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UPDATE: Tacoma Education Association responds to superintendent

Post by Debbie Cafazzo / The News Tribune on Aug. 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm with 22 Comments »
August 24, 2011 4:42 pm

The head of the union that represents teachers and other school district employees in ongoing contract negotiations said a message sent earlier today to the community from Tacoma Schools Superintendent Art Jarvis that talks about the union request for a salary increase is misleading.

“They are trying to portray us as greedy,” said Andy Coons, president of the Tacoma Education Association. He acknowledged that the union did ask for a 1-percent pay increase – but he said that was after the school district asked teachers to take a 1.9-percent pay cut.

The state cut funding for teacher salaries by 1.9 percent, and left it up to local school districts to bargain the issue.
Coons says the district would like to see Tacoma spend more from its reserve funds to offset the state cut. That’s what’s been done in the Bethel School District and in some other districts.

Others, including the Peninsula District, will ask teachers to absorb the cut, but will also require them to work fewer days.
Coons says salary isn’t the union’s top issue. He said his members are more concerned about the school district’s request that class size increase by two students.

“Overcrowded classrooms hurt kids,” he says.

Teachers plan to meet Monday. Coons says he would like to have a tentative agreement to present to them.

Leave a comment Comments → 22
  1. Yeah the Jarvis kinda sounded like a jerk in his community letter.

  2. Andy- you want us to go on strike because you have made unreasonable demands,. 2 more kids per class will make no difference to a good teacher and won’t turn a good teacher into a bad teacher. Two less kids per class won’t turn a bad teacher into a good one. Asking any organization to use up their reserves is irresponsible. Why in the world would you ask for an increase in salary- why not ask for no change in salaries or split the difference between 0 and 1.9. Agree to a slight increase in class size and agree to not make a scene when it is fiscally responsible to close schools. You aren’t just being greedy- you are not bargaining in our best interest. You are representing the WEA interests, not your members or the kids.

  3. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    Mr. Coons claimed in his op-ed that his first concern was the kids. This last minute demand would seem to put the lie to that claim.

    Now is the time to back up your original statement Mr. Coons.

  4. frankiethomas says:

    2 more kids in a classroom does make a difference – especially in lower grades.

  5. frankiethomas says:

    Does this seem so hard? meet in the middle and keep salries about the same. . .

  6. paradox255 says:

    Why would you expect teachers (who usually spend somewhere between 3 and 7 hundred dollars per year from their own pockets for student teaching aids) to take a pay cut? As person who didn’t graduate from a university and made about 65k a year, I don’t begrudge the teacher who has a masters degree in education and makes the same kind of dough. The biggest difference between the teachers and me is that I don’t have to pay off that ten thousand dollar student loan.

  7. gonefishin69690 says:

    “They are trying to portray us as greedy,” said Andy Coons, president of the Tacoma Education Association. ….. If it walks like a Union leader, Talks like a Union Leader, then it’s probably greedy. I know plenty of teachers that wish unions were not even involved as well as many others in trades where the Unions have turned their members into nothing more than milk cows. Getting rid of unions however is like passing a kidney stone.

  8. paradox255- we get a 250.00 tax credit every year to reimburse what we have spent- we can deduct the rest,. Many schools have PTAs who give each classroom teacher a stipend- anywhere from 50 to 100.00 a year. Many departments have budgets for teachers. I get 200.00 a year to spend on materials.

  9. Wrapper98439 says:

    Teachers are about the only union that can strike as long as they want with no fear of losing money. They will still get paid for 180 days if they start September 1st or November 5th. With nothing to lose, and desperate parents ending child care, they have it made. May not be the best pay, but it is guaranteed.

  10. Coons statements don’t jive. Sounds pretty strait forward: district asked teachers to accept the cut the state made, and rather than negociate that (ie “we will agree to 1% instead of 1.9%” or propose furlough days) the union said “nope, give us a raise.” Not sure what is misleading about Jarvis’ letter.

  11. tactownparent says:

    I don’t understand why the union would expect the district to use reserve funds. We all know the economy is suffering and I think we have only begun to see budget cuts. What’s going to happen next year when the legislature cuts even more and the district has no more reserve? I think at this point, be thankful you have a job.

  12. David1964 says:

    Since it’s the state that gave the district a 1.9% pay decrease, and the district is just passing it on to the teachers, then the district should do as the state did: furlough the employees commensurate to their loss in pay. If my calculations are rights, 1.9% of their pay is the equivalent of 3.5 work days. So how about this proposal: TPS teachers, take a 1.9% pay decrease in exchange for a shorter school year.

  13. Rosie and Marie,
    “Why in the world would you ask for an increase in salary- why not ask for no change in salaries or split the difference between 0 and 1.9.”

    Did you even read what the union asked for? A 1% increase. Sounds pretty close to a split down the middle to me.

    Tactownparent
    ” I don’t understand why the union would expect the district to use reserve funds.”

