Friday, June 16, 2006

Portland Teachers Contract

The Oregonian today reports on the new collective bargaining contract negotiated by Portland in the newfound spirit of "collaboration," and they hail the new era in which "stronger school board" and a "rational union leadership" resulted in the quickest and least acrimonious teacher contract negotiation in memory.

It goes to show how easy it is to strike a deal with a teachers union if the district simply capitulates on every significant issue from the start. The Oregonian might love it, but the truth is, the district basically punted on this contract negotiation and apparently didn't even try to negotiate the single concession that everyone - including the Oregonian - agrees is a must: the power to assign teaching staff to the schools without the approval of the teachers.

Further - and this I found very odd - I was unable to tell from the Oregonian article how much of a raise the teachers got! The reporting clearly tried to avoid revealing it.

The article did reveal the cost of living increase for each year of the contract (2.5%,) and told about the step raises and salary bump for accumulated graduate school hours -- all standard fare in teacher salary structure. But it did not report on how much of a raise was agreed to.

It reported what the new starting teacher salary was in dollars, and what the "max" salary was, but did not say how higher these were than the last contract. Why? Wouldn't that be a significant piece of information that should be included if you were writing a news story about a new contract?

I had to go look at the current collective bargaining agreement and compare it to the salary numbers published in the Oregonian to figure out how much of a raise the teachers got.

So here are the numbers, which you won't get by reading our daily newspaper:

Old starting salary: $32,830
New starting salary:$33,651 .... a 2.5% increase

Old "max" salary: $65,564
New "max" salary: $67,204 .... a 2.5% increase

So the 2.5% raise, along with the 2.5% COLA, means that every teacher gets a 5% raise. Those not already at the top step (meaning less than 14 years experience) get an additional 3.5% raise, and for teachers who accumulate an additional 15 hours of graduate school, they get 4.5% more!

So, all teachers will get a 5% raise under this contract. About half will get 8.5%, and some will get 13%! A careful reading of the Oregonian article "covering" this news reveals none of this. In fact, it seems to go to great lengths NOT to reveal the fact that every teacher getsva 2.5% raise along with the 2.5% COLA.

So the district basically capitulated on salary negotiations. One would hardly know that there's a fiscal crisis. Things must be great when they can hand out 5% raises to every teacher.

But the district also failed to get any concession on health care expenses or on the issue of teacher assignment. These are two festering sores on the district's long term viability, and they once again failed to address them, which leaves these sores open to ooze pus for the next two years.

Board members Bobbie Regan, Sonja Henning and Dan Ryan deserve credit for voting no on the contract. They apparently did so because the contract didn't address these issues.

Vicki Phillips being heralded as a tough leader, but she totally punted on this one. She bought herself labor peace for the next two years at the cost of kicking the can down the road on every significant issue covered in the teachers contract.

Board memberDavid Wynde effused about the new spirit of "collaboration" with the union. Hey, it's easy to get along with them if you give them what they want!

But don't call it leadership.


PanchoPdx said...

Hey if they are only getting 2.5% raises then they should have no problem supporting the spending limit.

The population and inflation adjustments under McIntire's measure will easily absorb that kind of growth (with lot's of money to spare!).

We should take their "2.5%" spin at face value and challenge them to live within a budget predicated on such increases.

Anonymous said...

Once again, an Oregon example of how collective bargaining is dysfunctional when you have collectivists on both sides of the table.

This is the way it works. After everyone gets re-elected, it's time to pay off the unions.

dump teacher unions said...

Oh stop it.

The only way PPS can appreciate and retain their excellant teachers is by satisfying their union.

If the raises were not granted, even when there is no money to pay for them, the teachers would seek employment in other districts

Funny thing is that every other Oregon School district plays the same game.

They "all" have the "best teachers" and their unions control the school boards.

The only remedy is to get rid of the teacher unions and make the public school priority the kids as it was prior to 1974 when the unions did not exist..

gus miller said...

No need to eliminate the teachers union statewide. The PPS board should recognize that the statewide teachers union depends on using settlements with PPS as a benchmark. PPS has to put more resources into the collective bargaining process than the OEA does.

gus miller said...

Here is a still valid commentary from PDX Trib archives by Susan Hagmeier a former PPS boardmember.

RINO WATCH said...

Teachers in Oregon, by & large are not overpaid, if we are ONLY discussing Salary.

The problem folks is the benefit packages, medical-dental-vision, being paid 12 mos for 9 mos work, (ouch--I can hear the anger coming), and of course --- PERS!

