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Franz to Teachers: "Put Up or Shut Up"

Mehlville school board member 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).

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 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 .

*Added July 3: See a video of school board meeting; Franz's speech at 16 minutes

Margi Cook June 22, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I do not know Mr. Franz, however, I know of no teacher that does not spend some of his or her own money for teaching supplies. Teachers ALWAYS use their own funds for certain things. It's just a given. Mr. Franz is obviously out of touch or doesn't want to be "in touch". Shame on him. I hope each and every Mehlville teacher submits a receipt so he can PUT UP OR SHUT UP!
Keith June 22, 2012 at 01:27 PM
You have to be kidding me right? He thinks the teachers are lying about having to spend their own money on supplies? As the husband of a elementary teacher in this district we easily spend close to $200 a year on supplies on top of whats given by parents as part of the yearly supply list. Do you realize her YEARLY budget for classroom supplies is $27-$30. Seriously....$30 at most to supply all the things the kids need? We buy our own staples, paper clips, crayons, markers, pens, pencils and something as simple as a pencil sharpener of hers that broke. The process of trying to get the office to be allowed to order a new one just wasn't worth the fight and we bought it. She loves her kids and we'd rather pay for the supplies needed than have them go without. She's taken pens from her purse to give to kids because she had to. The school routinely runs out of copy paper every year and to try and help avoid that its put on the kids supply list to try and help make that up and it still isnt enough....they still run out of paper. So to Mr Franz, how about before assuming the teachers are the ones causing this you actually talk to a teacher and find out what its really like. You obviously have no idea what its really like in the classroom.
Tina Kult June 22, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Notice Mr. Franz said "basic" curriculum. Therefore, the Kagen instruction and extras teachers all do to enhance the curriculum is not included. These are the supplies teachers buy to make school a place where children learn and can apply the basic curriculum. These extra supplies are needed to engage the students in a world much different than ours when we were kids. A world where technology enhancements and teacher purchased extras help make a school district families wish to send their children. "Basic" isn't going to cute it.
Margi Cook June 22, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Tina and Keith you are both right. Mr. Franz isn't even aware that students in Mehlville are, in many cases, sharing board approved text books. That isn't providing for their "basic curriculum". Running out of paper happens and teachers end up making that purchase on their own. The district teachers also provide basic supplies for students that do not have them....They choose to pay for many many other things that enhance the curriculum and basic organizaion of the classrooms. On another note, not one single teacher would be able to get away with telling a student to "put up or SHUT UP! That is distrespectful and ugly.....
Car June 22, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I think it is a good idea to show receipts....it's done in business every day of the week, nothing new.
Erin June 22, 2012 at 07:33 PM
And this, my friends, is one of the reasons why I am no longer a part of public education. As a former elementary school teacher, I can't tell you how many HUNDREDS of my own dollars I shelled out every year to ensure my students more than a "basic" educational experience. (Of course, I also had to provide many of the basics, too: pencils, scissors, paper, etc.) Clearly, Mr. Franz is out of touch. I invite him to spend even just a week in one of the Mehlville classrooms and see just how much the teachers provide.
Lisa June 22, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I attended the mtg and appreciate the fact that Mr. Franz is trying to stand up for the tax payers in the district. This is clearly a tactic used to try to make Mr. Franz look like he is willing to sell out the children for money. If you do not want to provide receipts because it is too inconvenient for you then what example are you setting for children? If the money is important to you, you will find the time to go to admin. to get the money back. What baffles me even more is the fact that these same people making these claims seem to be fine and/or quiet to the fact the district is spending $5 mil for an auditorium or $450,000 for tennis courts. If they are really underfunded for supplies, should it not come out of these COP's. The COP's can be used for anything they want. Do not let anyone tell you differently. The COP's they are using were allocated by the people for something else not an auditorium. We the people never voted for that money to go there but we did vote for it to go somewhere else. Why is no one talking about that?
teresa June 22, 2012 at 09:17 PM