    Do you know what the state of our reserves are? When I went to a community meeting, we were told that Tacoma SD has 15% of operating budget in reserves and the general practice is to have 5%, so it seems to me that we have plenty. Or are we saving it for the next superintendant to buy yet another pet math curriculum?

  14. esscee: How is a 1% increase a split down the middle between 0 and -1.9%?

  15. As for the reserve funds, there is already a plan to spend them down in order to cover state budget cuts:

    The Future

    Superintendent Jarvis presented a three-year plan to operate Tacoma Public Schools with the least impact on the education of students.

    According to the Superintendent’s proposal, to absorb the State of Washington’s budget cuts for K-12 education, Tacoma Public Schools could:

    · Draw down its reserve funds by $10 million each year over the next three years for a total of $30 million. (That would leave approximately $9.15 million in reserve funds, which equals the approximate minimum amount allowed by board policy to meet acceptable government accounting principles.)

    · Cut the district budget by $5 million in the 2011-2012 school year, $7.5 million the following school year and $6 million in the third school year.

    http://www.tacoma.k12.wa.us/information/District%20Budget%20Outlook%20documents/Summary%20of%20Tacoma%20School%20Board%20Retreat.pdf

    Since this document was drafted, I believe the allocation from the reserves is even greater, because a decision was made not to close Foss.

    Please understand, if money from the reserve fund is used to cover a pay increase/classroom size decrease, there are very likely to be program cuts and/or school closures in the next few years. Things that will impact the kids.

    Maybe there is a way to find this money, but I don’t like to hear the reserve thrown around like it’s just extra money we inexplicably aren’t using.

  16. Belatrix says:

    The union is so far out of touch with the real world. We really hope most public employees see this as shameful. Any taxpayer seeing this must be amazed. Wow.

  17. Any other employee, from any other profession, represented by any other union would threaten strike if asked to absorb the pay cuts mandated by the State. To “Split the difference” as suggested by some, would still require the District to tap into it’s reserve fund for a 1% increase. Why do you have a reserve fund? Just to say it’s there, that it exists?
    Too many young graduates are AVOIDING a career in Education for this very reason. No support from their Districts and being perceived as greedy by the public when insisting upon being compensated fairly and in the manner in which they were promised.
    I would support a Statewide teacher walkout in a heartbeat

  18. RoseofSharon says:

    The legislature should have ensured their cuts were required in all school districts, rather than force this to be bargained at each local school district. The WEA did not complain about the legislature’s cuts, because they knew they could count on the the divide and conquer method. So the legislature was happy to pass this mess off to the local districts, and this is the result. The same is true of teacher strikes…the legislature has the power to virtually eliminate them, by simply passing legislation that automatically deducts teacher pay for each day of a strike (like the rest of the world). The legislature needs to grow some collective courage.

  19. olympicmtn says:

    paradox255 :

    Do you really think teachers are the only people who pay for student loans? This attitude as if someone has to pay from birth to grave for everything is ridiculous. Here is reality. I paid for my loans. Not the govt. I paid for my car, not the govt. I pay for health care, not the govt. I also have a graduate degree and work 60+ hours without overtime. Reality is either (1) your a professional and you get a salary or (2) your not.

    Teachers if you are a profession, stop bellyaching about working more than 7 hour days and start acting like a professional.

    This whinny attitude of everyone has to feel sorry for me is really getting old.

    Stop bellyaching and go to work.

  20. igotdabombfool says:

    papasan:

    Your right they expect fair compensation for the days they work. So lets pay them for the 186 days that they worked. Fair is Fair. And prior to contrary belief, a pay raise is not needed every year or two years. Used to be a time when you had to earn it, not just make it through the year.

  21. TacSeaTraveler says:

    My daughter is a teacher with a contract that wasn’t renewed due to budget cuts in a local district. So I sympathize with the lack of continuity brought on by the union’s insistence on a seniority, rather than any sort of merit system. And yes, she has a Master’s degree in Ed.

    That being said, I think it’s funny that one commenter showed the poor state of our current math education system (if indeed he/she was a product of that public system, not sure) with the assertion that a 1% increase is splitting the diff between DECREASES beginning at 1% With math like this being practiced by government bureaucrats and political “leaders” every day, it’s no wonder that reduced INCREASES in budget this year are called “Cuts” from last year!

    What a world…

  22. “I think it’s funny that one commenter showed the poor state of our current math education system (if indeed he/she was a product of that public system, not sure) with the assertion that a 1% increase is splitting the diff between DECREASES beginning at 1% With math like this being practiced by government bureaucrats and political “leaders” every day, it’s no wonder that reduced INCREASES in budget this year are called “Cuts” from last year!”

    What can I add, but say: Yikes!!!!!!!!!

    Jenyum, don’t confuse these teachers with math. Clearly, if you look at the test scores of their students, they don’t seem to be able to teach it to their students.

    The greed of the Tacoma teachers is just unbelievable. if they go on an illegal strike, then they should be fired!

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