Earlier this week, the teachers union at Allen East declared it had “no confidence” in the school board and superintendent there after a lengthy contract dispute.
We’re inclined to say we have no confidence they’ll solve this dispute without a mental reset.
The district and its teachers haven’t had a resolved contract since June 2014. In December, the school board approved what it considered its last and best offer, a 1 percent wage increase for last year and this year.
The teachers previously said they’d taken enough concessions over the years when the recession hit the district. Now they’d like to be treated with respect, including a more respectful offer.
The teachers and the schools met with federal mediators on several occasions, without coming to a resolution. As part of a settlement to a ruling of an unfair labor practice complaint, the sides returned to the bargaining table in late August.
That obviously wasn’t as fruitful as they’d hoped, given the teachers’ union’s public outcry that the schools and superintendent just weren’t trying hard enough to come up with a fair offer.
Now it’s time for everyone to reset and reopen these negotiations with an open mind.
We respect and applaud Superintendnet Mel Rentschler and the school board for not wanting to spend more than the district brings in through taxes. That’s a responsible point of view, especially considering the district had a smaller carryover in 2013 than it did in 2014.
There’s a difference between being prudent with taxpayer money and stubborn, though. The district is seeing better days financially now. The district carried over $4.2 million from the 2013-14 school year into 2014-15, according to its five-year forecast processed by the state in May. That amounts to nearly 12 percent more than it had at the end of the previous year.
Going from 2014-15 into 2015-16, the district expected to have nearly 14 percent more money that it did the previous year. The percentage growth does drop in future years, to 8 percent on June 30, 2016 to 7 percent on June 30, 2017, to 4 percent on June 30, 2018, to 2 percent on June 30, 2019.
Still, it’s growth. Treasurers of schools are notoriously conservative with their predictions. And that tally in nearly four years amounts to $5.9 million carried over, unreserved and unencumbered.
When you consider the district’s total personnel outlays range from $4.7 million in 2014 to a predicted $5.1 million in 2019, you can see there’s some room to negotiate. When a 1 percent pay increase costs less than half a million a year, the district could afford to negotiate a bit.
The teachers need to be realistic, too. No one’s taking a pay cut, which happens in a lot of private-sector jobs. In fact, with step increases, many teachers make more money next year than they did this year even if there’s a zero-percent wage increase. Simply coming back another year frequently kicks in an automatic pay increase.
As such, the teachers need to stop comparing themselves to private-sector workers, where a 1 percent pay increase actually equals 1 percent more than you made the previous year.
The district regularly ranks among the best in our region. Its performance index for 201-13 rated a B, and it earned an A for indicators met.
No one wants to see a teachers’ strike at Allen East. It’s time for the school board, superintendent and teachers union to begin negoitating again, without the petty bickering and grandstanding, and find middle ground that’s fair to not just the school and its teachers but the students there too.