cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Our school board is dealing with a range of issues from kindergarten to school upkeep to wage and benefit negotiations. All seem thorny and all seem to require more money. Our board members are, I believe, genuinely trying to do their best to fairly resolve all their issues however some are more vexing than are others. The coming elections provide the opportunity to retain one member or replace that member, and to select the replacement for another who has decided not to continue his service. I must confess that I would not want that responsibility, and I am very happy there are those who are willing to accept it. These people do not get rich doing this.
The negotiation with teachers and staff concerning wage and benefit settlements is, to my way of thinking, the most concerning since it deals with the greatest single area of cost to our system, and thus to the taxpayers.
The long and short of the teachers agreement resolution is simple; teachers believe they should receive more than a 3.8% increase overall (benefits and compensation), and the board believes it cannot exceed that level due to all the other requirements for taxpayer dollars and due to the current economic situation. State law currently limits such increases to 3.8% in what is called the QEO (qualified economic offer) provision that we've talked about before. The teachers have long sought to change that, and it is near the top of their "wants" list as I've blogged before. For the moment, the governor has taken it from the table, but... The board has begun the process that leads to a "deadlock" and that leads to the implementation of a QEO. There have been threats of job actions made, and these threats have indicated that the actions will become more and more vexing as this continues.
Support staff, represented by AFSCME, contract negotiations appear headed to mediation. The board has been trying to obtain union approval to move this group out of the WEAC benefits program (quite expensive as we've previously noted) and has committed to providing the savings to each member in the form of direct compensation in addition to a pay increase already on the table.
And finally, the administrative staff (except for three positions) is negotiating for new packages. This is a bit contentious since there is some language at issue that the board wishes to change.
All this is, of course, staged against the backdrop of our current economic problems. The taxpaying public, collectively, is facing higher taxes, loss of jobs, probable inflation given the stimulus bills and bailout bills, and so on. At best, this is poor timing...for both sides.
When you and me confront the daily issues of keeping our jobs, no matter that we might want a pay raise, continuing to have health coverage, making mortgage payments on property that has probably lost value, and not wanting to look at 401-K statements when they arrive (if we're fortunate enough to have investments such as that), I wonder if it wouldn't be better for our teachers, support staff and administrators to simply step up to the plate and accept the increases already on the table?
Did you receive a raise this year or last? If so, was it what you'd been accustomed to receiving or was it reduced? If not, were you simply happy to be able to continue to earn what you had been earning? Have you lost your job? Have you been told that you might lose your job? Have you had to cut back on things simply to keep ends together?
If I were going to receive an increase of 3.8% combined (compensation and benefits), I'd be very happy. I have a difficult time in rationalizing the difference in the two worlds in a time such as we are all confronting.
If the 'rank and file' doesn't agree with its bargaining committee, then maybe it needs to have a talk with the bargaining committee before the water in the well is polluted even more than it has come to be polluted. The potential "PR" hit just doesn't seem to be worth it, from my perspective.