Here is a message from School Committee member Ed Cafasso that puts the teacher contract matter into perspective:
I hope you are preparing for what looks to be a glorious weekend. We sure could use it…
There has been a great deal of debate in recent days about the School Committee’s unanimous approval of a new contract with the Franklin Educational Association (FEA), the union which represents teachers here. I wanted to take a moment of your time to discuss the importance of this contract.
The new contract period begins Sept. 1, 2010 and runs until Aug. 30, 2012.
It provides no wage increase for Fiscal Year 2011; a 1% increase or FY 2012; and a 0.5% increase, effective Aug. 30, 2012, for FY 2013. The approximate cost in FY12 is estimated as $350,000. This represents 0.68% of the current school budget. The approximate cost for FY13 is $175,000.
The contract is funded by savings attained through attrition, as well as increased circuit breaker revenue from the state. No additional appropriation has been requested.
It’s an election year and many candidates prefer to focus on the cost of the raises in this new contract. For some, it’s hard to see the forest when that big Election Year tree blocks the view.
In my opinion, there are two overlooked aspects of the new contract that hold real potential for improving student achievement while reforming a pay structure that automatically triggers higher taxpayer costs each year.
The first is that it features an agreement between the School Committee and the FEA to cooperatively re-examine the salary table that drives close to the 75% of current school costs. For the first time ever in the history of Franklin, both parties have agreed to investigate a new, progressive wage structure to replace the automatic “step and lane” pay raises that have become a real budget buster.
The agreement to cooperatively re-examine the current salary table holds a major opportunity for us to address a significant source of annual pressure on Franklin taxpayers.
The second “inconvenient truth” about the new teacher contract is that requires both sides to undertake interest-based bargaining (IBB) during upcoming talks toward a new FEA contract, as opposed to the adversarial and frustrating negotiating posture that has been in place until now.
IBB has been a goal of the School Committee for many years, and we are pleased to finally have the opportunity to implement it. “Bargaining Methods and New Forms of Agreements,” as published by the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, explains this approach succinctly:
“Interest-based bargaining (IBB) is a departure from positional bargaining and the traditional adversarial, industrial model of collective bargaining that assumes bargaining is a zero-sum activity focused on dividing existing resources. In contrast, IBB focuses on parties’ interests rather than their proposed positions, making it possible to explore the values and purposes and to learn whether these interests are shared or complementary. IBB allows parties to identify multiple ways to satisfy interests and to solve problems creatively… IBB provides an opportunity to address student achievement in the collective-barging process. IBB can minimize ritualized adversarial behavior and enable productive relationships to develop, better situating the parties to improve student achievement.”
There is a great deal of expert, authoritative information on IBB available online. One article of interest can be found at: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/lkaboolian/publications/Win-Win-chapter1.pdf.
There are some who dismiss IBB, and they’re entitled to their opinion. I have done years of homework on it and its use by school districts and employers across the country. I strongly believe it can produce great outcomes for teachers, students, parents and taxpayers. It empowers the parties to work in good faith as partners to find common ground and implement potential solutions to systemic issues.
This innovative approach to bargaining could not be more important for Franklin right now. We have to balance ongoing budgetary pressures; meet your high expectations for continued high academic performance; and, also adhere to evolving state and federal standards for student achievement.
I appreciate, respect and share everyone’s desire to maintain a balanced budget and to use revenues as efficiently and effectively as possible to provide the best possible services to the citizens of Franklin. Your schools have done precisely that – we spend $2,700 less per student than the state average but still deliver excellent academic performance, thanks to the hard work of teachers, administrators and parents like you.
As the local election approaches, there will be many candidates who point to the “cost” of the contract as a way to win votes and damage other candidates. My view is that we can no longer afford the “cost” of continuing the divisive and confrontational ways of the past. You can see how well that has worked in national politics and in Congress.
For me, the choice was easy. I voted in support of the new teacher contract because it allows us to pursue a progressive approach toward broad, incredibly important goals, including improved student achievement and structural reforms that contribute to financial stability for the community. I voted to support working together to solve real problems.