MWDN: Northborough-Southborough schools approve teacher contracts

The Metrowest Daily News was at the regional school committee meeting last night, and they report the committee approved a new teacher contract that pays out a 3.8% cost-of-living adjustment over the next three years.

“These increases are the lowest in the 45-year history of collective bargaining at Algonquin” and were agreed to in light of the current economic climate, Superintendent Charles Gobron said. “The teachers are very attached to this high school and wanted to make sure we could continue on at the staffing levels we have and continue to run all our programs.”

The contract runs from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2014 and features a 1 percent cost-of-living raise in the first year, a 1.25 percent increase in the second and a 1.55 percent increase in the third.

The increases are separate from contractual pay increases teachers receive as part of the step and lane system, which boosts pay as teachers spend more time in the system or acquire post-graduate credits and degrees.

As a concession, the high school teachers agreed to increase their health care contribution from 20 to 25 percent. You can read more details in this article by the MWDN.

The contract is similar to the one the Southborough School Committee approved for K-8 teachers last month. The K-8 teachers will receive a 3.5% in cost-of-living increase over the next three years and also agreed to increase their health insurance contribution from 20 to 25 percent.

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mike
11 years ago

Great, Where is the outrage folks? So the unions win again? They got a pay raise, none of the rest of us did. We have to pay it, through more forced taxation. Yes they have to pay more medical, however their plan is actually better than the private sector workforce who pays the taxes to pay their bills. Who is going to take the helm now, to start the process to tell them no going forward, we have three years to mobilize. Who is going to tell them, the school boards, the superintendent, you have enough, you are not getting any more, and if you think you can do better, get another job. Housing values are going to continue to go down becasue they were too high to start, built upon a fiat (fake) financial system. So, your tax per thousand on your house will continue to rise to support the taxes and the increases for the unions and teachers, while your pay and income decrease and unemployment will continue to rise as it is. I know the Southboro Puclic Schools are the “Sacred Cow” and secular religioin of most parents today, but there are enough of you that do not have kids, or they are grown, that can mobilize against them and say no more.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  mike

Mike:

You are certainly right to be upset, particularly given the lack of transparency in the process and the politics played by the school committees in approving this sweetheart deal.

To be clear this deal is bad for taxpayers and bad for a quality education. It pretty much guarantees that we will have to have prop 2.5 overrides for the next 3 years. I think the Selectmen did a creditable job holding the line but the Superintendent (School Committees are just a rubber stamp) failed completely. As a result the School Committees should bear the burden of coming 2.5 overrides.

There have to be consequences for bad behavior.

Kelly Roney
11 years ago

One percent a year is an outrage?

If you have a deep-seated need to be outraged, you should think about the persistent attacks on the middle class for the past 30 years and the rampant over-compensation of C-level executives.

Frank Crowell
11 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

In the last 30 years, I have taken myself from lower middle class to upper middle class with education, hard work and risk taking. When I look to the future, I wonder what my kids will say if they do the same thing. At this point, it certainly does not look like they will be able to better themselves in society. The reason: state, local and federal tax burden. So, this may be where Mike is coming from.



When I hear that the middle class is under attack, all I hear are Democrat talking points where the end game is to raise taxes or create regulations to further the union cause.


Kelly Roney
11 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Frank, it’s not the federal tax burden, which has dropped significantly as a percent of GDP over the past 30 years, in fact to its lowest point in 60 years. What has happened is that a large portion of the tax burden has been shifted to payroll taxes away from corporate income taxes and individual income taxes.

WHAT!?!?!? But Rush Limbaugh says that half of all Americans don’t pay federal taxes.

Rush is lying by omission, and you’d better believe he knows it. Half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, but they still pay roughly 20% of their income in taxes, as do the higher income brackets. People don’t believe me when I tell them this, but it’s nonetheless true.

We do need to streamline regulations that interfere with sound economic growth, for example Sen. Jamie Eldridge’s proposal to reform zoning. (Note: I haven’t looked at this in detail, so, though I often agree with Sen. Eldridge’s positions, I can’t be sure about this one yet.) But I would argue with anyone who claims too much regulation led to the financial meltdown. There, the problem was that we willfully forgot the lessons of the Great Depression, which taught previous generations that much so-called financial innovation is just so much papered over fraud.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

We both know this is not a 1% contract. The agreement did nothing about the steps and lanes machine the 1% or so is just icing on the cake. We also did nothing to deal with merit pay, unsustainable pensions and retirement benefits. This deal is as bad and as short sighted as any signed by the auto execs to buy short term labor peace that ultimately doomed their companies.

Kelly, come on don’t try that change the subject tactic that is only worthy of a hack spinmister. Exec compensation is a completely different issue. The reality is that I have a choice, If I think an exec is paid too much and it bothers me I can choose to buy some other companies products. I do not have any choice about my taxes

Kelly Roney
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

So, Al, it’s not about the tiny pay increase, which actually doesn’t keep up with expected inflation. You’re outraged that we didn’t force merit pay on the teachers. From one “hack spinm[e]ister” (thanks!) to another, that seems like a change in subject too.

