Chariho School Parents’ Forum

December 5, 2008

EP stands firm

Filed under: contract negotiations — Editor @ 4:00 pm

From our friends on the EP School Committee (do you think we could do a member exchange program with them?)

 

PRESS RELEASE

DECEMBER 3, 2008

CONTACT: ANTHONY CARCIERI

EAST PROVIDENCE SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBER

 

 

ON NOVEMBER 22, 24 AND 25 HEARINGS RESUMED IN THE INTEREST ARBITRATION PROCEEDING BETWEEN THE EAST PROVIDENCE SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND THE EAST PROVIDENCE TEACHERS UNION, NEARI. INTEREST ARBITRATION WAS THE RESULT OF FAILED MEDIATION TO REACH A NEW AGREEMENT ON THE TEACHERS CONTRACT THAT EXPIRED OCTOBER 31ST.

 

INTEREST ARBITRATION REQUIRES THAT THE PANEL OF THREE ARBITRATORS CONSIDER THE “MERITS” OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE’S CONTRACT PROPOSALS AS COMPARED WITH THE ‘MERITS” OF THE UNION’S CONTRACT PROPOSALS. THE PANEL THEN WILL DECIDE WHAT THE TEACHERS’ LABOR CONTRACT SHOULD BE.  IT IS NOT BINDING ON ANY MATTER INVOLVING THE EXPENDITURE OF MONEY, HOWEVER. THE COMPETING PROPOSALS WILL BE CONSIDERED IN CONTEXT OF THE DIRE ECONOMIC STRAITS OF THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT.

 

THE FIRST INTEREST ARBITRATION SESSION, HELD ON NOVEMBER 8TH, MADE CLEAR THE FISCAL TSUNAMI OCCURING IN EAST PROVIDENCE. EXPENSES HAVE GONE UP WHILE REVENUE SOURCES HAVE DECLINED. AS A RESULT, THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT NOW CARRIES A DEBT OF APPROXIMATELY $4.7 MILLION, MOST OF IT INCURRED IN THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING 10/31/08.

 

STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE SOURCES FOR THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT WERE ILLUSTRATED OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS:

·         STATE REVENUE FOR THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT HAS STEADILY DECLINED OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS. GIVEN THE STATE’S OWN DEFICIT IT IS LIKELY THAT THERE WILL BE FURTHER REDUCTION IN STATE AID TO ALL CITIES AND TOWNS, EAST PROVIDENCE INCLUDED.

·         THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF LOCAL REVENUE LIES IN THE PROPERTY TAXES. RICHARD BROWN, CITY MANAGER FOR EAST PROVIDENCE, TESTIFIED THAT NEVER IN ALL OF HIS 30 PLUS YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN VARIOUS COMMUNITIES HAS HE SEEN SUCH ANGER OVER TAXES, AS HE HAS SEEN IN EAST PROVIDENCE.   IT IS HIGHLY UNUSUAL TO HEAR SUCH COMPELLING STATEMENTS FROM A CITY MANAGER. 

 

EAST PROVIDENCE RANKS AMONG THE STATE’S POOREST COMMUNITIES, WITH SOME OF ITS RICHEST TEACHERS.  THE TAXPAYERS CANNOT AFFORD THE EXISTING TEACHERS’ CONTRACT; MUCH LESS PAY THE ADDITIONAL $3.8 MILLION THE TEACHERS PROPOSE FOR A NEW CONTRACT.  

 

SINCE NOVEMBER 8TH, THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND THE UNION HAVE MET OVER THE COURSE OF THREE DAYS BEFORE A PANEL OF THREE ARBITRATORS. THE HEARINGS TOOK PLACE ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND, MONDAY NOVEMBER 24TH AND TUESDAY NOVEMBER 25TH.  THE FINAL SESSION WAS WRAPPED UP ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH. 

 

DURING TESTIMONY ON NOVEMBER 22ND, THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT PRESENTED DETAILED EXPENDITURES AND REVENUE ANALYSYS FOR THE NEW FISCAL YEAR 2009, WHICH BEGAN ON NOVEMBER 1ST.  THE PICTURE GETS BLEAKER. THE FINANCIAL CONDITION WAS DESCRIBED AS “THE BLACK HOLE.”  ABSENT SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS OF COSTS, THE DEPARTMENT FACES AN ADDITIONAL 2009 DEFICIT OF $4.1 MILLION.  COMBINED WITH THE CUMULATIVE DEFICIT THROUGH FISCAL YEAR 2008, EAST PROVIDENCE IS “IN THE HOLE” BY $8.8MILLION!  AND THAT ASSUMES NO PAY INCREASES FOR ANY SCHOOL EMPLOYEES.

 

PAYROLL AND BENEFITS COSTS ACCOUNT FOR MOST OF THE DISTRICT’S CURRENT EXPENDITURES.

