As the Mehlville school board meeting concluded Thursday, members gave their closing comments about happenings in the district since the May 17 board meeting.
Rich Franz challenged teachers to voice their concerns if they were spending their own money in the classroom and also shared his opinion about the Public School Retirement System (PSRS).
Below is a transcription of his comments:
“I wanted to bring these up after our negotiations with our certified and classified employees were completed and after we had voted on the contract because I wanted to be sure nobody would tie them in with any points that were discussed during those negotiations and then tied in with my specific vote or anything.
But specifically, the PSRS, the teachers’ retirement system and the PEERS, the classified employees retirement system, we all know that both of these funds are suffering a funding liability. PSRS is underfunded to the tune of $5 billion. That means only 85 percent funding. PEERS is unfunded to the tune of $500 million. There has been some movement a couple years ago on the part of the state legislature to address those issues. I think specifically for political reasons, that did not occur.
There are two groups that I am specifically disappointed with that this funding shortfall continues and is not seriously addressed by the state legislature who—let’s be clear folks in the media so everybody knows out there—we as a school board cannot change that. Only the state legislature can and people need to understand that. The reason they don’t, I believe, is two-fold.
Number one: the teachers and classified employees’ organizations in this state refuse to acknowledge this lack of funding. They refuse to acknowledge the shortfall. Quite honestly and in my opinion, it’s a political move on their part and they do not want to do anything that will in any way, jeopardize the reputation of their pension programs.
Let’s look at this thing realistically, the definition of a ponzi scheme is when you take money from new investors and give it to old investors so the old investors feel like they’re still making money. The PSRS is currently a ponzi scheme. That’s the only way you can define it.
If you can come up with a more realistic definition, I’d be more than happy to listen to it. Until the teachers’ organizations in this state are willing to admit that fact and to address the problem, nothing will happen.
And my other problem is with the state legislatures. Those same teachers’ organizations, through their current and retired members, exert political influence on the state legislators and I fault the state legislators including the legislators who represent the districts in this school district for not having the political will and courage to address this issue. They know it has to be fixed and they refuse or they have been unable and unwilling to do it because of the political fallout.
And that’s wrong. The taxpayers in the state deserve better representation, the taxpayers of this school district in this state deserve that the teachers who are represented by their unions and organizations be honest with them and tell them what’s really going on.
Here’s the other problem. I’ve read also in the media, the local media, in fact it seems to be a trend in some of the stuff I’ve read, that there is criticism of a school board, specifically this school board, for the alleged fact that our teachers are spending money out of their own pockets to provide supplies in their classrooms, necessary supplies for their students and that they’re forced to take money out of their own pockets to provide those supplies.
I challenge any teacher in this school district to show me where they have not been provided with the supplies they need to teach their curriculum and to provide their students with the basic equipment and supplies they need to get the job done. Or if they have taken money out of their own pockets, that they have not been reimbursed by this administration.
(Superintendent Eric Knost) and I have had this conversation and I know he has talked to his team about it. This team of administrators bends over backwards to provide the instructors in this school district with the supplies they need to teach their curriculum.
And this constant harping on this alleged idea that teachers have to take money out of their own pockets just to do their job and teach the basic curriculum I think is a lie that’s perpetrated on the taxpayers and I think it’s time that the taxpayers be treated to the truth and I think it’s time that the teachers either put up or shut up.
If you’re taking money out of your own pocket to provide the equipment and supplies you need to teach the curriculum, then present your receipts to this school board and we will be happy to reimburse you and if you don’t have those receipts and you’re not doing that, then have the courage to stand up, when teachers say that’s happening, have the courage to stand up and say it’s not happening because the administration of this school district is providing the educators with the equipment and supplies they need to get it done. Thank you.”
Do you agree or disagree with Rich Franz? Consider writing a Letter to the Editor.