NJEA Quote of the DaySeptember 8, 2009
Quote of the DaySeptember 9, 2009
What’s the source of the disconnect between the inexorable rise in teacher salary increases and a grim economy? An editorial in the Asbury Park Press says that teacher unions and local school boards are blameless and the onus is on the State:
Even if school boards wanted to play hardball, their hands are tied by a collective bargaining process that renders them virtually powerless. When school boards and unions are deadlocked in contract talks and mediation fails — as it typically does if the union doesn’t get what it wants — it goes to fact-finding, where state-appointed neutral third parties review each sides’s arguments and issue recommendations. The problem is there is no statutory requirement for negotiators or fact-finders to take the rate of inflation into account. In practice, they look at two primary factors: the school district’s ability to pay and comparisons to what other districts have been getting
That’s true. When district and local union are at an impasse, they hire a succession of state-appointed mediators. Each one makes a recommendation for a compromise, based on local settlements. Each recommendation is non-binding, and if either side decides not to accept the recommendation then the next mediator is brought in, all the way to something called “Super Reconciliation.” (Sounds powerful, but it’s also non-binding. After that comes teacher strikes, though they’re illegal. The cost of all the mediation, by the way, is split between the union and the school board, which means that it’s borne by taxpayers.)
It’s an endless loop: from statutes written by union-beholden legislators that push recommendations based on local settlements, to contract settlements that are unaffected by economic reality. The Press suggests at the end of the piece
Clearly, the negotiating process is rigged in favor of the teachers. Nothing will change unless the rules governing fact-finding are amended to require that cost of living be a major determining factor in negotiated salaries. The Legislature also should put an end to the foolish waste of time and money of having nearly 500 individual school districts negotiate their contracts. Bargaining of most items should be handled at the county level.
Would that it were so simple to extract ourselves from the matrix! Rules governing fact-finding are subject to the loyalties of legislators; the 500 separate individual bargaining exercises – “foolish” hardly covers it – are unlikely to be modified due to contractual protections; county level bargaining is far more efficient, but unlikely given N.J.’s infatuation with local control.
Right now we’re stuck in a bargaining loop that remains independent of meaningful context.