 

THE CURRENT SCHOOL DEPARTMENT PERSONNEL PROFILE REVEALS THAT THE TEACHERS REPRESENT APPROXIMATELY 65% OF THE TOTAL EMPLOYEE POPULATION IN THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT. IT IS ESTABLISHED THEN THAT THE BULK OF PERSONNEL RELATED EXPENDITURES LIE WITHIN THE TEACHERS CONTRACT AND BREAKS-OUT AS FOLLOWS:

·         TEACHER SALARIES ACCOUNT FOR 79% OF THE TOTAL SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S SALARY BUDGET

·         TEACHER HEALTH INSURANCE ACCOUNTS FOR 60% OF THE TOTAL SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S HEALTH INSURANCE BUDGET

 

THE TEACHER PENSION CONTRIBUTION, A SIZEABLE PORTION OF EXPENDITURES RELATING TO THE COST OF TEACHERS, ACCOUNTS FOR 83% OF THE TOTAL SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S PENSION BUDGET.

                                                                                                                    

BUT THERE IS MORE! EXPENDITURES FOR CURRENT EMPLOYEES ALONE DO NOT CAUSE THE “BLACK HOLE’ TO GET DEEPER THE EXPIRED TEACHERS CONTRACT ALSO OBLIGES THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT TO RETIREE BENEFITS.

 

POST-RETIREMENT BENEFITS REPRESENT A HUGE COST OBLIGATION OF THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT AND OF THE CITY OF EAST PROVIDENCE. JUST FOR RETIRED TEACHERS, EAST PROVIDENCE HAS AN UNFUNDED LIABILITY OF $23 MILLION! SO, COMBINED WITH THE CITY’S LIABILITY, EAST PROVIDENCE FACES A $100 MILLION PLUS OUTSTANDING BILL FOR RETIREE HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS. IT IS CRUCIAL THAT A NEW CONTRACT INCLUDE CONCESSIONS ON POST RETIREMENT BENEFITS.

 

ROBERTA BRADY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE TEACHERS UNION AND CURRENT MEMBER OF THEIR NEGOTIATING TEAM, WAS PRESENT DURING THE HEARING WHEN THE COSTS OF RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS WERE DISCUSSED. BRADY IS AWARE OF THE LACK OF REVENUE TO COVER THE UNFUNDED LIABILITY FOR RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS. IN SPITE OF THIS, SHE DEFENDED THE CONTRACT LANGUAGE THAT SHE BELIEVES OBLIGES THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT TO CONTINUE TO PROVIDE WHAT HAS SHOWN TO BE, UNAFFORDABLE AND CERTAINLY UNSUSTAINABLE, RETIREE BENEFITS.

 

BRADY TESTIFIED DURING THE NOVEMBER 24TH SESSION THAT THE “INTENT (OF THE CONTRACT LANGUAGE) IS THAT RETIREES RETAIN WHATEVER HEALTH AND DENTAL IS IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF RETIREMENT. I BELIEVED THAT (YOU) GO OUT WITH THE COVERAGE WHEN YOU LEAVE BECAUSE THAT IS THE WAY IT IS.. THE HEALTH PLAN CANNOT BE AMENDED AT A FUTURE DATE.” SHE WENT ON TO SAY “THAT’S WHAT IT WILL BE, WHAT IT SHOULD BE AND THAT’S WHAT IT IS.”

 

COMMON SENSE MUST PREVAIL! THERE IS NO WHERE TO TURN BUT TO THE LARGEST UNION IN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT – THE TEACHERS UNION – FOR SIGNIFICANT CONCESSIONS THAT ARE NECESSARY TO OVERCOME THE GROWING DEFICIT.  STATE LAW PROHIBITS THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT FROM DEFICIT SPENDING.

 

THE 2009 DEFICIT GROWS WITH EACH DAY THAT THE TEACHERS UNION FAILS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE IN ORDER TO PARTNER WITH EAST PROVIDENCE TAXPAYERS TO OVERCOME A COMMUNITY-WIDE CRISIS.

 

OTHER UNIONS IN THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT HAVE STEPPED UP TO THE PLATE. THEY HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO THEIR EMPLOYER AND THEIR COMMUNITY BY MAKING FINANCIAL CONCESSIONS THAT HAVE RESULTED IN COMBINED POTENTIAL SAVINGS OF OVER $700 THOUSAND DOLLARS. THIS FROM THE TEACHER ASSISTANT’S UNION AND THE CUSTODIAN/MAINTENANCE UNION.

 

IT IS OF INTEREST THAT THE CUSTODIAN/MAINTENANCE UNION HAS COME FORWARD RECENTLY WITH A PROPOSAL FOR ADDITIONAL CONCESSIONS OVER WHAT THEY MADE ONLY LAST YEAR.

