Patrick Laverty: Rewriting the Teachers’ Contract

First, let me say, as a Cumberland resident and taxpayer, that I greatly respect teachers and the job that they do shaping the minds of our children. I like the profession; I do not hate teachers, nor do I have anything personally against them. This is not intended as an attack.
Having taken the time to review the entire current Cumberland teachers’ contract, and understanding that it expires this coming August, I want to give my suggestions for changes and improvements to the existing contract to the Cumberland School Committee to bring to the negotiating table. What follows is an abridged version. The background and full version are available here.

  1. Make all negotiations public. The taxpayers are paying the bill, so let the taxpayers see the full negotiations. What’s to hide?
  2. Eliminate salary, steps, and insurance from the contract. Let the teachers’ union be their employer. Simply give the money to the union and let them decide on salaries, raises, and negotiate the insurance coverage. Treat the union like a subcontractor. If this is not possible for some reason in negotiations:
  3. Remove the specification of health and dental insurance providers from the contract. Remove the names “Blue Cross” and “Delta Dental” in case something better comes along.
  4. Increase the teachers’ contributions to their health insurance from 11% to 25% to make it more in line with the private sector.
  5. Drastically reduce the amount given for health insurance buyouts. The health insurance buyout is currently approximately $5,000. Reduce that to $500.
  6. Eliminate double raises. Currently, teachers get a raise each year for moving up to the next step and because there is a raise for that new step from the previous year. The average raise in the present contract is 11.7%. Make that closer to the cost of living or inflation.
  7. Eliminate degrees for raises. Give merit-based raises.
  8. Monthly payroll, and no paychecks in the summer months. This may be just shaving a few bucks from the overall problem, but even a few dollars will buy a few new books.
  9. No pay for seminars. Teachers going to professional development seminars on their own time are given $30 for attending. Eliminate this.
  10. Change the next contract’s expiration date. Change the expiration date to June 30 so there’s no more last-minute, or even beyond that, negotiating and wondering if the schools will open with teachers.
  11. Eliminate allotted sick days. Let teachers take what they need. When you give people a number of days, they tend to use them. Professionals will simply take what they need.
  12. Don’t allow substitute teachers to become full-time teachers in the same year. Substitutes are substitutes and full time is full time. Remove the clause whereby a substitute teacher can get retroactive pay for substituting for a certain number of days.
  13. Eliminate “preparation time.” Lengthen the day by 45 minutes, to 7.5 hours, and have the teachers prep during that time.
  14. Shorten the length of the contract. No one knows the state of the economy in three years, so don’t guarantee what you’ll be able to pay in three years.

Patrick Laverty is Treasurer of the Cumberland Republican Town Committee

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15 years ago

Second that!

Don Botts
Don Botts
15 years ago

I agree with the majority of what he said. But there are a couple of items that I think go to far. The rallying cry has been to treat the teacher as if they are in the private sector. With that:
#9, no pay for seminars. In the private sector, you usually get a meal stipend or mileage stipend for attending something outside of work. $30 is not that much for attending a work related activity.
#11, Eliminate allotted sick days. If you let teachers take what they need without limit, there are some that will do so and abuse the system (as anyone would in any profession). Also, do they have short term disability that kicks in after a set amount of time. How would that be affected? I think you need a set amount of sick days, whatever that amount is.
Otherwise, great list.

15 years ago

Really great thinking out of the box here. East Providence wants negotiations in public too. Good luck with that, but Cumberland and E Providence, and all cities and towns should still fight for that.
I don’t expect the unions are going to go for this. Unless they are recieving the lions share of the $$$, they will put up a fuss.

15 years ago

Nuts to them, nuts to you.
My quick perusal of your blog indicates to me you are basically satisfied with business as usual. I am not. I am not a legal scholar and may not appreciate the regulations in effect, but as a cleaar thinking individual, I would insist that real progress be made in student competence before any raise would be considered. We currently have a situation where Rhode island spends more per pupil than almost any state and we consistantly perform near the bottom. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!
I would further demand that the union find cost saving measures before I would consider raises. Let them root out waste from duplication, useless programs and personnel. There is no reason why these brilliant educators with their multiple degees can’t look around and find ways to reduce the budget…right?
It would be up to THEM to streamline the system, reduce costs and improve the product. When that is done, I would consider a raise for a job well done.

Patrick Laverty
15 years ago

Since you commented on this article, I’m going to assume that your comments are in response to it. You wrote:
“would insist that real progress be made in student competence before any raise would be considered.”
They have. See below:
Cumberland scores jump on standardized testing
You also said:
“I would further demand that the union find cost saving measures before I would consider raises.”
Please see the #2 point in the post. If a lump sum of money is given to the union, like a subcontractor, I’m going to guess that they then would find inefficiencies.
And to Don Botts’ comment about the sick days, today they get 15 days a year. That’s 3 weeks. If someone really uses all 15 days without some known long-term illness, then even that would be abuse, especially if done frequently. And keep in mind that both TDI and the FMLA are available to teachers as well.

Don Botts
Don Botts
15 years ago

Reducing the amount of sick days to 5 or 6 would be fair. I think they should have an allotment in line with the corporate world, rather than letting the teachers take what they need, which to me implies an honors system.

Tom W
Tom W
15 years ago

But fewer sick days would mean fewer substitute teachers.
Fewer substitute teachers would mean fewer dues units providing revenue to NEARI.
That would mean less money available to fund the paychecks of Bob Walsh and Pat Crowley. We could never allow that, now could we?

15 years ago

Tom W, substitute teachers are not members of any union. They are people who have the credentials without a job. They are paid a daily rate and have no claim on anything. A teachers union has no say about a school systems use of substitute teachers.

15 years ago

Patrick, I commend you for your efforts in attempting to rethink some of the problems in school contracts and budgets. I think you are mostly wrong though. I would like to respond to some of your points. #1 I think the face to face, one on one component in human relations would be lost. What you would get is showboating and grandstanding mostly from the elected school committee people. #2 The purpose of unions is to bargain for these things you want to remove. #3 Makes sense. A contract should have a detailed bid that companies would compete for. #4 Co shares within the plan are much more effective at lowering costs than increasing co pays. #5 Patrick. Would you want your child taught by someone dumb enough to take a $500 buyout? #7 So you don’t believe in the validity of the college degree system? What’s yours? #8 FYI Justin and the AR Boys are all about taxpayer relief, not extra books.(that could be subjected to burning anyway) #9 Kinda like #5. This means the end of seminars. #10 It will still come down to a game of chicken, unless of course a degree of trust becomes established between the sides that some of your other points like #1 would completely destroy. #11 Now this idea will really frost someone’s keester. I think it has merit if and only if there can be genuine trust between sides. A teacher with a long term illness will be kept as a valued employee. But will the more mundane use of sick days be valued? You want some sick teacher hacking and sneezing all over your kid? #12 More importantly, how about opening up the process of hiring full time teachers. #13 See #5 and #9. #14 Don’t you think long range… Read more »

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