A Time Bomb

The clock is ticking. Right before break our union finally gave up trying to work out a better deal with the district. We are now moving into the fact-finding phase of the negotiations. This process involves both sides providing all of the evidence that supports our position. A three-person panel will then make a non-binding decision. That decision can be accepted or rejected by both the district and the union. If the district rejects the decision, it can impose its last best offer. Then we will have to decide if we want to strike. If the panel finds for the district, we will probably have to accept the offer – probably eliminating the power of the union to negotiate for years to come.

It is my feeling (and others that I have talked to), that the decision will either be for us or be so unclear that both sides will claim victory. In the end I think we will strike. This reality has increased my stress, anger, and indifference. It is hard for me to do long-term planning for next semester when there is a good chance some of the lessons will not be implemented. Additionally, the district decided to pass on health care costs to the teachers, so I am paying an extra $165.00 on top of the $400.00 I already pay.

A couple months ago I wrote a letter to the superintendent and president of the board after they visited my classroom. After seeing my December pay stub with the extra money deducted, I decided to write them again. Here is that letter, followed by the superintendent’s response.

December 16 e-mail

Dr. Ryan

Just so you know, you have successfully ruined my holiday season. I was counting on every penny in my December paycheck to make it through Christmas. That extra $163.00 that has been deducted this month so my family can go to the doctor, will force us to purchase fewer gifts for my 2 and 4 year old and makes the short trip to Big Bear we had planned impossible.

I wrote a letter to you weeks ago that you didn’t respond to, but this is not about the union leadership. You are attacking all of us. YOU personally make me want to leave this district and have gotten me to consider leaving teaching all together. I don’t know who you think you are leading, but the people who are actually doing the work of this district (THE TEACHERS), think your agenda is purely political and not about educating the students.

In a season that should be filled with holiday cheer, I will wonder how to make less money go further when prices have increased.

I challenge you to be fair to those who work for you.

I challenge you to respect the teachers who had dedicated their lives to students.

I challenge you to make a difference, not expand the differences between us.

As you enjoy your holiday season with your family, know in your heart that YOU are responsible for making others’ season more stressful and more difficult.

Merry Christmas from a teacher who will spend at least 20 hours of his vacation grading, lesson planning, and working in his classroom – doing the real work of education.

I received this response from the superintendent’s secretary last Friday:

Dear Mr. McDowell:

I appreciate your email dated December 16, 2005. I feel badly about increases in teacher health and welfare benefit cost. Other district unions have a contract in place and haven’t experienced that increase. I believe that the responsibility belongs with GEA leadership. GEA leadership continues to deny teachers the opportunity to vote on the ratification of a new contract. To continue to pay for teacher health and welfare increases would constitute an unfair labor practice under the collective bargaining laws of the State of California.

Hopefully, an independent fact-finding panel from the State of California will be able to help us resolve our differences. It seems GEA leadership will continue to deny teachers their right to decide their own future by not allowing teachers to vote. This is most unfortunate.

I wish you a wonderful new year. Let’s hope for labor peace and for the reestablishment of Grossmont teacher rights to exercise their democratic prerogative to vote and to determine their own future.

The problem with this letter is that it is misleading. First, the teachers (not the union leadership) have expressed disgust with the current offer (which is actually worse then previous offers). We haven’t voted because there is no reason to vote on an offer that is an insult to our profession. This is just part of the district’s plan to try paint the union as an elitist group that doesn’t actually represent the teachers. What the district doesn’t seem to get is that the union is not a few individuals, but all of the teachers.

Frustrating.

5 thoughts on “A Time Bomb”

  1. Dude, I feel for you. We (El Centro Elem teachers) got stuck with a $700,000.00 run out bill from SCEET. It seems we ended up being the last fish in that pond of an health insurance pool. Last year, each teacher, including those who NEVER were with the district when we had SCEET health insurance, has close to $5,000 deducted from our checks to pay the run out…..CTA and our local UNISERV leadership failed to help us. It really sucks.

    We are now hearing that our health insurance is going up at least another 20% starting next Oct.

    Good Luck to you with your mess there in Grossmont. Oh, house next door to me is up for sale…..about $300 grand for 4 bedroom, two bath, swimming pool, two car garage. Again, let me know IF you really think you might look at some other teaching possibilities.

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  2. Based on opinions here, it appears people think healthcare is free. It isn’t. And the cost won’t decline — ever!

    Why should taxpayers get the bill for the healthcare expenses of teachers employed by the state?

    That makes no more sense than expecting the taxpayers to buy your food as well.

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  3. In response to the above comment, the problem is that my district received a 3.5% cost of living increase last year, 5.5% this year, and probably another 5% next year. This is new money. Teachers are 40% of the budget, we argue we should get most, if not all of that cost of living adjustment. That includes health care. We are not asking the district to cut programs or create bigger classes, we are asking to be treated with respect and given our fair share.

    Plus, we have a public education system that allows every child to attend school. The state pays the teachers and their health care – which is essentially part of their salary. If the district did not have more money from the state to pay for health care, we would pay out of pocket.

    It is certainly not like teachers are overpaid considering their education level. It there is more money to be passed on to the people walking into classrooms everyday, it should be given without a fight.

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  4. I just started reading your blog – I’m a History teacher from Newburyport, MA.

    Love the new look on your blog. 🙂

    I feel your pain regarding the pay situation. We just settled our contract (we’ve been working without a contract since September). We only got a 2% raise. Plus, our health costs went up so there went that “raise”.

    To anonymous – Get your head out of your butt and realize that teachers are UNDERPAID to begin with!!!!!!

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