Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė
Marc A. Schare†
Arguably, the negotiation and approval of a union contract is one of the most important things that a board member can participate in. The contract between the public and the teachers governs just about every aspect of the education that we are able to deliver. Iíve watched this process carefully and now, I have to vote on the result, but before doing so, I want to make a number of comments, and this will take about 7 minutes. As always, and perhaps more than usual, these comments reflect only my opinions and my perceptions of this process and the result.
Let me start by debunking some myths about contract negotiations.
The first myth is that the salary increases and health care benefits are somehow a reflection of the job that someone might think the teachers are doing. In my opinion, teacher contracts are a function of the competitiveness, the local economy and the probability of new revenue.
The second myth is that the contract is negotiated by the board, or at least by all of its members. †Here, I want to be clear because I refuse to take the credit, or the blame, for something which I had very little to do with. Clearly, †it is the collective will of the board and not just one board member that must be listened to, but it was frustrating that there were pieces of the contract that were never discussed with me and that I never saw prior to being agreed to by both sides. This is a violation of board policy and it is my hope that we either rewrite board policy to reflect reality, or, much preferred, to make sure that reality conforms to board policy.
The third myth is that the teachers union is greedy or in some other way not playing by the rules, a sentiment expressed to me a dozen times in the last week. While we can have great fun debating whether teachers unions are good or bad for public education, they are here and they are going to remain, and teacher unions will do what they are paid to do, which is to negotiate the best possible package on behalf of their members. I no more blame them for that than I would blame Bret Farve for throwing touchdown passes. The Ohio Revised Code specifically lays out a shared governance model in its collective bargaining statutes and if the public doesnít like it, yell at the Governor or the legislature but in the meantime, this board must play the hand it is dealt.
The fourth myth, and I address it only because Iíve heard it a hundred times over the years is that the school board doesnít try to get a good deal on behalf of the taxpayer. To the extent that we had input into the process, I did not observe such an attitude.
Ultimately, regardless of process, the business tonight is an up or down vote on the resulting document. †So letís talk about the contract.
Coming into negotiations, I had identified dozens of things I would change if I could but they could be categorized into two big issues, one on the management side and the other being financial. They were equally important to me. †
First, I wanted to explore
the concept with the
One example - †I view the renewal
article, section 18.2 as a step backward in our efforts, but I trust that Dr.
Conrath and the
My second issue was sustainability
and affordability. †If you look at the
package through the prism of surrounding districts, the
My first observation is that there were no changes to the salary index that rewards staff for longevity and education, a salary index that was meant to reflect inflationary increases but is now so old that no one in the administration can explain why it is the way that it is and a salary index which now represents, for a significant group of teachers, over half of their total raise. Education experts have said that in general, time alone does not improve a teachers performance. By refusing to address the index, both sides did little to stem one of the main cost drivers in the years ahead. For those teachers who will not be stepped during the three years of this agreement, the 2.85% increase is obviously reasonable. For those that will be stepped in all three years of this agreement, the increase is, in some years, in excess of 7% and this is, in my view, excessive.
My second observation has
to do with health care. In the world of K-12 education, employees have been,
for the most part, held harmless to the impact of societal changes in health
care. Many people in
The bottom line is that this
contract is reasonable in public-education. It represents compromise on the
part of our teachers and it represents fairness on the part of our
administrators, however, †in this economy and with uncertain
revenues, we are taking a huge risk offering raises in excess of 7% to anyone
and another huge risk offering health care that does not cap the taxpayers
liability. Before assuming such risks, I would have liked to hear the backup
plan. What do we do if levys fail? What do we do if health care costs skyrocket
again? What do we do if the state gives our money to someone else? †If any of these things happen, do we have
something better then to cut programs and threaten the community as so many
other districts have been forced to do. This contract
is clearly affordable assuming passage of the next levy, but what about the one
after that, and the one after that? Is
As to the vote, I really
As for the money, I simply cannot, in good conscience, approve a status-quo contract without understanding what our strategy is for the long term and how we plan to mitigate the real risks outlined above.†
For these reasons, I must regrettably vote no but in doing so, if this contract does suggest the requirement for a levy next year, I will commit publicly tonight to supporting the† levy if it is under 8 mills and itís my hope that we use this time to look not only at affordability in the short term but sustainability in the long term.††