|March 23, 2004|
Lost & Found
Where are they?
Negotiations for the Fieldcrest teachers contract start Wednesday, March 24. As with any union
negotiations, the posturing and bargaining that occurs during negotiations can result in an acrymonious relationship between teachers
and the school board. If negotiations become protracted, the public gets pulled into the fray
and hard feelings can arise between families as well.
We hope that this will not be the case. As everyone is aware, these are hard times financially for school districts everywhere. School boards have cut staff, reduced curriculum, raised fees and taxes, and held fund raisers to help offset the reduced funding that has affected most school districts. In short, almost everyone has been affected by the state-wide financial crisis in our schools.
It would seem to me that teachers must realize that now is not a good time to be bargaining for more money. I think that the feeling of most taxpayers is that teachers must realize that they too must sacrifice a little to help combat the financial crisis facing our schools. In fact, this is already happening. Teachers at Clinton have accepted a pay freeze for the next year. I am sure that this will not be an uncommon occurence this year in other contract negotiations.
I have discussed the subject of the upcoming teachers contract negotiations with quite a few individuals and most of them feel that the teachers should not look for a pay increase this year. This is my feeling as well.
Insurance premiums will also be negotiated and they too are part of the total "cost" to the District. My insurance premiums have increased substantially. I have no option other than to pay the increase. Likewise, I feel that teachers should also have to bear the brunt of any increases in insurance cost. I feel very strongly about this because I know that Fieldcrest has had an above average cost in insurance premiums due to the excessive number of workers compensation claims. We need to put a lid on these costs.
Everyone has been affected by the
economic downturn of the past few years. Many people in the private sector are just happy to hold on to their jobs. In
private industry, when times are bad and sales decline, workers are laid off because not as many widgets need to be produced. There is
no bargaining in this situation. It is different with schools in that when hard times occur, there is no decline in the number of
students to educate. Teachers are still needed. However, not as much money is available to run the schools. So the obvious
solution in a school district is to either freeze or reduce wages or cut expenses in order for the school to remain solvent.
I think the above economic dynamics should be obvious to everyone. According to Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Michael Stagliano, even if the teachers union agrees to no increase in the base salary for next year, salary increases due to normal stepping up in experience would still cost the school district $50,000 next year. The teachers received a very lucrative increase from their last contract. Of course, negotiations took place during economically good times. Things are different now. If the teachers insist on another substantial increase in their contract, it will mean more layoffs for some of them since there is only so much to go around. It will also result in larger class sizes.
We all have to make sacrifices from time to time and we also have to make choices. Myself, I chose to make less money from my career so that I could live in this area and live the lifestyle that I prefer. Those who chose teaching for a career must also realize that money should not be the prime motivator for their choice in careers. Being able to influence young people's lives and doing a job that is very rewarding should be the prime motivators in a teacher's career. I hope that money does not become a prime motivator in the upcoming teachers contract. By agreeing to a salary freeze, the teachers will help the Fieldcrest school district not only regain financial solvency, it will also be the first step in bringing the communities together again.
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