Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fred S. Teeboom: In Nashua, teachers are led blindly into a strike by poor leadership

The following article appeared in the Union Leader. Readers of this BLOG may want to read the whole series of articles and reader comments regarding the Nashua strike in the Union Leader. The point of this article is so readers who have not obtained a copy of the Croydon or Newport school contracts get an idea of what goes into school contracts. Contracts are pretty similar throughout the state and throughout the country. Croydon's will be significantly different because we have a one room school house but since we export our children to Newport it is important to read their contracts as well. You will find salaries vary throughout the state but that has to do with simple economics towns where the cost of living is higher and property values are higher you will see higher salaries as you would with any other profession. What readers should note is the benefits and the raises educators and school employees receive.

School boards across the state should be financially transparent with parents and voters and post all contracts and budgets on their school districts website.

Fred S. Teeboom: In Nashua, teachers are led blindly into a strike by poor leadership

Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2008

IT IS DIFFICULT to understand why teachers should just hand the decision to engage in an illegal strike to their union leadership at the risk of high fines and even their jobs.

Here in Nashua, a strike deadline has been set, although a membership-wide secret ballot vote was not called and salary information prepared by the city was not circulated to teachers' union members. Reasonable people should ask, strike over a 2.75 percent average retroactive raise for the 2006-2007 school year, long gone? What about the contract offered by the city for this year forward?

Here is what the city offered:

Annual raises reach up to 19 percent and up to $10,000. Three hundred forty-four of the 967 teachers (36 percent) will receive an annual increase of 10 percent or more the next (2008-2009) school year, and 195 teachers (20 percent) will see an annual increase of $5,000 or more. (To verify, use the calculator posted on the Nashua home page, and look up the salary and raises for a teacher with any degree currently on step 9).
The proposed contract offers a double-step increase from the "status quo" (2005-2006) school year to the current (2007-2008) school year, thus no steps and no "experience" and no salaries on the salary schedules are lost.
The city pays an average of $11,750 contribution per teacher per year this year (2007-2008) for health and dental insurance, to increase to $14,000 in the last year (2009-2010). According to an insurance report prepared for the city, Nashua pays 96 percent of the combined medical and drug costs for its employees; the employees pay 4 percent.
The city charges no deductibles for both health and dental insurance, even as medical insurance nationwide, to contain cost, is moving to out-of-pocket deductibles of thousands of dollars.
Paid sick leave can be accumulated up to 11 days per year, and up to 165 days total. A teacher is paid in cash up to 100 days of accumulated sick leave on retirement, added to pension benefits.
There are a total of 28 generous cost benefits in the teachers contract, such as longevity payments and paid personal days.
The central problem in the teachers contract is a salary structure not based on merit, and not based on need. Over 12 years (10 in the proposed contract), teachers stair-step from entry position to the top step in the step schedule, one step each year, frequently earning double-digit raises as they step upwards, more if they earn credits and degrees.

After they reach the top step, there are no additional steps to jump to, and the teachers now see increases only for the same step from one salary schedule to the next. Their percentile raises now drop from double digits to as low as 2.45 percent annually (see the calculator on the Nashua home page).

Three hundred fifty-four of the 967 teachers (37 percent) are "trapped" in the top step. In what other profession do you move from entry to the most senior position in 10 years, after which raises level off to below the rate of inflation? It is difficult to understand how teachers would tolerate such a salary system. No other union in our city has such an insane system.

The problem is not the city. It is a union membership not informed by its leadership of details and tolerant to be led by the nose. Teachers are trapped in a system of severe inequity that recognizes no merit, pays no stipends for teaching critical subjects, and pays no extra for positions difficult to fill such as math and science teachers.

Every three or four years when a new contract for the teachers comes up, there are complaints, job actions and threats of a strike. The resentment and dissatisfaction of teachers should be directed at a salary system unresponsive to merit and need and excellence, not at the city that has offered an exceedingly generous contract.

Fred S. Teeboom is a Nashua alderman-at-large.

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