Truth is a pesky thing. For some, truth is allusive because lying is just so much more convenient. For others, truth is about all they have so we cling to it.
Last week, I offended some folks at the Romeo Community Schools by posting 5 suggested ways that they could save $2.1 million without a single person losing their job. In fact, with their own numbers saying they’d only need to shave off $1.3 million, there is a good chance that if they tried to shave 5% off their payroll costs– they could actually have a surplus.
That post was very popular. While it wasn’t commented on, it was read by hundreds and hundreds of people.
My post was offensive because it shared truth. To summarize the thought, I suggested they could save money by adjusting the co-pays of employee health care, freezing increases for the next school year, contracting out non-instructional jobs to non-union companies, and sweetening buyouts for the teachers at the top of the payroll. Interestingly, of the emails I received none of them questioned the validity of my arguments. No one argues that what I’ve written is truthful… those things would save the district money!
Yet it is offensive to suggest that the board tell union employees that they can’t meet their demands. I am told that I am idealistic and naive. So while there is general agreement that my suggestions would save them money, it’s “not possible” to actually do any of those things!
Here’s a reality check. You cannot provide a world class education for 5000+ students with the leftovers the union contracts allow. ($5 million of a $48 million budget is used for everything not related to staff expenses… less than 1/10th of the money the district receives pays for everything beyond staffing. It’s a fact, not an opinion.) And parents are not fooled by the political maneuvering. They know they are being lied to. And I’ve met one too many families who tell me, “If I could I would move to another district.” How about that Bulldog pride? The best students from the best families will not accept leftovers!
Why is truth so offensive? Because it suggests that people will have to deal with a change in their lives. Will teachers really care if they have to pay a slightly higher co-pay for prescription drugs? I doubt it. If you get past the 1964-style meetings where they all wear the same color t-shirts and really ask a person… “Would you mind paying $20 for a $500 prescription instead of $10 if it means 14 people keep their jobs?” What reasonable person would say no to that? What about saying, “Look, the economy in our area is really struggling. Not giving you a signing bonus and a 2% raise this year will allow us to put more dollars in the classroom.” No one would like it but a reasonable person would get it and accept it.
With unemployment high the school district is in the perfect position to negotiate a better deal for the community. Yet they refuse!
Reasonable people, like the teachers and employees of the district, can see the position the district is in. And they would accept some adjustments to their benefit package if it meant that they would have an over all better work environment. I guarantee it!
Why is truth offensive? Because not offending people seems easier today.
Isn’t this question core to a lot of things in our lives? Doesn’t it seem easier to ignore your friend’s bad habits instead of offending them with the truth that smoking will kill them and gambling will bankrupt their families? Doesn’t it seem easier to ignore your friend’s use of a credit card than offend them by suggesting that they cut back on spending? Doesn’t it seem easier to watch your friend cause family problems rather than mention that they need to learn some parenting skills?
See… not mentioning the truth has horrible consequences. A true friend tells his friend the truth! A true friend pulls their friend aside and offers to help them overcome addiction. A true friend offers to bridge the gap when money is short. A true friend helps a struggling parent. There is nothing better in life than having friends confront you with truth. Trust me, I know. I have true friends who share difficult truth with me. That is friendship! Those friendships make me a better man, dad, leader, and citizen!
Dealing with truth is offensive. And I choose to tell the truth even though I’m labeled “offensive.” Why? Because at the end of the day… truth always wins. It may not make you popular, it might not get you free tickets to the baseball game, it may not get you a raise, it may not get you re-elected, and it may not seem like the right thing to do. But, ultimately, truth wins.
Isn’t this what we teach our kids? Isn’t this what our mom taught us when we were little? Isn’t this what we memorized in Sunday School?
Deal with truth in your life today. (This goes way beyond the school district, doesn’t it?)