On Wednesday, June 17th, Rye Board of Ed President Josh Nathan, fresh of handily defeating various opponents in a heated election, issued an update on the BOE's contract negotiations with the Rye Teacher's Association (RTA).
We've included the update below. Do you think the RTA should accept the current offer? Is it too generous? Not generous enough? Leave a comment below.
The Nathan missive:
Re: Teacher Contract Negotiations & Board of Education Offer
Dear Members of the Community,
As the school year comes to a close, we have a lot for which to be grateful: our children are learning and achieving in every grade, distinguishing themselves as scholars, athletic champions, leaders, artists and musicians, and civic minded young adults. Their growth and success is made possible by a terrific partnership of community support in the form of taxes and volunteer work and the outstanding work of the District's professionals: teachers, staff and administrators. But as you know, contract negotiations with our teachers remain unsettled.
In September, I wrote to you with an update on the status of the Board of Education's negotiations with the Rye Teachers' Association ("RTA") and explained the financial package (total compensation increases for our teachers of 25.3% over 5-years) and other terms of the Board's offer to the RTA. In the months immediately following, the RTA did not accept the Board's offer and did not put forth a counter offer. In that same period, the economic climate significantly deteriorated with no promise of improvement. By December, due to the growing fiscal crisis (the worst New York State has faced in the last 30, if not 70, years), the Board, like many other boards of education, reassessed and revised its financial offer to the RTA to help align our school budgets with the new economic reality.
Over the past several months the parties have engaged in mediation as well as direct negotiation. Most recently we met on May 20th. Below are the key open issues and the Board's last offer with respect to each:
1. On salaries: the Board has proposed across-the-board increases for all teachers as follows: 3.5% for a portion of the 2008-09 school year, and thereafter 2.4% for 2009-10, 2.4% for 2010-11 and 2.4% for 2011-12. These across-the-board increases are in addition to the annual 4.3% average "step" increase the majority of our teachers receive on our salary schedule, i.e., these teachers would be guaranteed a 6.7% average salary increase during each of the next three years.
2. On teachers' contributions to healthcare premiums: we asked teachers to progress from the 8% contribution they make now to 13% in 2009-10, 14% in 2010-11 and 15% in 2011-12.
3. On professional development: we asked our teachers to participate in two additional 90 minute sessions per month of district led staff development to ensure that they have, and are sharing with each other, the latest skills and know-how needed for Rye's curriculum.
4. On a possible tax cap: we asked the RTA to agree to reopen the financial terms of the contract in the event that the State passes a school tax cap that would, by limiting tax revenue, force the District to lay off teachers. In the event of such legislation (which the Board opposes), such a safeguard would protect jobs for teachers and preserve class size.
The Board's proposal is based on recognizing several factors, 1) that many in our community are now dealing with either no income growth, reductions in income, or even job loss, 2) that we believe the annual total compensation increases the Board proposed for our teachers, 19.3% over 5-years, can be sustained with appropriate budget and tax rate increases, and 3) the high value and respect our community places on teachers and thus a commitment to reward teachers with increases in total compensation, notwithstanding the current economic environment.
The RTA countered by making higher financial demands as compared to its earlier position. We expressed surprise that by their new demand they were widening the financial gap between our proposals, rather than narrowing it, and we asked them to confirm if such was their intent; they did. This is a move by the RTA in the wrong direction. The Board has in fact sought to narrow the gap, thus our May 20th salary offer was higher than our April offer and, similarly, we reduced our requests for cost-sharing on healthcare and time for professional development.
The RTA also stated that there are four terms that are "deal-breakers" for them:
1. Must have full retroactive wage increases going
back to July 1, 2007;
2. No 15% health insurance premium contribution at
3. No additional professional development time; and
4. No tax cap safeguard provision.
The Board responded that it does not have any deal breakers. In our view, as representatives of the community, everything is negotiable provided we can reach a fair deal that protects the educational program for our students, appropriately rewards our teachers and safeguards the community against budget and tax rate growth that cannot be sustained. In response the RTA negotiators stated that salary growth and its impact on the school budget and tax rates is not their concern; they expressly reaffirmed their position that if the Board must control costs, we should do so by eliminating athletics, student clubs and, if necessary eliminate teaching positions and the moderate class sizes that go with them.
We had another meeting scheduled with the RTA for June 8th, but the RTA cancelled it and stated that they would only meet if we increased our proposal. We believe that the only way to achieve a resolution here is through engagement and renewed dialogue. Accordingly, the Board's team will be available to meet during the summer months, however we will not "bid against ourselves" as a precondition to having further conversation.
My colleagues on the Board and I wish you an enjoyable summer. We wish the same for our teachers and hope that they will accept the opportunity to work with us toward a fair settlement of the issues as soon as possible.
Respectfully and on behalf of the
Board of Education,