Out in East Multnomah County, a low rumble is growing louder as we approach
the November elections the end of the school year. Negotiations between a couple of school boards and the teacher unions on new contracts have hit snags in several school districts all at once.
This past week, The Gresham Outlook reported that a strike vote has now been scheduled:
Teachers in the Gresham-Barlow School District will meet at Barlow High School at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, and vote on whether to strike.
Representatives of both sides will meet Friday, April 13, to continue contract negotiations.
The district’s school board voted unanimously March 22 to implement a contract on its teachers — although it’s technically not a contract, it’s an “operating structure” because the teachers didn’t agree to it.
Nearly a year of negotiations have failed to yield a new contract, the last one having expired June 30, 2011. The last round of mediated talks ended March 20.
The union can accept the implemented deal as is; accept the agreement but continue to negotiate over unresolved articles; or go on strike. By law, the union must give the district at least 10 days notice before striking.
The Gresham Barlow Education Association is, predictably, not pleased. The following is a list of their
ransom note list of requests and observations from the GBEA website (shown in bold). Each demand is rebutted with a reasonable counter point (shown in italics). Feel free to comment on our conclusions regarding the real agenda of the GBEA:
RIF members based upon seniority or “competence” as determined by the district without the possibility of retraining
State law now requires that competence be a consideration when placing teachers in assignments and when reducing staffing levels. The district’s proposed RIF language simply conforms to state law.
Receive no step or COLA increase for all of next school year
To do so would result in teacher job losses and higher class sizes. Tough decisions have to be made to save teacher jobs and avoid increased class sizes.
Receive a $6 per month increase in insurance starting next year (a 0.6% increase)
Cut 2.6% of your salary from this year (5 day cuts) and remove the money from your remaining checks
These two are a mischaracterization of reality. A true salary cut would mean we wouldn’t have to cut days. The district’s ‘burn rate’ is around $330,000 per day. Every 3 days of school costs approx. $1 million. Budget realities require either cutting staff or cutting days. The Board has been steadfast in saying all along that we don’t want any more teachers to lose their jobs.
Reduce prep time at ALL LEVELS by having a common Wednesday professional development time
Not factual. The only group impacted by the district’s proposed language would be high school teachers who would be equalized with middle and grade school teachers with regards to prep time. (H.S. teachers currently have 83 min. prep time daily due to the block schedule. The move to a 7 period schedule will result in prep time of approx. 1 hour, exactly the prep time allowed for middle & grade school teachers now.)
Removes the requirement that the district consult with the GBEA before creating an annual calendar
Removes the requirement that the district receive input from staff, and reach consensus, before changing the structure of the work day at all levels
Allows the district to create positions with hours that are different than their regular building hours
The responsibility to set schedules, structure work days and determine hours of operation is reserved to the people through their elected representatives on the Board of Directors. It is inappropriate for employees of any organization to presume to dictate hours of operation, programs offered or set schedules for that organization. The Board insists on retaining those responsibilities to The People.
Allows for ALL counselors to be used as substitutes for up to 2-hours per day
This would only apply in an emergency situation and would be very rarely applied in practical reality. Example would be if a teacher takes ill or has a family emergency during the school day. Under district proposed language, the principle of that building would have the option of placing a counselor in that room for 2 hours (maximum) while arrangements are made for a substitute.
Refuses to address any of the GBEA’s concerns regarding violent and medically fragile students
The union, not the district, proposed language for placing disciplinary policy into the contract. The board insists that the setting of policy for the district is a responsibility reserved to The People through their elected representatives on the Board of Directors and that placement of policy in a labor contract is inappropriate. Violent, disruptive and medically fragile students are already dealt with in district policy and the Board stand ready to review those policies at all times as concerns or specific situations arise.
Propaganda has also been mailed by GBEA to parents in the district:
The District wants teachers to keep disruptive and violent students in the classrooms and form a committee run by an outside paid consultant to look into the issues instead of listening to the teachers who work with these students on a daily basis.
Let’s call this one what it is; a lie. Think about it. “The District WANTS teachers to keep disruptive and violent students in the classroom?” Right. They had a meeting and said, ‘what can we do to make learning more difficult? Hey! I know! Let’s flood the classrooms with violent students to disrupt things!” This is almost too silly for comment, were it not for the fact that the union is prepared to strike over this issue. (The Board has instructed the Superintendent to research the union’s concerns over violent students and to provide us with data revealing the scope of the problem. To accomplish this, the district is calling in their insurance provider (at no cost to the district) to collect the data.)
Bottom line: The teacher union is once again engaged in scare tactics, class warfare and outright falsehoods in attempting to advance its agenda. Woe be unto he or she who opposes the union agenda.