Thursday, May 17, 2012

The answer you’ve been waiting for, right?

A few weeks back, in this post, we presented you with a multiple choice question: 

What is the highest priority of the Brunswick School establishment, by which we mean the School Board and Department Administration taken as a whole?  Is it

A) The Children?

B)  Department Facilities?

C)  Raises for Teaching Staff?

At the same time, we gave you a number of specific questions for each choice to help you focus your thoughts, and promised that if you didn’t come up with the answer on your own, we would eventually come back to you with the correct choice.

Not a single one of you responded with an answer, so we don’t have to dip in to our petty cash fund to buy gold stars for anyone.  We hope, however, that in a blinding flash of the obvious, the answer jumped off the page and slapped you up side the head.

On the slim chance that didn’t happen, here is the correct answer:  The highest priority of the Brunswick School establishment is C) raises for the teaching staff.  And as we’ll point out later, just about everyone else with a say on the subject.

Simply stated, the highest priority of the Brunswick School Department is giving automatic salary increases to the teachers every year, along with paying for 90% or so of the cost increases in their very generous benefit plans, generous beyond anything in the private sector.

It’s not even debatable. This priority is established by contract, and traditionally has been classified as ‘costs beyond our control.’ The teachers get their increases for doing the same thing year after year, with no merit or performance contingencies. And time after time, the School Board, acting ‘on our behalf,’ grants exactly the same arrangements and generous terms in what is wrongly called negotiations. The teachers union gets generous automatic compensation increases, and the School Board gets little in return. Year after year after year.

This spring a new three year contract was ‘negotiated.’ In all the Superintendent’s charts about cutting this and cutting that, did you see one word about the size of step increases, or holding salaries level for the next two years?  Did you, huh?  Did you see any mention of trading off compensation increases against cuts to AP and other courses?  We don’t think so, Tim.

The school board approved the new contract on April 11, without seeing it; before knowing school budget details; without knowing which budget option they would select for forwarding to the town council; without knowing what the town council would approve; and whether the voters would approve the budget.

No matter; the teachers union got what they wanted first and locked it in with a School Board vote.  Based on the timing and sequence of things alone, it’s clear that the teachers come first, NOT the children. 

They get their 5% or more per year in average annual raises without concern for whether ‘the children’ get their AP teachers and various other accommodations of ‘excellent schools.’  And their health insurance continues to be bought from the union on a no-bid basis to keep the campaign war chest running over for upcoming elections.

No suggestions of lower increases to save teaching ‘positions.’  No mention of the rank and file taking lower raises to save the jobs of union brothers and sisters.  How’s that for ‘solidarity?’  And ‘stronger together?’

Nope; the contract approval on April 11th effectively precluded even a smidgeon of consideration of it’s consequences in budget deliberations and tradeoffs. It was a fait accompli, and in this case, a three year done deal.

Furthering the cause of the union, contract information passed along via media and Department leaders was sketchy and understated, lulling the public and school advocates into a snooze of complacency.

The Ostrich, as usual, totally blew it; The Forecaster came close to blowing it; and the head imagineer over at BCD completely and shamefully botched it.  Even the School Superintendent, as we reported here, botched the facts in response to a question from the Town Council.

Even now, the contract is still not available, nor are the dollar savings computation from the 102 position cuts that were used to soften up taxpayers earlier this spring.

Furthermore, it’s clear this is the highest priority of the Town Manager and the Town Council, since they dipped into municipal reserves to offset what would have been a 7.3% property tax increase just for the schools.  It’s also clear that this is the highest priority of the teachers, higher than ‘the children,’ as we explained earlier, regardless of the effect on cherished AP classes and other slashes and assaults upon the well-being of our children.

Let’s cut to the chase: we all work for the teachers and their union, rather than them working for us.  Yet even with their pre-programmed 5% or so annual increases, they’ll still be complaining about having to buy crayons for their classrooms!  Did it every dawn on anyone that if their raises were, say $500 less per year, there might be enough money to buy all the pencils and paper they want? 

Of course not; it’s much preferred to keep the pay details hidden from public scrutiny and muddled in media reports, while preserving the tried and true mantras of public attitude formation.

More than ever, the same old ‘truer words were never spoken’ quote applies:

“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]


Mrs. Fiddle, meet Mr. Fiddle.  We hope you enjoyed being played in the annual spring concert.

Pass the jug, would you Jethro?

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