February 16, 2011

NYSSBA Needs a Reality Check

According to a press release sent out by the New York State School Boards Association yesterday, "An overwhelming majority of school board members believe their districts should ask local unions to re-open existing labor contracts to freeze wages or make health care concessions, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed."

The release goes on to state, "The poll found that, overall, 89 percent of 663 school board members responding to the online poll said their district should seek concessions from employees rather than lay off teachers and other staff. More specifically, 76 percent of school board members believe their district should request to re-open existing collective bargaining agreements in order to freeze employee wages. Another 72 percent said the district should request to re-open contracts to seek health insurance concessions."

For the record, I don't have a problem with teachers' salaries - they do a job that I could never do. In fact, there way too many people out there who say "I should have gone into teaching" that wouldn't last one day in the classroom. My problem is with the massive increase in the number of school district hires, especially locally, while enrollment has plummeted. Frankly, I'm sick and tired of administrators who continue to try to tie the number of kids in a classroom to performance.

Now, in addition to walking five miles uphill both ways to school, we had 30+ kids in a classroom. We learned our subjects and we learned social interaction. We learned to respect our teachers and the behavior that was expected of us in that setting. Were there kids who created problems? Of course there were - but those kids would have been problematic no matter how many kids were in the classroom. And somebody who doesn't have a vested interest in the issue please show me one study that supports the notion that less kids in a classroom equates to a better education. I'd venture a guess that NYSUT has hundreds of studies affirming that misguided theory in their Albany office.

It's ironic that the NYSSBA is weighing in on this issue. For years school boards across the state have been far too generous in their very liberal hiring processes. They have never been part of the solution, only part of the problem. Now, in apparently seeing the light, they are asking local school boards a poll question about whether the local school districts should open existing contracts or if they prefer layoffs to stem the massive explosion in the school district's personnel costs that have drawn the ire of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his proposed budget. Shockingly, the local school boards prefer to open existing contracts over layoffs.

The funny part (funny as in sickeningly pathetic vs. humorous) is the mere fact that the NYSSBA would conduct a poll that includes the far-fetched concept of layoffs. I know opening the contracts is a good idea to avoid layoffs; you know that opening up the contracts for renegotiation is a good idea. The NYSSBA, however, is simply delusional if they actually believe that local teachers' unions are going to agree to opening up existing contracts for renegotiation. The fact that they are even discussing it shows just how disconnected they are.

Private sector unions have shown an increased willingness to open up existing contracts for renegotiation because they've come to realize that if they don't, their jobs will be lost. Public sector unions have never shown the same willingness because nobody in the history of this state has actually had the balls to follow through on the threats of layoffs. Even Cuomo, while talking the talk, has yet to walk the walk. Paterson certainly didn't have the balls, and Pataki was so in bed with the unions that the greatest explosion of state workers happened under his watch.

If local teachers' unions are willing to open up existing contracts and are prepared to come to the table with concessions, we're all for it. But we live in a place called "reality". We know better. The unions would much rather allow their newest members to be sacrificed in order to ensure the security of the older ones - it's how it is and how it will always be. There's not a poll on the planet that's going to change that.

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