Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 12, 2008

Transparency in contract negotiations (cont.)

Filed under: contract negotiations,executive sessions,transparency — Editor @ 10:25 pm

I was emailed recently asking about my motion to release the ESP contract before it was ratified.  The motion was made at the November 27th meeting in exec session (you will also notice more discussion of this blog which was somehow listed as “litigation” – but I digress). 

Some of the minor chit chat centered on why it would be ok to release the information.  The majority of the Committee didn’t want to release it because, essentially, they promised the union that they wouldn’t.  But they also acknowledged that the NEA had broken that agreement.  Plus, everyone now knows that there is no law requiring closed meetings for negotiations.  It is an agreement made between the Union and the Committee.  So you have to ask yourself, why would they make that agreement and why would they honor it when they acknowledged that the union had already broken it.  

I have admitted that when we started I thought it was law, but as soon as I learned it was not, I would not support it (we voted for it at each meeting – it could have been changed at any time).  So why would they still want to hide it even after they learned its not necessary?

Governor Caricieri made a similar proposal recently and placed it as an Article in the budget. 

“The debate yesterday largely centered on Carcieri’s push to shed light on the collective bargaining process, which is generally conducted behind closed doors between union representatives and municipal or school department leaders.”

“This budget article will improve transparency of budget decisions in local cities and towns, while giving people a voice in the decision-making process by requiring a public hearing,” the governor’s spokesman, Jeff Neal, said. “If approved, it would enable the citizens of local communities to express their support for, concerns about or opposition to collective bargaining contracts being agreed to by municipalities.”

Of course, the unions have the expected response:

“I’m halfway decent at reading tea leaves and I’m pretty clear that this budget article is about putting pressure on public officials not to give decent, in my view, pay raises and benefits to public sector workers,” said James Parisi, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. “It’s built on a couple false assumptions — that the employer doesn’t know what they’re doing and they’re getting hoodwinked by unions…. Public perception and the chatter out there aside, it’s just not true and you need to know it’s not true.”

Did I mention that the last teacher’s union contract at Chariho had average step raises of 10.3% and the latest support personnel contract step raises average 9.5%?   Do you get double digit raises just for making it from one year to the next (besides, we all know how you can’t hardly fire an incompetent public employee)?

But maybe the unions are right.  Maybe the school committees do know what they are doing.  Maybe they intended on treating the public sector employees with double digit raises and gold-plated benefits. 

This is a very simple issue – transparency.  We are spending your money.  You should have a say in the process.  Ask your Chariho representative why they voted to keep the information from you.  Don’t buy the “we made a promise” line – ask them why they made the promise in the first place and then ask them to promise to represent you next time.

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2 Comments »

  1. Even better than transparency would be a mandate prior to starting negotiations, especially if (as I expect) a traditional negotiation would be really contentious.

    Why not have open discussion of different approaches to the main teacher contract in the school committee meetings over the course of the year or so preceeding the actual negotiations. Folks who think the current structure is okay, but just want the monetary numbers reduced a little could have their say, and those who think some fundamental change must occur in how the teacher/administration relationship and power sharing occurs could put some ideas on the table.

    Comment by david — March 16, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  2. The State of Rhode Island is in the State of Financial Melt down. Much of the country as we know may be under and more than maybe, is.

    As taxes are paid, we as those folks taxed want results or accountability which to the fault of those of us being taxed in the past (for way to long) could afford to let it slide as we could afford it. Now that the noose has strangled not only personal expenses the runaway budgets of schools roughly 80% and municipalities that make up the rest of those tax dollars we want accountability.

    Enter an educated man like Bill Felkner who is a breathe of fresh air, asks for what so many of us want regarding openess, accountability, etc yet
    puts himself out there for ridicule by the same people who for some reason are threatened by what they themselves would embrace if they didn’t sit in ‘their seats of power’ yet demand the same in their state senators and representatives and higher elected officials.

    Be greatful for this shining star (Bill Felkner) and what he is trying to do for all of us tri town voters. Much of what he requests is also noted in Providence Journal Letter to the editors from various Towns in Rhode Island. Needless to say Bill isn’t alone.

    He does have a website, Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) and you can find out who or what the real Felkner is about. Not what the un educated or fear mongering are about. Click on some of the shows he’s been on and decide for yourself and report back on your critiques of who he is and what he’s about.

    Politics move us or discourage us as people. I would venture to guess Bill Felkner would not consider himself a politician. Political Science maybe, then again check out the website mentioned above. He may correct and hammer me for that statement, I don’t know. My thought is he is genuine. From my readings of this blog which is meeting place for the exchange of ideas and opinions and hopefully backed up by some level of research.

    Another site trying to carve out its niche is Operation Clean Government.
    A show that airs Sunday morning on RI 13 on Cox Cable is State of the State and has aired the last few shows regarding the budget crisis and where RI is. If you log into State of the State you will get a more in depth view of what is going on in the State. Trillo Talks (Representative Joseph Trillo, (R) Warwick usually has a show on Sunday morning, following State of the State. If you log into http://www.operationcleangovernment it may get you to the most recent shows.

    In closing, I don’t know the complete make up of the Town Council and School Committee in Hopkinton but greatly appreciate the unity vote from the rejection by the Hopkinton representatives on the school committee based on the needs/necessities requested by the council regarding the budget. Its been long known (30 years about the disparities among the Towns) yet there has been no fortitude to break away though much grand standing.

    I hope the school committee realizes that there will be a reduction in state aid next year from what has been noted on many fronts (and representatives and senators could speak to if they were ever contacted) when they/CSC decided to my understanding add money to this budget. Reckless?
    You get to vote in November 2008.

    Stay well and keep the home fires burning?

    Thanks for participating in this great forum that William Felkner has afforded all of tri town voters.

    Comment by James Hirst — March 18, 2008 @ 8:19 pm | Reply


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