May 14, 2005

More Thoughts on the NEA Contract Dispute in East Greenwich

The two local newspapers published last Thursday a new letter to the editor I wrote about the ongoing NEA teachers' union contract dispute in East Greenwich. The editorial begins:

The issues of retroactive pay and "work-to-rule" are at the heart of the dispute in the East Greenwich NEA teachers union contract dispute. The union expects salaries to be made whole via retroactive pay increases. But if the union believes they will get such pay, then they have no incentive to settle the contract for anything less than their one-sided outrageous demands. Yet, in the meantime, our children will not be made whole retroactively for all the times teachers have, due to "work-to-rule," refused to do the same things for our children that they did in past years. This is an inequitable situation that needs to be rectified.

The balance of the editorial offers my specific recommendations on how to settle certain key financial terms in any new contract - and it starts with eliminating retroactive pay and dedicating some or all of those funds to providing tutors and other help to our children.

The West Bay edition of the ProJo carried a shorter version of the same editorial, available here for a fee.

Also last week, the newspaper reported that the Town Council did cut the proposed 2005-2006 school budget by $800K - which has the effect of making it difficult for the School Committee to offer retroactive pay in any settlement. In addition, the School Committee has taken retroactive pay off the table, at least for now:

[School Committee member Steve Gregson] said the item has not been specifically discussed in talks, but, like Bradley, said the board, right now, is not willing to offer the pay because of the contract compliance situation. Gregson said the committee, in a unanimous executive-session vote, moved to take the retroactive pay off the table for now.

"The union has decided not to fill their complete obligation," he said. "We don't believe they deserve it."

All of these developments led Roger Ferland, the East Greenwich NEA representative, to do one of the few things he does well - whine:

Roger Ferland, president of the East Greenwich Education Association, said he was confused by the council's directive and said members should not meddle in the talks.

"It's unfortunate that the Town Council is trying to put their hands in this," he said. "I'm not sure why they did that. It's not going to help things. In fact, it's a good way to sabotage them."

Ferland said the members of the School Committee are elected to handle the talks and the council should respect that and let them do their jobs. He said he hoped that there might be some kind of change by the financial town meeting in June.

You can read more about the specifics of the East Greenwich dispute here, here, and here.

You can read more about the broader public education issues here in Rhode Island here, here, and here.

Why these issues matter so much is summarized in this posting about the horrible state of American public education.