Growing up my mom worked for the local school district, doing a little bit of everything from payroll to personnel to purchase orders. After she left that job she went on to serve 6 years on the school board, which gave her a different perspective that she’s shared with me over the years. I’m labor, she’s management—we have great conversations, her and I.
One of her truisms over the years has been, “Ryan, a budget is a budget. The district only has the money that is has. It can’t spend more than it has.”
Mom’s a very plain-spoken woman, but buried under that confusing tautology is a grain of truth, especially as I sit at the table with my current district negotiating our next 3-year agreement.
Before we went to the table I did a survey of all the members, asking them what areas in the contract they felt needed sprucing up. We received nearly 80 responses, which is a pretty good ratio for a district our size. In our proposal to the district we incorporated the issues that we felt were reasonable (“I want 180 hours of per diem!” would be an example of an unreasonable request), and had them costed out by our district financial man.
Want to increase the stipend for testing coordinators? That’ll be $2000.
Higher personal leave cash-out? $1700.
More per diem? $6,600 an hour on a district-wide basis.
Extra per diem for teachers in combination classes? $17,000.
Caseload limits for special ed teachers? $300,000.
Release time for the president to do local association business? $455.
....and on, and on, and on.
Negotiating is politics, and your average local union is a great reflection of the community at large. I have my contingent that hates the union and doesn’t feel like we should be asking for more from the district; I have another contingent that hates the district and thinks we should bleed them for every penny they have because administrators are overpaid. In the middle lies the majority, those who value the contract and want it to make their lives easier, but not to the point that it hurts the program or the kids.
There’s always a want, too, from the members. It might be more money reimbursed for classroom expenses, it might be an aide to work in the copy room, it might be less meetings, it might be more collaboration, it might be per diem. The challenge is finding out a way to pay for it, and explaining to them why we can’t have it all.
Like the fellow in The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
, though, I’m loving every minute of it. Good times.
Labels: contracts, negotiations, school finance
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