Since 1980, we Americans have been building a winner-take-all society. Attacking unions for representing the middle class is one end of that. Allowing corporations to write off from their already vastly reduced taxes the disproportionate executive compensation decided by incestuous boards is a tiny part of the other end of it.

As a Democrat and a liberal (not at all synonymous), all I can say is that we had a class war and the very rich won. They won because some Democrats let themselves be badgered out of fighting back, a betrayal of our traditional role as advocates for the middle class. And Republicans happily pursued an extreme ideology of disproven trickle-down economics, which they appear willing to continue to the point even of a return to feudalism.

If that last sounds exaggerated to you, ask the Republican Party if there’s any point at which a top-heavy distribution of wealth or income becomes a public policy problem that they’d be willing to address. All their public statements emphatically say no.

I don’t think you can have an effective democracy if you don’t have a healthy middle class. One of the most important institutions for middle class mobility is the public schools.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Sorry if I offended but I think it important that we stick to the subject which is the teacher contract not corporate CEO pay. That is a different subject I would happily discuss and might even agree with you.

First, this deal keeps being represented as a 1% deal. It is not and to represent it as such is misleading at bets. There is not a single teacher in our systems that will get a 1% raise. Typical raises will be 3% to 5% because we did not adjust or eliminate the step and lane, automatic raise machine in the contract.

Yes, I will admit it, I am in favor of merit pay for teachers. The current unaccountable system is in my opinion a failure. We spend more and get less than our international competitors and we need to up our game, not with more money, we already spend more than our competitors, but with higher expectations and rewarding excellence.

I am particularly bothered when the Superintendent stands up and says we are all in this together and then negotiates a contract like this. It is abundantly clear that he is out to get everything he can get for the teacher unions and the devil take the hind most. Like many Americans I am getting used to the idea that retirement will probably start at 70 not 65. It is probably not a bad thing given life expectancies and the fact that Social Security and Medicare are in trouble. It is really hard to justify after coming to grips with this reality giving public sector workers pensions and retirement health care in their 50’s. That is not all of us in it together, that is the middle class being played for suckers by the public sector unions and a completely compliant Superintendent.

I used to be a big fan of Dr. Gobron. After his display at Town Meeting I have lost respect for him. His highly partisan advocating for higher taxes, his highly selective release of information about the supposedly un-discussable teacher contract, and blatant cheerleading were, in my opinion, highly political and inappropriate if not worse.

Finally, I don’t know why you are trying to drag the Republicans into this. I am not a Republican, they are as dismal as the Democrats.

Kathleen Harragan Polutchko
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

With all due respect to those who disagree with the terms of the teacher contract, please limit your criticism to the elected officials who are the ones responsible for negotiating those terms. Personal attacks on Dr. Gobron are ineffectual, inappropriate and disrespectful.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Ms. Polutchko

No. The performance of the most senior public employee in our community is perfectly appropriate for public discussions. However, attempts to censor that discussion are inappropriate.

As for disrespect? Sorry, where I come from respect is earned it is not a birthright. Dr. Gobron earned my respect and then lost it based on his actions nothing more nothing less.

Finally are you suggesting that Dr. Gobron was not centrally involved in the negotiation of the teachers contracts?

Kelly Roney
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al, I wasn’t offended, though I thought you shared in any hackiness I was guilty of.

No doubt one number seldom characterizes well any complex subject. OK, provide some other numbers. What’s the change in average teacher salary in Southborough schools? Maybe that’s hard to project given the vagaries of retirement, resignation, and new hiring. What happened in the past to salaries when a contract was labelled an x% raise?

By the way, it’s off topic, but your analysis of both public education results and federal retirement programs have major errors. Massachusetts schools are on par with the best in the world, thus it’s hard to see them as a failure. You’ve used national test results to make an argument about local expenditures. Heck, even I’m using state results.

Re retirement programs, life expectancy at birth is not the important number; life expectancy at retirement is, and most of the rise in that number has been addressed by previously enacted increases in the Social Security full retirement age. In fact, dramatically longer life expectancies are mainly in the upper middle class and higher (some good news for many Southborough residents!), the very same people whose annual contributions to Social Security are capped.

Also, Social Security is not close to failing. That’s a common media myth. There is no financial institution, public or private, that is more reliably funded than Social Security.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Kelly:

I believe the average teacher makes about $65k this is medium high in the scale of Mass teachers. With relatively stagnant/shrinking enrollments we are not adding as many teachers at the bottom of the scale.

The number I have been quoting of typical raises of 3-5% came from Paul Gaffney, former school committee member “It would be wonderfully transparent to translate those contacts into examples that every citizen could understand – including the “step and lane” construct present in many public-employee contract that turns the “face value” 0.75% (or whatever) “increase” into something more like 3% to 5% for each typical employee.”

I will attempt to get a copy of the contract and ask Susan to post it. It may take me a while.

