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GROUP URGES DRASTIC CUTS IN TEACHERS' PAY AND BENEFITS

A taxpayers group that hopes to gain control of the Williamsville School Board in May is proposing a contract that would slash teachers' pay, give them no sick or personal days and not pay them for advising a club.

That's the financial end of the Amherst Taxpayers' 39-page proposal.

The group also wants a dress code for teachers, the district to buy only union-made clothing and written consent to deduct union dues.

"They can't keep getting all these extras," said Edith McBride, a leader of the Amherst Taxpayers Group. "Most of the money in the budget isn't being spent on the children. It's being spent on the employees."

The Williamsville School District currently is negotiating a new contract with teachers. On Feb. 8, the groups will exchange proposals.

Under the taxpayer group's plan, pay for teachers would be cut drastically. Currently, the top of the scale for a teacher with a master's degree is $70,450. If a teacher is hired and started at the bottom of the pay scale, he would reach the top in 14 years, said Thomas Ramming, assistant superintendent for human resources.

The taxpayers group proposes that after 14 years, teachers make $39,551.72 and after 30 years $55,000.

Instead of getting 20 paid days off a year for illness and personal business, teachers would get eight unpaid days. Teachers, not the district, would have to pay for college courses and extra training.

The taxpayers group says those salaries and benefits are more than enough for someone who doesn't even work full-time. Teachers are contractually obligated to work 191 days. By comparison, most people with two weeks of vacation work 250 days.

"For the number of days they actually teach a year, that's a darn good job," Miss McBride said. "The most I ever got was five weeks off. They get a winter break, a spring break and the summer off."

Teachers work more than 191 days, said Donald Holtz, president of the teachers union. They spend hours correcting papers and planning lessons. Many teachers spend weeks during the summer decorating their classrooms and preparing for students' arrival.

Holtz found the proposal unrealistic and said it would hurt the students' education.

"It represents the attitudes of a relatively small group of people -- the people who put cost above just about everything else," he said.

The Amherst Taxpayers Group doesn't expect the district or School Board to actually incorporate its ideas into the negotiations. Instead, the taxpayers group released its proposal to make a statement to the community and district that teachers' pay and benefits are costing taxpayers too much.

"We know the union would never accept the proposals," said Matt Varble, a taxpayers group member who helped write the proposal. "It's more making a statement about what the community believes and how they feel about this contract. . . . The union contract is so filled with goodies and things most people in the private sector could only dream about. It looks as though the district has given the farm away."

Over the life of the current three-year contract, teachers have received a 14.6 percent pay raise.

Holtz said cutting pay and benefits could lead to some teachers leaving and hurt the district's ability to hire the best candidates.

Nonsense, members of the taxpayer group responded.

"Money does not make a good teacher," Miss McBride said. "A good teacher is a good teacher no matter what."

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