NEWSLETTER March 13, 1998
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL OFFER?
ON FEBRUARY 28,1998, SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRPERSON HARRY WELTY WROTE A LETTER TO AN ELEMENTARY
TEACHER IN, WHICH HE STATED, "WE HAVE OFFERED A SETTLEMENT WHICH WOULD INCREASE
TEACHER PAY BY NINE PERCENT OVER THE NEXT TWO YEARS."
ON FEBRUARY 28TH HARRY WELTY WROTE TO ANOTHER ELEMENTARY TEACHER STATING, "I ALSO
BELIEVE THAT THE SCHOOL BOARD'S OFFER OF A NINE PERCENT SALARY INCREASE TO TEACHERS OVER
THE NEXT TWO YEARS IS REASONABLE."
TWO WEEKS LATER ............
STEVE FECKER CHIEF NEGOTIATOR FOR THE SCHOOL DISTRICT, PRESENTED A PROPOSAL GIVING
TEACHERS A SALARY INCREASE OF TWO PERCENT PER YEAR. THIS PROPOSAL WOULD REQUIRE GIVING UP
THE 'J PLAN' FROM OUR CAFETERIA PLAN, LOSS OF DOLLARS AVAILABLE TO THOSE WHO TAKE A LESS
EXPENSIVE PLAN (INCLUDING TWO EMPLOYEE FAMILIES), AND ELIMINATION OF THE MASTERS
EQUIVALENCY. TO MANY Of US THIS WOULD EQUATE TO AN ACTUAL SALARY INCREASE OF FAR LESS THAN
TWO PERCENT PER YEAR.
We have to assume that since Harry Welty is the chair of the school board, what he put in
writing to two teachers is the actual offer. This offer has been made public by none other
than the chairperson of the school board. It would appear to us that the latest offer from
the school board's negotiator represents a move toward the actual position of school board
members. Harry Welty ought to know what the school board's position is. After all, he is
the chair. Perhaps all that we need to do is wait until Mr. Fecker gets around to making
the same offer to the DFT negotiators that Harry Welty has already made to teachers.
Frank Wanner, President
MARCH 13, 1998
A LETTER TO HARRY
I have read with much interest your replies to members who have written you in regard to
negotiations. In many of your responses you refer to limitations required by the school
board's decision to not spend beyond increases in revenues. Without going into a
discussion of the exact amount of revenue increases from the legislature or an examination
of whether or not the school board is levying to the maximum allowed by law, it would seem
that there may be some other areas of contention in regard to the amount of money that the
school district has available for salary increases.
I would refer to a presentation made by Patrick Flattery at the most recent mediation
session. Not only did he refer to increases in insurance premiums, and insufficient
increases from the legislature, but included several other "problems" which I
believe deserve some discussion. I would like to direct your attention to these.
It would appear that the school district is facing some severe difficulties following the
law in regard to the use of compensatory education funds. I have no doubt that this is
true. I am also reminded that for several years the DFT, through a committee of the old
QWL Steering Committee, recommended that the district modify its allocation of these funds
to more closely follow and serve the students for which the funds were intended. As I
recall, Jim Melander Joined with then school board member Brad Bennett in this effort.
Although there may not have been complete agreement among all of the members of this
committee in regard to use of compensatory education funds, it seems that had Jim
Melander's advice been followed, the district would not now be facing this difficulty.
Thus, it would appear to the DFT that to penalize teachers through reduction of funds
available for negotiations would be to cause teachers to suffer for poor decisions made by
the administration and school board.
The presentation also dealt with the need to make reductions to accommodate positions and
programs added as a result of the passage of the excess levv referendum. It gets a bit
murky here Apparently a decision has been made that would require reductions in spending
and programs to equal what was added as a result of the referendum. The referendum brought
millions, of which, some was spent to add new programs and positions resulting in the need
to make equal reductions in order to have a balance some years down the road when the
excess referendum funding ends, should another not be passed. Are we being told that
because we worked hard to help pass the excess levy we will now have to suffer some
losses? How much of a reduction in our settlemerit are we supposed to accept to
accommodate the addition of millions of dollars to the district coffers? How likely are we
to work cooperatively with the district on future referendums? Why were we not forewarned
of the likely impact of the passage of the referendum?
Perhaps the most troubling revelation contained in the presentation was the pronouncement
that the total revenue from the state has been substantially reduced due to a loss of
students. It seems that hundreds of kids have left the district. The vast majority of the
losses have been due to Edison. This is no surprise. The school board and administration
did everything they could to encourage parents to take their kids out of our schools and
enroll them in the Edison schools. However, I have video tapes of school board meetings
during which board members maintained that there would be no negative impact on the
finances due to students going to Edison. I believe that I can recall one school board
member maintaining that loss of students would make no difference as the district would
not need as many teachers. Perhaps what board members and administrators meant to say was
that there would be no negative impact on the district, just on the teachers. Those same
teachers remember what was said by the superintendent about public education as he did all
he could to create the Edison schools. It may be that some parents believed his assertions
and decided to send their kids to non-public schools. The truth is that kids left the
district due to actions of the school board and superintendent. Now you expect that the
people to suffer will be the teachers. So it goes.
Decisions regarding use of compensatory funding were not made by the teachers. Teachers
did not decide how to use excess levy funds. Teachers do not determine how many people
should work for the school district. It was riot the teaching staff that was urging the
creation of the Edison schools or criticizing public education. If there are now financial
problems as a result of actions in any of these areas, the responsibility should rest with
those who are responsible. We will not accept that teacher salaries should be lower to
accommodate poor decisions made by others.
In closing, let me return to what seems to be a common message in many of your replies to
teachers; that past teacher salary settlements exceeded the district's ability to pay
causing the budgetary problems of the past few years. That, in my humble opinion, is pure
bunk. I can well remember when a school board member announced that, because of the
teacher settlement, several hundred thousand dollars in cuts in programs would have to be
made. That same Spring the administration added over fifty teaching positions. One year we
accepted a zero increase due to district financial problems. The school board and
administration did little to reduce spending and the next year when salaries did increase
there was a shortfall. The DFT once warned the school. board that it appeared to us that
the administration was spending thousands of dollars a day more than the district was
receiving. Nothing was done. I am convinced that the DFT could present a very creditable
argument showing that it is the administration and school board which prepare the
district's budget. I believe that we could demonstrate that actions, or inactions, of the
administration and school board were more the cause of the past financial difficulties
than were teacher salary increases. In fact, we would contend that teacher salaries could,
and should, have been far greater were it not for decisions made at the district level.
The superintendent and school board have gone to great effort recently to claim credit for
the emergence from deficit (as if the teachers and public should deserve no credit). If
you seek to receive credit for recent accomplishments, then you should be willing to
accept responsibility for past blunders.