Would You Hurt Our Children Just To Win Better Contract Terms?

If you ever wanted some clear examples of how far the NEA teachers’ union (with at least the implicit support of their bureaucratic allies in public education) will go to win desired contract terms, read this posting and learn about three inexcusable actions in my home town of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Let’s begin with some background information: To increase the pressure to settle the union contract on their terms, teachers in town – following the direction of their union – are doing what is called “work-to-rule” or contract compliance. What that means in practical terms is that they do the bare minimum to comply legally with terms of the old contract. The bottom line: While teachers are making the same salaries and benefits as last year, they are not doing the same work they did last year. And that hurts our children.
More specifically, “work-to-rule” has led to no before-school or after-school tutoring help for students and the elimination of extra-curricular activities like field trips.
Or so we all thought – at least until some reliable sources shared the following three stories with me:
First, some teachers showed up last Friday to enjoy the light-hearted social setting of the junior/senior prom. But, at the same time, teachers have refused to tutor students in need of academic help.
Second, some teachers who refuse to tutor our children before or after school are currently charging money from parents to tutor children outside of school – i.e., they are getting paid extra money this year to do what has been a part of their regular job description in past years. (Anyone want to bet whether they are reporting this income on their 1040?)
Third, teachers took grade 6 students in the CPT (gifted students) program on an overnight field trip to the Nature’s Classroom in northwestern Connecticut but they refused to take other non-CPT grade 6 students on the annual day trip to Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty. [See Addendum II below for further information.] This is outrageous behavior.
But it doesn’t stop there.
At the same time, the NEA teachers’ union continues to demand that all teachers receive retroactive pay for the entire last school year. In other words, they want to be made whole financially – even while their actions make it impossible for our children to be made whole in their educational experience.
I sure hope the School Committee doesn’t “go wobbly” and cave into the demand for retroactive pay. Such a development would endorse this unfair, discriminatory, and inexcusable treatment of our children.
I also hope the media will report on these stories to ensure East Greenwich school and town officials investigate them and provide residents with the public forum in which to express their outrage.
Would you hurt our children just to win better contract terms? Some people would. And that makes them neither friends nor people to be trusted.
ADDENDUM I:
Kim Petti, a Town Council member, responded with these words to an email containing a link to this posting:

I would like to demand Mr. Jolin and these teachers at the 6th grade and any other teachers who selectively shun their duties appear before the town council for an explanation to the tax payers of our town. Furthermore, the children that are hurt by one-sided contracts are the children that now pay taxes. I hope this legacy is not passed on to the next generation. It is our duty to stop our workers from telling the employer what they will do and when. Thank you.

Well said and thank you.
ADDENDUM II:
Sometimes even reliable sources are not entirely accurate. Here is an update on the CPT event from a parent whose child was involved:

…Nature’s Classroom took place at Camp Fuller which is located in Wakefield, not the location in Connecticut. Students were bused to this facility on Monday morning May 8 and returned Friday afternoon May 13. In past years Linda Cram, the CPT teacher, spent the entire week (day and night) with the students serving as liaison for the program, and as a supervisor and chaperone for the East Greenwich students. Parent volunteers rotate shifts and provide additional supervision. At least two parents spend the night each night.
During the initial planning stages earlier in the school year, Mrs. Cram made it clear that without a teacher contract she would be unable to spend the night with the children and would only be able to be present during her normal working hours as called for under the current contract situation. Without a representative from the District in attendance 24 hours a day, the children could not attend this program.
…As it got closer it became clear that [a contract settlement] would not happen. In the end the program was salvaged by administration. Charlie Meyers, the principal at Eldridge, and Joan Sousa, the principal at Hanaford, came to Nature’s Classroom at the end of their day as administrators of their respective schools and took over responsibility for the over 30 students in the program. Mrs. Cram left at the end of each day as she would had she been teaching from her classroom at Hanaford.
Frankly I am unsure of the internal workings which transpired that allowed this to happen, but instead I can only sing the praises of Mr. Meyers and Mrs. Sousa who took on additional work and responsibility so that the program could go forward. They did double duty that week, away from their families, so that our children didn’t suffer yet another lost opportunity…

Thank you for the clarification and kudos to Mrs. Sousa and Mr. Meyers for doing the right thing for our children.
Nothing of this new information changes the bottom line: The teachers are making the same salaries and benefits they did last year but they are not doing the same amount of work as last year. They are acting like hourly paid union laborers and not professionals – but they demand to be treated like professionals. They have to decide whether they are unionists or professionals.
Nothing drives this contradiction home more than hearing that the annual day trip to Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty did not occur. Guess they could not fit it into their 6 hour work day.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
In a nutshell, here is what I think the negotiating position of the East Greenwich School Committee should be on some of the key financial terms of the contract.
East Greenwich NEA teachers’ union contract negotiations – go here, here, here, and here.
Other Rhode Island public education issues – go here, here, here, and here.
Broader public education issues – go here, here, and here.

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K in RI
K in RI
16 years ago

I am new to East Greenwich, but am closely watching this issue as, in my opinion, the NEA union is out-of-control and reality. I already pay enough taxes, any increase because they “need” a better contract is not acceptable…they do just fine as it is. And please, they should be contributing to a portion of their healthcare like the rest of us.

Ken Adams
16 years ago

It sounds to me like the union is not acting in good faith. Fire the lot of ’em!

