STAND UP. SPEAK UP. IT’S YOUR TURN
On Tuesday night Mayor Ted Gatsas vetoed the teacher contract that was overwhelmingly supported by the teachers’ union and unanimously supported by the School Board. His reason was that in three years the CPI might possibly be so low that the contract couldn’t be supported under the tax cap. This is ironic because the tax cap was a major driver of this agreement.
The teachers were willing to make major concessions on their health insurance benefits because they agreed that rising health care costs would likely exceed the tax cap and additionally no one wanted to throw money away on the Affordable Care Act Cadillac tax.
We all agreed that going forward it would be much easier to control the salary line than the insurance line, so we moved the money into salaries. I have been reading about this trend in other parts of the country for about a decade. Although it isn’t perfect, we felt it was the most sustainable solution.
In addition, the agreement would make our starting salary for first year teachers more competitive. Our current beginning salary is $34,751. The new contract would bring that up to $37,250. Many school districts in the state are now offering starting salaries of more than $40,000. New graduates will be able to make more working in communities like Epping than they can teaching in Manchester. In Nashua the starting salary is $39,284. As more communities ink new contracts with their teachers, our starting salary will be even less competitive. It will become very difficult to attract new talent and without raises it will be difficult to retain the young teachers we have.
There are other benefits of the contract as well, the hours calendar offers a shorter school year without needing to make up snow days, which makes it easier for families to plan. The agreement included expanded time for professional development, a provision to allow high school teachers to teach an extra class in exchange for additional compensation, and the establishment of a pool of permanent substitutes who would know the curriculum and minimize interruptions in student learning when regular teachers were not able to be in class.
As a member of the negotiating team I am disappointed at the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, but I am not giving up. I will continue working for a solution to this situation, which has been ongoing for three years. There was certainly plenty of drama at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen and normally I prefer to concentrate on making progress rather than headlines, but I thought that it was important for the public to hear our side of the story.
Kathy Staub is an At-large member of the Manchester Board of School Committee and mother of two grown children who graduated from Central High School.
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