Saturday, May 14, 2011

KKKK-2: Status Update as of Thursday, 12 May

(As you can see, this post was published on Thursday, but was also among the missing once problems began; this is a reposting to restore things.)

In a word, the teachers’ union wins, you lose

Children?  What children?  It’s been too long since we last posted this gem, so let’s refresh our memories:

“When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”

Albert Shanker - President of the United Federation of Teachers [1964-1984] & the American Federation of Teachers [1974-1997]

You might have had some friends in college, or other acquaintances, who majored in “poly sci,” or political science, although I’m at a loss to understand how anything in politics is scientific.

Based on what we’re seeing in town this year, the major should be renamed “poly psy,” for political psychology.  The School Board, led by the School Superintendent, has conducted a masterful psychological operations campaign this budget season, reflecting their creation of a Political Action and Media Committee.  This is what defense and intelligence agencies refer to as “psy-ops,” and the budget campaign has rolled out with military precision.

This year’s psy-ops built on the success last year, when the teachers’ union convinced the town they wanted to ‘help’ with the budget challenge.  Early word from the School Department was that the contract would be re-negotiated by the first of this year, but somehow, that didn’t happen.  We have written on this more than once.

Coincidence?  I don’t think so; the timing of re-negotiations was clearly calculated to make it through the public airing of the budget without any details being publicized.  In other words, the less we knew, the more pliable we’d be.

Reviewing latest news:

Now, let’s get to recent events, in brief and pithy form:

- Before the School Board meeting on May 4th, that Political Action and Media Committee was very effective: Channel 13 news splash, Tuesday April 12.  Radio spots on the 14th.  Numerous ‘sky is falling’ news reports in local and regional print media.  All outlets not returning calls offering ‘other side’ commentary with supporting facts.  Surprise, surprise. 

- In subsequent public meetings of the Board and Council, exactly as planned, devoted parents stepped right up and put on their black hats and provided air cover for the Super and the Board to raise taxes because “the public is demanding it.”  With several darling and gifted children added in as pawns of the Union grown-ups for good measure.  Getting used at such an early age is so enriching and educational.  Could it have been any more predictable, or executed with any greater precision???

- And so we entered the last 10 days or so with the Union holding the School Board, the Town Council, and town citizens hostage.  Contract settlement was discussed nowhere, and inquiries for information yielded nothing but stonewalls.

- The School Board approved a $33.3 million budget, unanimously of course, on Wednesday, May 4th.  It included a dedicated amount for union contract settlement, but neither the School Board or the Super would say how much that was.

- They presented their budget to the Town Council at a ‘joint workshop’ on Monday, May 9th.  It included the amount for Union contract settlement, but the Super barely touched on the subject.  Rather, the presentation focused on ‘painful’ and tear-provoking cuts to all sorts of distracting areas of the budget, and played up revenue ‘losses’ to great effect.

- The twin elephants in the room that night were wearing dark glasses, so no one saw them.  Your correspondent knew they were there, and could see them at home. The first was ‘teacher contract demands,’ and the second was ‘per student cost growth.’

- The Town Council was submissive and compliant in the hands of the Super and Board, folding like the front section of a small town newspaper that doesn’t pay its property taxes. They approved the budget as presented with nary a whimper.  Comments about “great challenges you had this year,” “unexpected revenue losses,” and other shopworn platitudes abounded.  No request to knock out $100,000 just for show, or threats to cut the number of tubas in the BJHS band.  As a result, the Council successfully inoculated itself against arrogant (“sell your home if you can’t afford the taxes”) parents and charges that they “don’t care about the children.”

- As soon as the meeting was over, you could hear the cheers from the teachers’ union: we won!  We got it all!  Not a dollar in reductions by the Town Council!  How easy was that!  And nobody noticed the elephants!  Wait till next year!

- Now this update as of today:  It is reported that the School Department has approved the contract with the teachers, and why wouldn’t they?  They won big time on Monday.  The safe presumption is that the Board accepted the Union’s position.  Word is details of the contract settlement will not be available for at least a week, because the teachers have not yet voted on it.  This means that the public hearing on the budget, this Monday the 16th, will take place without any knowledge of what the Board has given the Union, and how it effects our taxes.  All we know is the Schools want another $1 million in revenue from the town, which is an increase of 6.3% in their property tax support from residents.  The psy-ops aren’t over yet.

Prediction: The entire $1 million in new property taxes to support the schools will go straight into the pockets of the teachers remaining after those too junior get terminated to benefit those more senior.  The highest paid from this year’s teaching staff will make out best, and the average teacher salary will go up several notches as a result.

Those terminated will get a free lesson in Union principles, those immortalized in such classic mottos as:

“Stronger together.”  “We stick together.”  “Solidarity forever”

How’s that working for you, young teachers? 

And take that, you “for the children” and “smaller class zealots.”

And for those who plan to attend Monday’s upcoming budget hearing, be sure to bring your white flags along.  The council is asking that we do so in a show of solidarity with them.

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