Siren songs and economic reality

The chorus was the same for virtually everyone who spoke at
the Sept. 20 Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meeting. The teachers in the
district are wonderful; they’re all the most professional and dedicated there
are. Even those opposing the teachers’ association for a major raise praise
them.

But let’s put things into perspective, without the hype or
siren song that the teachers walk on water and therefore deserve all the union
is asking. Let’s also disregard the claims of bad faith negotiation. That, too,
is labor negotiation hyperbole.

Teachers in the district are good teachers, but they’re not
all great. As in any organization, some are better than others. Some are
outstanding while others should be culled from the herd. Yet, for the most
part, they are dedicated professionals who care about their students as well as
their own families.

Were that not the case, residents would charge into school
board meetings with torches and pitchforks and PTO moms would storm into a
school as if it were the Bastille.

Teachers are working under a status quo agreement, the
conditions of the contract that expired in June. The union— the
Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association— is asking for an increase of more
than 4.7 percent for each year of a four-year contract. The board is offering
an increase that averages 1.85 percent each year.

District teachers already make a decent salary. Beginning
teachers earn more than $47,000 and the top paid teachers get more than
$100,000. The average pay is more than $70,000. And they are working in a
district that is free of the hazards found in major city districts. There’s no
need for police in the hallways around here. And here they have all the help
and commitment they would need from parents.

Is 1.85 percent increase a great offer? No. It would be an
incredibly weak offer under good times, but it’s a good offer under current
circumstances. It’s not a reflection of performance, but one of economic
realities.

In the wake of layoffs in the private sector, it’s difficult
to get taxpayers to empathize with unionized government employees who
continually want more. People are losing jobs, benefits and their own raises.

Negotiations are ongoing and we don’t know what, if any,
wiggle room there is for compromise on either side. If there is that room for
compromise, we urge the two sides to get their act together soon.

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