May 26, 2005
MTI & The Madison School Board
Here is an excerpt from the article in this morning’s State Journal that deserves comment: Matthews said it was worth looking at whether layoffs can be avoided, but he was less optimistic about finding ways to achieve that.
He said MTI's policy is that members have to have decent wages, even if it means some jobs are lost.
The last teachers contract provided a 1 percent increase in wage scales for each of the past two years. This year's salary and benefits increase, including raises for seniority or advanced degrees, was projected at 4.9 percent, or $8.48 million. Teachers' salaries range from $29,324 to $74,380.
"The young teachers are really hurting," Matthews said, adding that the district is having difficulty attracting teachers because of its starting pay.
Mr. Matthews states that young teachers are really hurting. I assume by “young” he means “recently-hired.” On a state-wide basis, the starting salary for Madison’s teachers ranks lower, relatively speaking, than its salaries for more experienced teachers. Compared to other teacher pay scales in the state, Madison’s scale seems weighted relatively more toward the more-experienced teachers and less toward starting teachers. This has to be a consequence of the union’s bargaining strategy – the union must have bargained over the years for more money at the top and less at the bottom, again relatively speaking. The union is entitled to follow whatever strategy it wants, but it is disingenuous for Mr. Matthews to justify an apparent reluctance to consider different bargaining approaches on the basis of their possible impact on “young teachers.”
Mr. Matthews is also quoted as saying that MTI's policy is that members have to have decent wages, even if it means some jobs are lost. In other words, the union will pursue higher wages even if it requires the sacrifice of some of its newer members’ jobs. Implicit in this is that the union will pursue higher wages even at the cost of a reduction in quality of the education offered in Madison’s schools. What this highlights is that, in this regard, the interests of the union and the school board are directly adversarial. Other things being equal, the union wants the district to spend more money for salaries and benefits per teacher, and the district wants to spend less. This is the way the system is supposed to work. The union certainly understands this. But it seems that a majority of the school board members do not. They do not appear interested in trying to drive a hard bargain, which – one would think – is their duty as the stewards of the community’s resources.
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