Both the CFT and the Unit 4 BOE have released their version of the story in regards to the ongoing contract negotiations as they attempt to get past yet another bottleneck. For your reading pleasure, here are the official releases:
Unit 4 BOE – Summary: http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6297
Unit 4 BOE 39-page monster: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/09/26/Champaign_school_district_proposal.pdf
The first thing I noticed is what appears to be a glaring disparity between what the BOE said they offered (3%/year for 3 years) to the CFT in terms of Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) and what the CFT said the BOE offered (1.3%/year for 3 years). Am I blind? Did I miss something obvious? Was it a misunderstanding?
The parents are making their voice heard in support of the CFT and the teachers in general. It is starting to look like it is the administration and the BOE on one side, and the CFT, teachers and parents on the other side. This division concerns me greatly! Specifically, as someone who has put in an application for a board member and helped another to run for the Board, it pains me to see the BOE lined up across the line from the parents. At least, this is the perception I have of how this is shaking out.
Having said that, I do have other issues with the offer the CFT has made public. For instance, I personally am very much against vague “Step increases” – I do not believe people should receive “longevity rewards.” I MUCH RATHER pay more money to a REALLY GOOD teacher who has only been teaching for two years than a REALLY BAD teacher who has been teaching for 30 years. And therein lies the core issue – how do you know if a teacher is really good or really bad? How do you get rid of a bad teacher once that determination has been made? And under the current system, how in the world do you reward a really good teacher? We could listen to Michelle Rhee’s suggestions for how to grade teacher performance, that is one possibility. There are a few others out there that sound very similar (ie, peer grading, student/parent grading, etc). That could use some more discussion. But as it is now, I do not like “Step increases” at all!
Another issue with the CFT public proposal; while acknowledging the many good things in the Unit 4 financial landscape (and using that to say Unit 4 would have no problem affording the proposed salary increases), the CFT has not accounted for the problematic future of less federal/state funding and pension reform. Perhaps even more significant, the CFT has not publicly identified how exactly the budget can be shuffled in order to accommodate their requests. It is almost like robbing Peter to pay Mary, except that in this case, we all know Mary and we have no idea who Peter is. Would the CFT propose cutting…. High School band? Special Ed? What goes on the chopping block to make room for higher teacher salaries? Oh, you say administrator salaries…. now that would be an interesting discussion….. But herein lies yet another root issue – who really understands the budget? On September 23rd there was a so-called “public hearing” on the 2014 budget. I did not see any discourse; no questions, no outrage, no encouragement, no real explanation. Yes, a bunch of slides, but it painted a very high-level picture and I got lost while trying to wrap my head around it. The public cannot possibly hope to suggest, with confidence, that the budget can or cannot be shuffled one dollar in or out simply because we just do not understand it. How much does the CFT really understand it? And if they do, maybe they can provide some alternative budgets.
This is not to say that the Unit 4 BOE proposal is without fault. The 39-page detailed offer is a double-edged sword, as it is extremely thick and intimidating while at the same time, very thorough and comprehensive. It is a totally different read from the CFT proposal. I do like that they offer a bevy of explanations and rationale.
On the issue of teachers being limited to 20 minutes of non-instructional time, I felt that the Unit 4 BOE proposal was exceedingly over the top. $1.7 million for 22 so-called “aides” to help ensure a “safe and secure school environment” comes out to a whopping $79,800 per person!! Crikey! So, my take-away is that the district rather spend money on people who do police work rather than people who do education. Interesting….
CORRECTION: the $1.7 million is to be spread over three years, bringing the aide salary down to $26,600/year.
In regards to salary, the BOE is offering (they say) 3% raises for the next three years, totaling 9%. They estimate that this will cost $3.5 million. I do not really understand how this fits into the budget. We are told that times are tight, the future is uncertain, that the school districts needs a certain amount of money in reserve, etc. Where is the $3.5 million coming from? And why is the CFT painting a picture that the BOE is being stingy? I must have missed something.
Also, why is the CFT only wanting a one-year contract, and the BOE offering a three-year contract? Contract negotiation is painful and expensive – why would the CFT only want one year contracts? For that matter, do we really need them? I know, I am asking the stupid question here. But look, teachers are teaching and getting paid with no contract currently. What if we just didn’t have contracts?
In conclusion, I believe there are two core issues we all need to tackle:
- how to assess and reward or improve educators (including principals)
- how to understand the budget
These are two very big issues, and I fear that the BOE nor the CFT nor the expensive Mediators are going to help us progress on those topics at all. And thus, we are setting ourselves up for yet another repeat next Fall. Oh joy.
Times are changing. While there are many interesting aspects to the single-room schoolhouse of yesteryear (yestermillenium might be more accurate), we must adapt and change as does technology/pedagogy and most importantly, fight the unintended consequences of today’s corrosive norms (eg, “school to prison pipeline”, overly individualistic “American Dream” chasers, etc).