Union Reverse Tautology and Arbetrayal

The rhetorical dance of the East Providence teachers’ union is so flowing, it’s easy to miss the essential argument:

“The School Committee’s solution to their self-inflicted fiscal problem is to blame it on the teachers’ contract and to shift the entire burden of paying off that deficit to the teachers,” union representative Jeannette Woolley countered in her opening statements. She also said the district had opportunities to implement health-care cost sharing before with past contracts but the school board members at the time “dropped the ball.”
In addition, Woolley showed the teachers conceded scheduled raises three years ago when the district needed help, and the committee and school administration didn’t raise the issue of health-care cost sharing then, either.
“So the bottom line from our perspective is that this school district is not in its current condition as a result of what the School Committee likes to term an overly rich contract,” she said. “The facts suggest that the School Committee simply hasn’t taken care of business over the years in this school district.”

Got it? The School Committee didn’t negotiate tighter contracts over the years, leading to the currently unaffordable one, so that contract can hardly be said to be “overly rich.” The lessons for children are manifold: That overweight child could have forced himself away from the potato chips and the video game console at any time, so it can hardly be said that he ought to change his behavior now that he’s obese!
The worst part is that the tie-breaking “neutral” arbitrator apparently bought the argument, at least sufficiently that his panel issued a decision that the school committee clearly can’t accept — thus illustrating what a scam the arbitration process is in Rhode Island:

Mr. Ryan continues:
“The Union urges that comparability (to other district contracts), not ability to pay, should be the panel’s paramount consideration. The School Committee insists that it has no choice but to pay its FY08 debts and adhere to its budget for FY09. School department deficits are unlawful under R.I.G.L. §§ 16-2-9(d), (e), & (f); 16-2-21 (b) & (c); 16-2-21.4; 16-2-11 (c); and 16-2-1. These interlocking enactments prohibit school departments from incurring or maintaining a deficit or engaging in deficit spending.” …
Mr. Kinder commenting on his dissenting vote said: “The award is useless because the School Committee is prohibited by law from accepting it. The award is useless because the School Committee cannot meet the award’s costs in the first year of its 3-year term, let alone in the second or third years. Those are facts. Those facts were placed before the panel. The panel’s award ignores these facts and provides modest changes that, if adopted last year, might have served to avert this year’s financial crisis. But, last year, when the Teachers’ Union was asked to accept similar, modest changes in order to avert a $3.2 million deficit, the Union refused. In consequence, the School Department will end this year with a deficit of well over $8 million, if nothing is done.”

Will’s got the entire School Committee press release up on Ocean State Republican.

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13 years ago

So it‘s okay for the teacher union to make over reaching demands of the town and it’s school committee but only the school committee is at fault if they accept those terms. Hmm … does anyone out there believe that any school committee would ever have suggested an unaffordable contract in the first place or that they would have agreed to one if not for the union threat of job actions and public mudslinging? This is a dishonest line of reasoning pure and simple, something we have all come to expect from teacher unions.
And whoever this guy Ryan is, someone needs to make sure he isn’t allowed anywhere near a school arbitration hearing ever again. You have to excuse the schools attorney for willfully advocating breaking state law on behalf of his client, but Ryan has no excuse, he neglected his duty to the state and to the process.

George Elbow
George Elbow
13 years ago

“The Union urges that comparability (to other district contracts), not ability to pay, should be the panel’s paramount consideration”.
That statement says it all.
The morons in the Union have NO clue and too many School Committees fall in line with this fataly flawed way of “thinking”.
Ignore one’s ability to pay and just focus on keeping up with the Joneses! What a concept …and a recipe for disaster.
Kind of like taking on mortgage debt that one can’t afford to pay over the long run and then whining about the inevitable foreclosure. Sound familiar? Can you say “sub-prime” mess?
School Committees need to start taking a ruthlessly hard line on these contracts and our do-nothing General Assembly needs to quickly enact collective bargaining reform, including making RI a “Right to Work” state.

13 years ago

This school committee seems to be looking out for the students and taxpayers, unlike the school committees of the past in EP who were former teachers, secretaries, and the like. The conflict of interest is gone. This school committee wants fiscal accountablity in these contracts, like the ability to pay.
Ryan’s comments on ability to pay were certainly out in left field. When the city starts handing out rubber checks, then maybe he will get the idea that the city is bankrupt because of the conflicted school committee members.
This school committee is going to make sure there are fiscal impact statements for now on, and the city council is going to have a say in approval of these contracts.
The taxpayers has been beaten to a pulp and it is refreshing that the same old foolishness is going to end. I hope the taxpayers continue to support sane government at least at a local level. Maybe we will have hope in the future on a state level.

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