I certainly agree that life expectancy at retirement is the governing number but life expectancy at birth is highly correlated. The 65 year old retirement age was cast in concrete in the 30’s when Social Security was initiated. I believe that the life expectancy at retirement was on the order of 67 now I believe it is well into the 80’s.

That does not change the subject that more and more of us are looking at 70 as the new 65.

As far as the solvency of the “trust fund” that depends on how you look at it. For decades Current SS Income (your and your companies SS tax) exceeded SS Obligations (money paid out) and the surplus was used to finance the US Govt Deficit. The “Trust Fund” consists of US Federal Debt.

In the past year Current SS Income was less that SS Obligations and so some of the “Trust Fund” had to be cashed in. This means 2 things. First, the federal govt has lost a source of debt funding and must seek to borrow elsewhere to meet its obligations (think China). Second, it is a well understood fact that under the current system the “Trust Fund” is not sufficient to meet the needs of the retiring baby boom.

The nightmare scenario is that at some point in the future the US finds it difficult to continue financing its operations and lenders require restructuring and draconian cuts (far larger than what is now being discussed) to restructure the debt. This can happen, sovereign risk is changing.

Kelly Roney
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al, those numbers would be useful to help understand the full picture of the teacher contract.

On Social Security, your beliefs are not correct. Sixty-five was not cast in concrete. Age of full retirement has increased many times since the 1930s and is currently 67 with further steps upward planned to 68, I believe.

These numbers are a little dated, but life expectancy at 65 has increased much more modestly than you believe. In 1940, a man reaching 65 had an average of 12.7 more years to live, a woman 14.7. The corresponding numbers in 1990 were 15.3 and 19.6. Thus, changes in retirement age for men have roughly kept pace with age demographics (short by 0.6 years), and, though retirement age for women has not kept pace (short by 2.9 years), the gap is small.

Lastly, the Baby Boomer problem was solved in 1983 with a large increase in payments into the trust fund. At this point, minor adjustments could fix the shortfall, assuming that the current 8-9% unemployment is temporary. One of those adjustments would be to remove the tax cap. This is not even progressive taxation, since it’s justified by demographics – the affluent have in fact made large life expectancy gains.

Mike
11 years ago

Frank, Exactly in your closing statement I agree whole heartedly. And I agree with Kelly’s first assessment that the middle class are losing ground becasue we are truly the “producing” people who can be taxed. That taxation then goes to the middle to lower income people. Two solutions are to lower the overall tax burden, MAKE the lower income earners or give them the opportnity to do what you and I have done Frank. I did not start driving a MB. I did not start in a 700K home. I did not start as a highly skilled, highly efficient, extremely well compensated, highly experienced executive. I started on co op programs at Norhteasetern after I spent the first three years out of high school in the military and then worked my way up the ladder through hard work, diligence, and Kelly, many, many bruises on my forehead from failing but learning along the way through mental and charater fortitude. In other words I did not give up, give in or fold. That is what has made American great for those who seek to attain it – prosperity, and you and no one else has the right to reach into my pocket and take it. But that is what Obama, and many so called conservatives are killing in America – motivation and prosperity – just like Europe.. So I believe the common enemy is the politician, the union, and in some cases the executives like Jeffry Emmelt (GE) and others who are in the back pocket ot the lets say “government” and not so much left, right, libs or conservatives.

John boiardi
11 years ago

Al,

Just read in the Globe that Arlington teachers agreed to a new contract. They will receive a 2% increase on the last day of the current fiscal year and two years without a raise. My my!

Kathy Cook
11 years ago

To those that are attempting to quantify the total raises that the new teachers’ contract contains – please remember that the teachers also agreed to increase their contribution to their health insurance premium payments from 20% to 25%. It was my understanding that the COLAs included in the new contract were offset by the increased health insurance contribution. And over time, since it is expected that health insurance premiums will continue to rise much faster than the COLAs, the net impact of the 3.5% COLA in the new contract may be totally offset by the reduced town expense for health insurance for school employees.

Kathy Cook

John boiardi
11 years ago

Kathy,
I’m sure you are correct on the net effect of the COLA with the teachers contract which will offset the 3.5% increase. However; it does not mitigate the effect of higher wages on retirement funding. Our teachers have a wage and benefit package that is better than the private sector. Our school committee has put the town in a difficult position regarding taxes. Look around at other towns,cities and states that are making the tough decisions to cut expenses and yes cut positions as necessary. Southborough is behind the curve. This next budget season will be a wake up call ( Al H says overrides). the town will have to decide whether they want municipal services or expensive school services. Would anyone care to guess how an override would do at the ballot box? Voters won’t be subject to the bullying that went on at the town meeting by the few. The decision would be made by the many voters.

Jimmy
11 years ago
Reply to  John boiardi

John,

Given Kathy’s point that health care costs are rising faster than COLAs, isn’t it safe to assume that the actual health costs for teachers will rise more in retirement since they pay the same share in retirement as on board employees?

John boiardi
11 years ago
Reply to  Jimmy

Jimmy,

Again, your assumption is correct. However, all levels of government are faced with rising costs, un or under funded obligations and taxes that are chocking economic development.

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