 

MANY CUSTODIANS EARN AROUND $40 THOUSAND PER YEAR, SOME LESS AND THEY HAVE STEPPED FORWARD.  TEACHERS AVERAGE DOUBLE THAT FOR THEIR 181 DAY WORK YEAR.

 

TOGETHER THE CUSTODIANS AND ASSISTANTS’ UNIONS ACCOUNT FOR JUST 13% OF THE TOTAL SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S SALARY BUDGET!

 

YET, THEIR COMBINED UNION CONCESSIONS REPRESENT:

·        16.9% SAVINGS OF THE TOTAL COST OF THE TEACHING ASSISTANTS AND CUSTODIANS SALARY AND BENEFITS

 

IF THE TEACHERS UNION, WHOSE SALARIES REPRESENT 79% OF THE TOTAL SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S SALARY BUDGET WERE TO OFFER THE SAME 16.9% OF THEIR TOTAL SALARY AND BENEFITS COST THEN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT WOULD REALIZE $6.5 MILLION!  THAT WOULD COVER THE DEFICIT FOR THIS YEAR, AND PAY OFF ABOUT HALF OF THE SCHOOLS’ DEBTS.  THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE’S PROPOSAL DOES NOT ASK FOR THAT MUCH FROM THE TEACHERS, THOUGH.

 

LONNIE BARHAM, HR DIRECTOR FOR THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT TESTIFIED THAT FURTHER CONCESSIONS FROM THE CUSTODIANS COULD BE REALIZED, HOWEVER IT MAY BE “CONTINGENT ON WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE. (REFERRING TO THE INTEREST ARBITRATION). ALL OF THE UNIONS LOOK TO THE TEACHERS UNION, THEY DON’T WANT TO BE THE FIRST ONES TO INCREASE WHAT THEY ARE GIVING UP. THEY LOOK TO THE LARGEST UNION TO MAKE THE STEP.”

 

YET, DURING THE HEARING ON NOVEMBER 24TH, JEANETTE WOOLEY, IN HER OPENING REMARKS FOR THE TEACHERS UNION, SAID THAT THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S DEFICIT IS A “SELF-INFLICTED PROBLEM. TO BLAME IT ON THE TEACHERS CONTRACT AND SHIFT THE ENTIRE BURDEN OF THE DEFICIT IS UNREASONABLE, UNSOUND AND UNFAIR.”

 

THIS COMMENT WAS MADE IN STARK CONTRAST TO PRIOR TESTIMONY PROVIDING EVIDENCE THAT OTHER UNIONS IN THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT AND THE CITY HAVE MADE CONCESSIONS, AND HAVE BEEN PAYING TOWARD THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS FOR YEARS.

 

DETAILED DOCUMENTS PRESENTED DURING THE ARBITRATION HEARINGS ALL PROVIDED CLEAR ILLUSTRATIONS OF:

·        WHERE THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS EXPENSES LIE,

·        WHERE THE REVENUE LIMITATIONS ARE,

·        WHERE THE DISTRICT IS BOUND BY LAW TO BARGAIN ITS WAY OUT OF THE DEFICIT; AND

·        WHERE THE MANAGERIAL RIGHTS OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND SUPERINTENDENT ARE CONFERRED BY LAW.

 

REGARDLESS OF THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF THE EVIDENCE AND TESTIMONY, THE UNION DEFENDED ITS PROPOSALS. ITS PROPOSALS DO NOT RESULT IN NET SAVINGS TO THE DISTRICT BUT IN FACT REPRESENT INCREASED COSTS OF $3.8 MILLION DOLLARS OVER A THREE YEAR PERIOD. THE UNION PROPOSAL MAINTAINS THE INDUSTRIAL MODEL OF BARGAINING AND FAILS TO PROVIDE SYSTEMIC CHANGES NECESSARY TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION AND STUDENT LEARNING.

 

TO THE OBSERVER, IT APPEARED THAT ALL OF THE EVIDENCE OF A CRUMBLING SCHOOL SYSTEM SUBMITTED DURING THE MULTIPLE HEARINGS WAS IGNORED BY THE TEACHERS UNION.

 

THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE WILL PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL PRESS RELEASE DETAILING THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’S PROPOSAL.  

Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. The constrast between East Providence School Committee and ours is stark and dramatic. Of course, in East Providence the people have reached the end of their rope. Here in Chariho the majority of people are more than willing to fund a failing school system. Our School Committee is a reflection of our inability to elect responsible leadership.

    Comment by Curious Resident — December 5, 2008 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  2. CR is quite correct, seems not a lot of people want the job, so I researched on the RI Sec of State site. The last time I could find a contested SC election (more people on the ballot than seats to be won) was in Richmond in 2004 (3 for 2 seats). That’s pretty bad.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — December 6, 2008 @ 1:40 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: