Guest column: 2015 OREA salary, benefits proposal

Note: This is a copy of comments by Oak Ridge Education Association Co-President Steve Reddick during a March 30 meeting of the Oak Ridge Board of Education, when teachers and principals requested a 4 percent salary increase in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

2015 OREA Salary and Benefits Proposal

Good evening,

On behalf of the certified teaching staff of the Oak Ridge Schools, OREA is honored to present to you our FY ’16 salary and benefits proposal.

As in years past, we make this proposal with eyes wide open and without illusions: [Read more…]

Oak Ridge teachers, principals ask for 4 percent pay raise

Mike Haygood at Oak Ridge Board of Education

Mike Haygood, assistant principal at Jefferson Middle School, asks for a 4 percent salary increase on behalf of the Oak Ridge Education Association. At left is Steve Reddick, OREA co-president, and at center is Phil Cox, JMS principal.


Oak Ridge teachers and principals have requested a 4 percent salary increase in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Teachers said they’ve “gone backwards” in terms of real buying power during the past decade. And administrators said it’s become more difficult to attract quality applicants in part because of salaries.

It’s not clear yet if the requested increases will be approved or if the money is available or would require a property tax rate increase. There are a number of steps to complete before the budget receives final approval in June. Among other things, it has to be considered by both the Oak Ridge Board of Education and Oak Ridge City Council. [Read more…]

In final vote, City Council again rejects tax increase for schools

Oak Ridge City Council Budget Meeting

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday again said “no” to a property tax rate increase to give more money to Oak Ridge Schools. Council is pictured above during a June 9 budget meeting.


Note: This story was last updated at 11:15 a.m. June 17.

Two last-minute attempts to pass smaller-than-requested tax increases for the Oak Ridge Schools failed on Monday, and the City Council voted 4-2 to approve a budget that does not raise taxes in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The decision to not raise taxes for the seventh year in a row came after a parade of residents in two meetings this month asked Council to fully fund the schools. Many said they moved here because of the schools, and they said the educational system is Oak Ridge’s primary asset. School teachers, administrators, and school board members also said they support a greater investment in the schools.

“Flatline budgets will eventually produce flatline results,” said Steve Reddick, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Jefferson Middle School and co-president of the Oak Ridge Education Association.

The schools had requested $17.9 million from the city, but the no-tax-increase budget lowered that amount to $14.6 million. School officials had previously said they will have to “go back to the drawing board” and make cuts if Council did not approve the tax rate increase. It’s not clear yet what cuts might be made. The Oak Ridge Board of Education could discuss changes to the school system’s budget, which was approved in May, during a Monday evening meeting.

[Read more…]

Oak Ridge teachers, principals request 2.5 percent pay raise

Mike Haygood of Oak Ridge Education Association

Mike Haygood, left, co-president of the Oak Ridge Education Association, tells Oak Ridge school board members during a March 24 meeting that teachers are requesting a 2.5 percent salary increase.

Oak Ridge teachers, staff members, and principals have requested a 2.5 percent salary increase in the next school year.

The requests could be considered as part of the budget discussions for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The Oak Ridge Education Association said the consumer price index has increased 2.38 percent on average each year during the past decade. Meanwhile, the annual salary increase for school staff members has averaged 1.5 percent.

Teachers have not had a pay increase for several years, said Mike Haygood, OREA co-president.

“Some type of salary increase is long overdue,” he told members of the Oak Ridge Board of Education during a March 24 meeting. [Read more…]

Hackworth, Ragan spar over jobs, schools, voter ID

Jim Hackworth

Jim Hackworth

John Ragan

John Ragan

John Ragan and Jim Hackworth agree that jobs and education should be top priorities in the next legislative session in the Tennessee General Assembly.

For the most part, the agreement seems to end there. In recent forums, the candidates have clashed over voter identification laws, school vouchers, virtual and charter schools, and jobs and unemployment numbers.

The Tennessee Democratic and Republican parties and other supporters have taken an active role in the high-stakes battle, sending out press releases, letters, and glossy flyers bashing their opponents and praising their candidates.

The two men are running in one of a half-dozen key races in the Nov. 6 election. Both want to represent District 33 in the Tennessee House of Representatives. The district includes most of Anderson County.

The outcome will help decide whether Republicans gain a supermajority in the Tennessee House. If they do, they would be able to conduct business even if Democrats walk out.

Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, is a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who beat Hackworth, a four-term legislator and former Anderson County commissioner, in the November 2010 election.

In a League of Women Voters forum this month, Hackworth, a Clinton Democrat, criticized Ragan for casting the only vote against House Bill 1329 in April 2011. That bill allows a court to prohibit anyone convicted of child abuse or aggravated child abuse from contacting a victim if the convict doesn’t have parental rights.

Ragan, who is completing his first term, said he campaigned for a smaller government, and there are already laws in place that do what HB1329 did, including the Tennessee Crime Victims Bill of Rights and the Tennessee Sex Offender Treatment Board Act.

“That law did nothing,” he said of HB1329. “I refuse to compromise my principles.”

The candidates were asked how to reduce bullying and make schools safer.

Ragan said there is no excuse for bullying, and teachers and administrators are responsible for ensuring it doesn’t happen. But courts have said educators can’t use those efforts to deprive students of their freedom of speech or religion, he said.

A child with glasses will probably be called “four eyes,” and one with braces may be nicknamed “metal mouth,” Ragan said. Schools don’t have the right to interfere beyond ensuring rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, he said.

“We have to safeguard our liberties,” Ragan said.

Hackworth criticized Ragan’s legislative actions on anti-bullying bills, suggesting he is trying to take those initiatives back in time.

“Bullying is wrong,” Hackworth said.

Ragan said he supports the use of school vouchers in failing school systems. The vouchers, which can be used for private school tuition, would likely be used in very limited circumstances, Ragan said. If a school system is failing, the money is being wasted anyway, he said.

“We need to give them a way to get out of that,” Ragan said.

Hackworth disagreed.

“Vouchers do more harm than good to a failing school system,” he said. “If the system has problems, then you fix it.”

He also said he opposed to taking away money from public schools for charter schools.

“It’s to weaken public education to weaken the current system,” Hackworth said.

The candidates were asked about the reported low performance rankings of the new Tennessee Virtual Academy, an online school run by K12 Inc. in Virginia. It’s managed in Tennessee by Union County Schools.

Ragan was less critical of the overall effort. He said Tennessee has ranked in the bottom 20 percent of student achievement nationally for decades, and some students need to take classes not available in their local systems.

“Do we want to penalize them?” he asked. “We’ve got to change the status quo.”

If the virtual academy doesn’t perform well, Ragan said, the contract could be given to someone else.

Hackworth said virtual schools have some merit. However, the current system, heavily criticized by Democrats, allots about 5 percent of the public funding to the Union County school system, and the rest of the money goes out-of-state, he said.

“It’s taking money from our school systems,” Hackworth said during an Oak Ridge Education Association forum last month.

Hackworth said the online academy should have started as a pilot program.

“The virtual school has been, so far, a total failure,” Hackworth said.

Ragan supported a new photo ID law for voters, saying photo IDs are required to board an airplane or cash a check. Republicans have said the legislation was meant to combat voter fraud.

But Hackworth said the intent of the new law is voter suppression.

“It’s all about keeping people from turning out,” Hackworth said.

The two candidates tangled over state contracts with out-of-state companies. Ragan said he would continue to allow them, while Hackworth said he believes jobs and business opportunities should first be offered to Tennessee companies.

“The best bargain for the voter is the lowest bid,” Ragan said.

“We need to take care of Tennesseans and Anderson County (residents),” Hackworth said.

Ragan said he had helped cut taxes and reduced the state budget.

Hackworth said job creation is down under Ragan, claiming last year’s numbers were the lowest in a decade in Anderson County.

“Are you better off now than you were two years ago?” Hackworth asked. “The answer is no.”

But Ragan said the unemployment rate rose while Hackworth was in office, and Tennessee students ranked near the bottom in academic achievement.

“Our state deserves better,” he said.

Last year, TCAP and ACT scores rose across the state, Ragan said.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 election ends Thursday.

Oak Ridge educators host candidate forum Wednesday

The Oak Ridge Education Association will host a public forum for five Tennessee House of Representatives candidates on Wednesday.

Three of the candidates—Democrat Jack McNew, Independent Allen Cole, and Republican Kent Calfee— are seeking seats in Tennessee’s District 32. That district includes Roane County and part of Loudon County. The seat has been held for one term by Lenoir City Republican Julia Hurley, who lost to Calfee in the Aug. 2 primary.

The other two candidates—Clinton Democrat Jim Hackworth and Oak Ridge Republican John R. Ragan—are battling to represent District 33, which includes most of Anderson County.

[Read more…]