I agree with Mr Franz and applaud him for risking a backlash from the teacher-loving public. I work (12 months a year without spring or winter break - mind you) and bring my supplies with me to the office if they are not provided or if the company runs out. If it is costly, I submit a receipt for reimbursement. No big deal, everybody has extra expenses. The teachers need to get out in the real world, quit complaining about their job and concentrate on teaching.
Angela June 22, 2012 at 09:43 PM
I can assure you that I can present a receipt all I want for the things I need to support my students, but will never see a dime of it, Mr. Franz. You can't suck blood from a turnip. Until we really begin to value education and respect those who have dedicated their lives to it, we will never have the money!!! Like most educators I do it for the children, not the money. Also, my daughters attend Mehlville schools and I can assure you their teachers have spent out-of-pocket dollars with no reimbursement to provide them with more than the "basic" curriculum.
Bob McKitrick June 22, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I also don't know Mr. Franz, but as a resident taxpayer of this district I sure do hear a lot about him. Check out this interview he did for an organization called "United For Missouri" on October 27, 2010, prior to his time on the Mehlville School Board. In the interview, he accuses the Mehlville Board of doing the exact same thing - his words - "The Mehlville school board has spent $160,000 of the taxpayers money to put astroturf on a football field, yet asks elementary teachers to pony up for their own classroom supplies." Don't take my word for it - the link is right here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1VBA-V6PAg (this comment is at 1:16 in the video). I don't appreciate how he implies that teachers are lying about spending their own money on classroom supplies, yet basically accuses the previous board of the exact same thing two years ago. Mr. Franz is also a former police officer. I'm sure he receives a pension for his work. St. Louis County Police have a non-contributory pension plan, which means it is 100% employer (taxpayer) funded. So, I wonder - is the police pension 100% funded, or is that a Ponzi Scheme as well?
Erica Brown June 22, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Let's just teach the "basic" curriculum and see how the board and our administrators like BASIC scores on the MAP test.
Sandy Applegate June 23, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Teachers buy extra things for their classroom to make it feel more inviting for the kids. Basics ARE supplied, but those things that the kids will remember are usually due to extra expense and efforts of their teachers. Why don't the adults who bash education see that? I spent 33 years teaching in Mehlville and am still volunteering nine years later, on my own dime. You should be thanking teachers who are willing to spend that something extra! Telling them to "shut up" is not very professional.
Pat June 23, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Wow, "teacher-loving"? Is that why Mehlville is now at the bottom of the pay-scale for the ENTIRE St. Louis Area? You work 12 months a year and get paid 12 months a year. Teachers work 9 months a year and get paid 9 months a year. I cannot count the amount of receipts I've brought to my principal for reimbursement only to be told there is no money to cover them. Teaching is my job and I do not complain about that. What I do complain about is an administration and board that doesn't seem to care about it's teachers which, in turn, leads to decisions that are not student centered and uneducated comments about compensation.
Christine Stewart Mehigh June 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM
So Rich Franz doesn't support the extraordinary efforts of our wonderful Mehlville school district teachers. In other news, water is wet.
Mike Baker June 24, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I am Mike Baker's wife. I have taught in Mehlville for 21 years. I have always kept my receipts for the things I buy for my classroom. I do not ask to be reimbursed since the things I buy are to "enhance" the "basic" curriculum. Yes I do have all of my text books. Although, this year we were told we could not order science workbooks, we would have to send the pages over to the print shop. So, I had to spend many hours of my own time, copying the pages and putting them together in a way to send them over. But as I think about my students, I wonder which class a 7-8 year old would rather be in. Would they rather be in a class where all they do is book work or in a class where they can do a hands on activity where I have gone out and bought something to make it memorable? No one tells me to go spend my own money, but I do it because I want my kids to remember what they are learning. For example, I bought animal crackers and M & M cookies so my class could see what it was like to be a paleontologist when we studied them in science. Did I ask to be reimbursed for that? No, but trust me, now I am taking every receipt I have and asking for it! I wish people would just stop bashing teachers. I love my job and what I do. I did not go into this for the money nor did I do it because I have my summer vacation. I do it because I love to teach and to make learning fun! I wish Mr. Franz would come to my class and see all that I have purchased in my 21 years!
Jen June 25, 2012 at 02:08 AM
I would like to add that I teach summer school for the district...and we were told that we should not spend more than $12-15 for summer school supplies, and even if we did and the receipts were submitted, then we would MAYBE get reimbursed. So, I am supposed to teach science without any labs or activities or tangible motivational rewards? Not only that, but only about one-third of the kids who come bring a pencil, folder or paper...and if didn't make a trip to the dollar store myself, then those kids would have had NOTHING, since the district provided those kids with nothing. I invite people like Mr. Franz to come walk a day in my shoes (and pocketbook).
Jen June 25, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Amen, sister!
Gail June 25, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Why aren't the parents paying for things? My kids go to private schools, but I am a taxpayer in the Mehlville School District. Why don't they send a list home for parents to buy what is needed? They do that regularly at my children's school. Teachers should not have to buy folders and things like that. That is crazy. If this is the case then why are they spending our tax dollars on a tennis court and auditorium? It appears they need the money for basic books etc. Do they really need a tennis court and auditorium???
Daniel Carter June 25, 2012 at 04:55 PM
This is a pretty ballsy statement for a guy who has never taught or had kids come through the MSD. If this is your opinion Mr. Franz, fine, but at the very least show some respect in presenting it.
Michael Kanevsky June 25, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Funny, Rich Franz is complaining that teachers need to step up and help deal with their pension system, since it's paid for by taxpayers. But Mr. Franz neglects to tell us that as a retired Kirkwood police officer, his own pension is funded by taxpayers. Kirkwood contributed 6.5% of his salary to his pension, and he had a contribution as well. Sounds a lot like the teacher pension system. Maybe, in the wake of all of the pension comments, Mr. Franz should go tell the taxpayers of Kirkwood to keep their money, he wants to fight against his pension system and be forced to invest his own funds into the stock market. Yeah, and some pigs just flew by my window.
Pat June 25, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Apparently, you're not familiar with the diverse population that forms the Mehlville School District. I am speaking in general terms here: We have families who can afford to send their kids to private schools and buy all the supplies they need, along with expensive homes and cars. It seems that Oakville has an excess. Mehlville however, is just trying to survive. They have homeless families, refugees, the VTS kids (kids bused from the city), and those who own lower valued property or live in the many apartment complexes available. Many qualify for free or reduced meals, WIC, MOhealth, Welfare, and live paycheck to paycheck. Some don't even have cars. There are many foreign families who don't speak English. The homeless students don't have a bed. So, how should they choose between buying notebooks or their next meal? How about clothing or pencils? How about medication or binders? A car payment or a fieldtrip? Health insurance or a fundraiser? It's a no brainer for me. Until the board and administration acknowledge that BOTH SIDES of the proverbial tracks (or in this case highway) are not equal, our district will always be two steps behind. Rather than recognizing that their families need help, the powers pretend that everyone has the means to buy school supplies, which means that the teachers have to pick up the tab. Out of sight out of mind means they can spend money on tennis courts and turf and still sleep well at night because they "didn't know".
Bob McKitrick June 25, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Well Said - and I wonder if his pension system is underfunded too? Is he a victim of a "Ponzi Scheme" too? (His words in describing PSRS.)
Gail June 27, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Pat, I am familiar with it. I live in Mehlville school district near Forder grade school. I know there are poor kids whose families are trying their best to afford supplies. I also know there are kids who have parents who choose a tatoo for themselves, cell phones, etc. instead of what their kids need. I see it all the time. The lady with all the tattoos that I am behind at Shop N Save who pays with WIC, food stamps. For some people it is deciding between ANOTHER tattoo or school supplies. It is unfortunate. For low income families, their taxes should be submitted so the district can pay for their supplies alone. I send all my kids to a private school and I do make appropriate sacrifices. We don't go on vacation like our public school friends, we do not buy tattoos, have fancy cell phones or the latest technology. We have a nice house we take care of and my kids get the best education. And we do it on one salary.
Gail June 27, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I totally agree. The money for tennis courts and auditorium is better spent on educating the kids beyond the "basics". The tennis court and auditiorium are clearly extras especially in this economy. It is NOT needed!

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