EDITORIAL

Could a teachers' contract be that far away?

Posted

In a quick vote that went undetected by those not attuned to School Committee procedures, the committee approved Tuesday night what could be a path to a teachers contract.

The 4 to 1 vote was to accept the proposal offering teachers 3 percent wage increases for the next three years as mediated by Vincent Ragosta and Mayor Scott Avedisian. The 3 percent offer is no different than what the committee put on the table about a year ago, which raises the question why would the union accept the terms this times if they didn’t do so last time?

A lot has happened between then and now.

In brief, two processes have been ongoing – arbitration and mediation.

Interest arbitration, where the sides define the issues and an arbitrator hears arguments from both sides, has been completed. The arbitrator is reportedly prepared to render his positions on those issues that the parties have not been able to agree upon.

At the same time, the committee and union have been engaged in mediation. That has not been a smooth process. After the committee stepped away from mediation, Avedisian intervened, asking that he join the talks. He did that around the first of the year and has been engaged in the process ever since, in fact, he has assumed Ragosta’s role as facilitator when Ragosta could not be present.

According to a release issued by the committee, in addition to the salary package, expected to cost $2.4 million in the first year, other issues mediated to compromise include evaluations, after school meetings, the filling of coaching positions by seniority, report card grading systems, sick days, common planning time, staff reductions, and class size.

Time has also played a role in this process. The prolonged unsettlement has cast a pall over Warwick schools, inhibiting cooperation between teachers and administrators and affecting what is happening in the classroom and the students. It has made for a black eye that neither schools nor the city deserve.

We’re ready for this to be resolved.

But while the committee’s vote, especially seeing it was based on a proposal largely molded by Ragosta and the mayor, sparked hopes that finally this chapter can be closed, the union is not prepared to agree.

The stumbling block, according to sources, is the absence of retro-active pay increases for the two years the teachers have been without a contract. Publicly, the union is saying “language that governs class size and the assignment of special education teachers to classes with students who need extra support,” is the hang up. There is no mention of retroactive pay increases.

It’s difficult to weigh in on what is a fair resolution without knowing the facts or the impact of the parties’ different positions. For instance, if the union is looking for retroactive pay increases of 3 percent for the last two years, by our rough calculations the first year of a contract would cost taxpayers an additional $7 million. Likewise, what is the projected impact of language changes espoused by the union?

We urge the parties to self-impose a deadline and return to mediation. And if that fails, then they should be prepared to accept the terms of interest arbitration.

Comments

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davebarry109

Please tell me why the teachers get a 3% raise each year for three years? That means taxes have to go up. They are already some of the highest paid in the country. 9% in 3 years? Why? Inflation has been flat for years. What is magical about 3% per year? Could there ever be a 1% or 2% raise? Unbelievable. They aren't even producing.

Friday, July 14
richardcorrente

Dear Davebarry109,

I won't debate with you the amount the teachers should increase or decrease their income but in regards to your comment "That means taxes have to go up." Not so Davebarry109. We taxpayers have been giving the Warwick School Committee about $160,000,000 a year for ten years straight, and with the number of teachers (and students) decreasing as rapidly as they are we should be able to give HUGE raises without a tax increase and have plenty of money left over to give HUGE tax rebates to the taxpayers that keep getting overcharged. We laid off over a hundred teachers in the last year (or so) alone. Simple math suggests that the fewer people who get paid out of the $160,000,000 the more there is PER PERSON.

BUT - Here's the problem. The money doesn't go to the teachers! It goes to the School Committee whose staff keeps growing while the number of teachers keeps decreasing. What we NEED is an audit! Find out where the hell the taxpayers money is going, and we can solve the whole teacher/School Committee/taxpayer thing in a week!

Happy Summer Davebarry109,

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, July 14
richardcorrente

Dear Davebarry109,

You also said our teachers are "some of the highest paid in the country". I don't see that. I didn't get stats on Warwick vs. other towns/cities in R.I. but here is how the average Rhode Island teachers salaries compare to nearby states according to MSN:

New Hampshire - $56,390

Vermont - $56,940

Rhode Island - $66,160

New Jersey - $68,810

Massachusetts - $74,470

Connecticut - $76,740

New York - $77,330

We all realize that "salary" is only part of the equation, but it seems R.I. is somewhere in the middle, agree?

You also said "Inflation has been flat for years" True, but haven't taxes gone up in Warwick for the last eighteen years in a row?!? Can we agree that it shouldn't have with inflation being, as you say, "flat"? Case in point: Look up your Warwick house on Zillow for the year 2009. Notice that the value plummeted by about 30% . Now check the tax assessment for the same year. It shot up, didn't it. Probably about 30%. So much for the "inflation" argument.

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, July 14