Israel Silverman
Israel Silverman
16 years ago

I’m no fan of unions, and particularly not teachers’ unions. I regard merit as the sole appropriate basis for determining teacher compensation.
Yet…what is it with this site? I see constant attacks on teachers’ unions and ridiculous practices (such as a union not selecting a “Teacher of the Year” just so as not to encourage the concept of merit), which I generally agree with, but this time this has gone too far.
What is wrong with a union adopting a policy of only doing what is required under a contract? Do you support free markets, or not? Why should teachers keep doing things they don’t have to?
Reminds me of someo know who’s a lifelong Republican, but when he got sick, he was there asking for handouts just like a typical welfare mom.
One must always walk the walk of the talk.

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
16 years ago

Israel: I don’t understand your comment about free markets and teachers’ union contracts. There is no connection because there are no free markets in public education. Teachers’ union contracts are a horrible mixture of bad financial terms and even worse management rights issues foisted upon communities as a government-mandated monopoly with no accountability/consequences for bad performance. The contract severely hampers the ability to run an effective educational program. Some of my other postings document how it amounts to nothing less than legalized extortion of communities. To reinforce the point that there is no free market in public education: Communities have no ability to privatize their schools, to pursue other free market alternatives when faced with outrageous contractual demands or lousy educational performance. Parents have no ability to control which schools their kids go to – unless they have the economic wherewithal to buy a private school education. And that lack of a free market means communities and parents are subject to what is essentially the blackmail of doing the bare minimum under “work-to-rule.” “Work-to-rule” means things like only entering the school building after the first bell rings and leaving immediately after the teacher’s last class is done. It means refusing to staying around to help students who have questions. It means taking weeks to get papers back to students. In some cases, it means declining to comment on papers or grades. In some towns, it has meant refusing to fill out college recommendation forms. It has meant cancelling field trips and other extra curricular activities. This is not behavior by professional employees. It is not behavior by people who care about their “customers,” our kids. The rest of us who truly are professionals would be fired for doing what the teachers have done, contract or no. This is not about… Read more »

Anchor Rising
16 years ago

The Open Question: Are We/They Doing Right By Our Children?

In response to this posting which I emailed to town and school officials, East Greenwich School Superintendent Michael Jolin responds in this ProJo article: While the town’s teachers are “working to rule” because they lack a contract, some continue pri…

ellen
ellen
16 years ago

Teachers unions are not part of the problem…parents who don’t send their kids to school prepared to learn are…You don’t understand…merit pay will not make me teach any better…I already put 150% into my job because I know I don’t have to worry about job security. But with high absentee rates and students who don’t even bother to bring a pencil to school, merit pay will go to to high socio-economic districts. If you want to institute merit pay, fine. I’ll still stay at my job but will have to budget more carefully and will have little to retire on..all because I teach children who can barely speak English..we have excellent teachers at our school but little parent involvement and a massive absentee problem
It is a myth that competition and fear breed success. They only breed anxiety..I give far more to my public school teaching job than I ever did to my private sector work…what is happening is that worker is turning on worker instead of supporting each other…have you ever thought that other workers deserve and should get what teachers get? That CEO’s and management are not paying workers what their labor is worth and are running off with all of the profits?
A decent quality life is a right for all who labor. If you don’t have it, why don’t you form a union in your workplace?

Jen
Jen
16 years ago

Maybe the teachers should look at the example they are setting. Children are seeing their role models say me me I want more, acting like brats. How many companies can’t give a yearly raise due to the economy, the employee has no choice and must deal or possibly loss their job because the money IS NOT THERE! However the teachers are the ‘golden children’ of the economy making demands left and right with no regard that maybe some people are struggling and cannot afford an increase in taxes. It seems the teachers have been given too much already, what are you doing for us? We are the taxpayers and we are fed up with all the red tape that makes it difficult to get special services for our children. We are tired of all the much needed renovations being pushed aside so we can indulge our the staff with ridiculous pay raises. Not everyone in East Greenwich is rich. Maybe the teacher’s know they have parents by the jugular because it’s our most precious resource that’s being bargained with … our children. Shame , shame on you all! How many people get paid $67,000 for working 180 days for 6 hour days that sum equates to $62 an hour and still complain. The majority (>60%)of the East Greenwich teachers are at top step.
Maybe you should get a job in the REAL WORLD and see how hard it really is!

Jen
Jen
16 years ago

Maybe the teachers should look at the example they are setting. Children are seeing their role models say me me I want more, acting like brats. How many companies can’t give a yearly raise due to the economy, the employee has no choice and must deal or possibly loss their job because the money IS NOT THERE! However the teachers are the ‘golden children’ of the economy making demands left and right with no regard that maybe some people are struggling and cannot afford an increase in taxes. It seems the teachers have been given too much already, what are you doing for us? We are the taxpayers and we are fed up with all the red tape that makes it difficult to get special services for our children. We are tired of all the much needed renovations being pushed aside so we can indulge our the staff with ridiculous pay raises. Not everyone in East Greenwich is rich. Maybe the teacher’s know they have parents by the jugular because it’s our most precious resource that’s being bargained with … our children. Shame , shame on you all! How many people get paid $67,000 for working 180 days for 6 hour days that sum equates to $62 an hour and still complain. The majority (>60%)of the East Greenwich teachers are at top step.
Maybe you should get a job in the REAL WORLD and see how hard it really is!

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