Citizen Context for Negotiations
So this is the final month of severance pay from the editing job that I lost in the spring.
We’ve resources for approximately another six months — longer if my wife goes back to work. The local economy is such, however, that even if we were comfortable putting our children in daycare to allow for a full 40-hour workweek on her part, it is unlikely that she could make up the deficit. (Our investment in her education, you see, was to qualify her to teach. Lapses in both certifications and continuing education requirements have placed the necessary additional investments beyond our reach.) If it proves necessary, some mixture of daycare, waitressing on my wife’s part, and side work on my part could fill in the gaps, but then I’d have to loose the progress that I’ve made with writing for the second time in the space of a few years.
I offer this not to bemoan my circumstances, but to give a sense of the context in which I’ve been considering the following information from a Newport Daily News story about the Tiverton teachers’ preparation to strike:
The School Committee’s current proposal for salary and health care would decrease teachers overall salaries by 1.5 percent, according to union officials. The average loss in wages for a member on a family heath-care plan is $2,201 and the average loss in wages for a member on an individual plan is $1,315, according to union figures.
I haven’t seen any specifics from the various proposals (although I’d note for Mr. Crowley’s benefit that my email is linked beneath my name on the Contributors tab to the left), but I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption that the union is factoring at least its usual 3% step raise into its calculation of teacher “losses.” Taking the numbers as laid out in their most recent contract (PDF) and increasing them 3% as required by the one-year extension (PDF) that they accepted last year (all of which information Pat Crowley has helpfully provided on his Web site), the following table presents the amounts in question:
Readers should keep four things in mind when considering these numbers. First, these are not the whole story as far as cash remuneration is concerned. Advanced studies can add up to 6.53% to the salary. Teachers receive longevity bonuses from $200 for 10 years of service to $600 for thirty. Coaching or taking on advisory roles (whether of students or of fellow teachers) can add thousands of dollars to a salary. And other, professional development–type activities also yield additional money.
Second, these salaries are for a 7-hour 180-day work year, with school vacations and a full summer available for extra work, if desired. Add to that consideration the opportunity to accumulate a full year of sick days as well opportunities for partially paid sabbaticals and such.
Third, the health benefits cost teachers well below what most people in the private sector must pay. The copays (dental included) are $675 for an individual plan and $1,100 for a family plan — or $26 and $42 per biweekly paycheck. Any teachers who decline the dental coverage receive a $250 payment. Any teacher whose spouse also works for the Tiverton school district receives $1,000 stipend instead of a unique health plan.
Fourth, teachers go up a step each year, so the actual raise for any teacher not yet at step 10 is the step increase plus the 3% adjustment. With each step increase amounting to a 6–7% raise (10% from step 9 to step 10), the actual increase in earnings for teachers in their first decade with the district is around 10%.
Now reread the above paragraph from the Newport Daily News report. If I’m correct that the 1.5% “overall salary decrease” is calculated after the expected 3% step adjustment, then the union is complaining that the take-home pay of teachers who have no other adjustments to their compensation will only be increasing by 1.5% for those above step 10, only around 8.5% for teachers below step 10, and only 11.5% for teachers going from step 9 to step 10.
Forgive me if my heart doesn’t bleed for them as I contemplate 80-hour-plus workweeks, 51 weeks per year, just to get by.