County has gained a reputation through the years for having an excellent school system, which in turn has made it an attractive place for people to relocate their families.
That fueled the housing boom, which in turn fueled the business growth we’ve experienced over the past couple of decades.
But that reputation can sell more than houses. It can also be one of the imperatives that will help attract industry and jobs as business owners look to escape unreasonable tax burdens in other states. Just ask any economic development expert and they’ll say that one of the first items considered by business owners looking for a new location is the quality of the public schools.
In short, we can’t afford to let our schools lose that precious reputation, which will happen quickly if our district squanders money on teachers it doesn’t need at the expense of those it does.