You cannot retire @ 55 and expect to be paid near or full salary+ and not adversly affect the economy.

Until a Governor has the Nads (balls) to declare the state bankrupt because of PERS, the debate will be endless, ceaseless, ad nauseum, & borrrrrrrrrring.

Dennis said...

The PPS Budget Review Committee (CBRC)Chair Tony Larson indicated in March that PPS overspends the national average on benefits by $15 million. A figure that happens to be identical to what the legislature granted PPS when it reauthorized the gap bond increment for PPS. Further, Mr. Larson reported that the teacher compensation survey demonstrates that PPS teachers are getting these top tier wages, for FEWER CONTRACT DAYS. You can bet the board was 7 - 0 in favor of this, they just had to make it look like there was a good fight.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rino Watch,

I am sorry I have to correct this piece of information for you, I thought everyone knew it...

Teachers are paid based on a 9 month salary. 186-191 contract days. The paychecks are divided over 12 months. In some school districts teachers can elect to get their salary in 9 monthly checks or 12. Either way, its still being paid for 186 or 191 days. When days are cut from the contract the salary goes down accordingly. So cutting 2 days is approximately a %1 pay cut. But you use a tired old statement that any 5th grader can refute.

As for the benefits arguement, everyone should have it that good. And if most workers didn't lap up the businessman's propoganda that all unions do is impede progress, then maybe they would. Don't bash teachers for being smart enough to realize they are collectively better than individually alone, and its not just pay and benefits; comradery, professional development, and the ability to do one's job without having to worry about "fresh out of the box" principals and "nattering nabobs of negativity" critiquing their every move.

And lastly, Mr. Kremer, are you sure, absolutely positive, that the 1st year of the two year contract 2.5% increase (I assume its a two year contract) doesn't also include the COLA? So its not actually a 5% raise, but just guaranteeing a 2.5% COLA for the next year, which would be standard practice (and probably less than inflation will be after another year of gas and housing cost increases....)

PPS Lapdog said...

A teacher that is getting a "step" advancement for an additional year of service gets a 2.5% bump. Then they get a COLA bump of 2.5%. This is a 5% cost escalator, in a 2.3% inflationary environment. This creates a system of structural deficits that simply MUST be remedied.

gus miller said...

Here is a Todd Murphy article from PDX Trib archives explaining Article Ten of the collective bargaining agreement and the restrictions it puts on hiring and transferring teachers.

I think PPS is beyond the point where it can function efficiently and economically with legacy costs and work rules inherited from outmoded union contracts.

Anonymous said...

The 2.3% CPI figure to categorize actual inflation is so useless because they stopped adding in food and energy costs, which are rising faster than other items. So, we are not in a 2.3% "inflationary environment". Depending upon whether you use the c-cpi, the cpi, or the core the numbers are wildly different. (core being the lowest)

Sp PPS teachers get a step increase, which is contractually obligated (based on experience) and get a 2.5% COLA which won't beat actual inflation.

So lets see - they get an annual raise (step increase) which many of us get in our jobs yearly, and that raise is adjusted to reflect inflation. What's the big deal?

Oh, and even if its a 5% raise (which its not), .05 x $40,000 (just picking a realistic round number) is $2000 a year, divided over 12 paychecks is a whopping $166 extra a month (before taxes). Lets assume this teacher is in a moderate tax bracket with few deductions, the actual raise after FICA, medicare, state, and federal taxes is less than $100

And since its not actually a 5% raise, we're talking even less dollars.

You're going to begrudge a school teacher under $100 dollars a month? Maybe, just maybe, he or she will spend that $100 bucks in a store which will provide some minimum wage worker with a job.

I'd give my kid's school teacher a hundred bucks myself if it keeps her in the classroom doing what she does best.

Dennis said...

The 2.3% CPI not only includes fuel and food, but also the fact that we are in a significant deflationary environment for many other basket items (say technology and textiles). Some go up, some go down and CPI is reported forthwith.

Question: "You're going to begrudge a school teacher under $100 dollars a month?"

Answer: YES!!!!!!

a) Especially since this is FAR outside of the private sector

b) AND they should be paying at least another $375 a month of their health insurance costs

c) AND they work fewer days for their top tier salaries than their colleagues in other districts.

gus miller said...

On the subject of CPI escalators to wages, PPS has never factored out the health care component (8-15% of CPI) even though they gave teachers full family benefits for years. Over a 20 year period that double portion of health care has padded the teacher pay scale considerably.

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