Saturday, October 01, 2005

Union Battles

Impasse has been declared (twice) between our local Association (union) and the District, and things are headed to mediation/ arbitration/ fact-finding. In standing its ground, mobilizing support, taking a hard-line, and doing its homework, the Association is showing that, contrary to past actions, it finally gets it

Things that aren't important:
-"My principal made me do three extra minutes of yard duty!"
-"My vice-principal keeps coming into my room and writing things down!"
-"I'm supposed to get ten minutes before instructional time starts each day, but we have to walk our kids to class and that takes at least five minutes, unfairly lengthening my contact with students!"

Things that are important:
-70% to 30% District-Employee coverage for benefits
-Benefit coverage that is provided in isolation of other Districts, resulting in massive, massive monthly costs (the cheapest health care for one person costs over $200 a month, the cheapest for a family over $700)
-Lower starting and ending salaries than nearly every other District in the region, most of whom enjoy comparable tax/revenue basis
-waste and over-compensation of under-performing District Office employees coupled with cost-incurring negligence used as justification for lack of pay raises

Budget analysis reveals a hefty surplus (10% over the recommended cash reserve) as well as a COLA increase in excess of 5% given as a gift by the State, so it seems the Association is in a strong position. Unless the money really isn't there, as is claimed, the District is being tremendously stupid. As with most under-performing, somewhat under-resourced school districts, teacher retention is a massive problem. Our District has a higher percentage of TFA teachers than any other in the nation, and you now they aren't sticking around long-term -- and neither is anybody else. Relatively low-pay and shitty benefits are a huge reason why. From the point of view of someone who doesn't see teaching in a traditionally achievement-gap riddled, undertaught community, we should they stay for years and year when FREE benefits and an easy work environment exist fifteen miles away, in all neighboring Districts? From the point of view of someone starting a family, they may not even be able to afford paying $744 a month to insure their wife and kids. What are these people thinking?

That being said, as seems almost inevitable, the Association compounds its strong position with absurd hyperbole and and intellectually bankrupt extremes of contractual follow-through. That, and flyers that say, "Get Angry!" Don't tell me how to feel. Just don't. Provide leadership, representation, and facts that are untainted by exaggeration and embellishment. But don't tell me how to feel.

Here's hoping this can be settled, in teachers' favor, without striking or putting into place a widely ill-conceived "work-to-rule" strike.

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