Whenever a disagreement between labor and management occurs and degenerates to name calling, misrepresentations and an unwillingness to continue meeting, the source of the problem is often attributable to one party’s desire to gain more power in the relationship. Seriously, ask yourself, have you known any teachers who decided to enter into an underpaid profession for the purpose of becoming powerful and wealthy?
It’s time for the Board of Education to end this silliness, meet with the teachers, loosen the purse strings and solve this issue.
Here are the facts:
(1) The teachers have printed and circulated a graph that show district reserves have increased from $1.5 million to $3.9 million since 2011. They also note that the district’s required reserves for 2018 was merely $800,000. In both the board’s press releases and President Bundgaard’s lengthy letter appearing in The Flume on Aug. 9, she does not address the district’s reserves. In an email to me, she stated that the teacher’s claim about the amount of reserves was a “fallacy” and a “misrepresentation,” but she has made no effort to explain why the reserves are substantially less than claimed by the teachers. She checks off by stating that the board is trying to be fiscally responsible to taxpayers.
2) The board also claims that their salary and benefit package for teachers and staff is “comparable” to other similarly situated districts in the state. Comparable? Perhaps. Competitive? Hardly. Consider the turnover that occurs within our teacher ranks. Why does our school district have difficulty retaining qualified, experienced teachers? In the elementary school, three quarters of the teachers are in their first year of teaching. In the middle school, three teachers have no experience in education and are being trained by the school to achieve certification. Housing and the cost of living in Park County is a real hindrance to attracting experienced, qualified teachers. One need only do some comparative shopping between Prather’s and City Market or Ace and Lowe’s to realize what impact the cost of living has on our teachers.
(3) President Bundgaard states that the board unilaterally increased salaries and benefits on June 1. What she didn’t tell you was how many teachers later received a phone call telling them that their posted raise was in error and would be lowered.
(3) The board’s refusal to meet with teachers is baffling. And, when the board holds a regularly scheduled meeting, it immediately moves into executive session that, during the last three meetings, has lasted up to three hours. People tire of the wait and go home. No wonder tempers are short and shouting occurs. President Bundgaard states that the board has “begged” the teachers to meet in “private” because they are “afraid” open meetings will degenerate into shouting matches. While “private mediation” might move the peanut forward, I challenge the board to do so without any pre-conditions, a practice they seem to enjoy. And, as to the board’s lengthy executive sessions, I remind you that it is the declared state policy “... that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret.” (C.R.S.24-6-401 et. seq).
Here’s one taxpayer who does not appreciate the board sitting on my money without explaining why, as they claim, the teacher0s modest demands - a living wage - is not sustainable. More tragic is the harm this stubbornness imposes on our children. Kudos for building healthy reserves, but a competitive raise for our teachers is long overdue.
(The opinions expressed in this editorial is that of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Flume)