|The two opening sessions of negotiations give
one cause to be optimistic. The brevity of the school district's proposal, the open
exchange of information, 1.the declared desire of the superintendent to conclude
quickly, the approach of the district's new chief negotiator, and even the fact that
the school district did open with a monetary proposal all point toward- a much more
positive set of negotiations and a speedy settlement. Yet, there remain some concerns.
very obvious concern is the actual increase in salary. It would seem that the initial
proposals of the parties on salary are not nearly as far apart as we have been in the past
This is good. in fact we could probably split the difference and be close to the average
percentage increases of the large districts which have settled to date. 2.However, as
the salary schedules in these districts are often a lot better than ours, the actual
disparity in teacher pay will increase as they are taking percentages of higher schedules.
Minneapolis just settled for 3% the first year and 3.496 the second year. In the second
year a teacher with a MA+45 at the top of the schedule will earn just over $60,000. That
same teacher with 25 years of service will earn over $64,000. The teacher in Duluth at the
same place would make over $10,000 less. This comparison does not take into consideration
the fact that Minneapolis has a MA+60 lane and a lane for National Board Certification, as
well as a career increment at year 30 worth an additional $1,000. Even St. Cloud is
reporting top salaries in excess of $56,000 with their new contract. This salary disparity
is an obvious concern to us, but it should also be of interest to our school board as they
seek to attract and maintain a top quality teaching, staff.
3.Perhaps the most pressing concern is that reaching an agreement on salaries,
insurance, and language may not produce a final settlement. As you will remember, the
school board passed a resolution last Spring which requires a public hearing of some sort
prior to the school board actually voting on any new contract. This meeting will give
each and every anti-teacher or anti-union person a chance to take a shot at what they are
likely to see as yet one more huge raise for those money grubbing teachers. if so, then
what should be our strategy? Do we pack the place with teachers and ask several hundred of
our members to speak to the matter? What figures will the school district release? Two
years ago they reported total costs several million dollars 'in excess of the actual
costs. Will anyone explain to the public that the settlement costs which are reported may
not be the actual costs and why'? Can and will the school board and administration explain
the discrepancies to the public in a way which can be understood? How will anyone
determine the impact on the system when our settlement is one of many variables? Is this
public hearing intended to prevent a settlement?
What is clear is that we will, at-some point, reach an agreement. It would be nice if
this new agreement could deal with more than financial matters. 4. Many teacher
contracts now address issues which we have not included such as expectations for students,
school improvement, testing, curriculum improvement and other areas of educational
improvement. It would be great to see a settlement which not only helped to insure a
quality salary schedule, but one which helped the teachers and the school district to work
together to insure quality education.
1. Mr. Wanner has gotten great milage by encouraging the teacher's to be suspicious
of the School Board, the public, the administration and the Superintendent. Angry and
suspicious teachers are more likely to strike and Frank can raise the spectre of strike in
the negotiations. How will Frank deal with the Superintendent's current popularity? He'll
nibble away at it. Frank's word usage "declared desire" confirms that the
Superintendent is saying the right things but suggests it might just be talk. If the
negotiations slow down the Superintendent's good faith will surely be questioned. It
should be noted that there are several reasons why the Teacher's negotiators might want to
delay the negotiations. The most obvious is their hope that they can elect a more
naive and generous school board in this Summer's election. Unfortunately, no matter how
the elections turn out it will not increase the money available for the contract.(for
confirmation read "Christmas in January")
2.I have no reason to doubt any of the figures which Frank
presents in the rest of his column. They are probably all true. But I've already explained
the problem. We have no more money to offer our teachers unless we cut programs and lay
off young teachers. I suppose I could try the opposite tack and mention all the poor rural
school districts that pay their top teachers $10,000 less than Duluth's top paid teachers.
Minnesota's school finance doesn't assure teacher pay equity. It makes school districts
dependent to a degree on their property wealth.
3. The School Board can resist the fulminations of anti-tax crackpots. It might
have a more difficult time resisting the opposition of parents concerned that a settlement
will cause program cuts and teacher layoffs. Up to now our teacher's union has been able
to deny that there is any link between settlements and personnel cuts. This change would
make that link. No wonder Frank objects to this new wrinkle in negotiations. Its a lot
easier to blame the School Board for mismanagement when budget cuts surface than accept
any of the responsibility for causing them.
4. This would be wonderful. Unfortunately the School District has been rebuffed
when it has tried to raise these issues. The teacher negotiators have always held these
issues hostage to their demands for more money. We've never had more money so we have
never negotiated about student performance or educational improvement.