Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Schoolyard Bullies?

Education, Germantown, Political, School Board, Taxes

As I read the article written by Thomas J. McKillen in the February 14th edition of the Express News, I couldn't help but think of the old-time "schoolyard bullies".

This article reported on the February 9th meeting of the school board and the remarks made by Mr. Tom Wilcox, a negotiator for the Germantown Education Association, the teachers' union.  He was quoted as saying that what the GEA was asking above the QEO  "... brings us a couple of tenths of a percent apart in salary each year.  The cost above the QEO would be approximately $44,000 per year of a two year contract.  The cost equates to about one Starbuck's tall latte per resident of Germantown per year."

First, how elitist; the idea that he would try to put us taxpayers down using this example seemed a reach, and not a very smart reach at that.  How many Germantown taxpayers have had to forsake their chosen pleasures due to the economy with which we find ourselves dealing today?  There is a certain reality that seems to be escaping his line of reasoning.

Second, he went on to advise that the GEA would be presenting a new proposal and that the board had two weeks to consider it.  And, he said, "If after two weeks we do not have a voluntary settlement, we will begin a new wave of job actions which will have a significant impact on the district."  He said the first wave would begin on February 23rd, a week from today, and would involved teachers working only "to the contract".  "Job actions will escalate until a voluntary settlement is reached.  Be assured, the QEO will not end our job actions".

That is when the image of a "schoolyard bully" entered my mind.  There are problems with this whole approach, not the least of which is the threatening nature of his remarks.  I wrote last week of the terrible public relations environment within which all teachers are lumped by this rhetoric.  The teachers who want no part of this hyperbole are all pulled together in this along with those who may be in favor of threats such as this.  Residents are unable to separate the two groups.

What kind of message does this convey to the students?  Are they being "educated" that one should not obey the rules?  Is this apparent teaching of anarchy to be condoned by the parents of the students and by the other residents who pay taxes, as well?

QEO is the law.  The teachers' union, WEAC, has been using as much of their dues money as possible to overturn this law, but that has not yet happened.  Frankly, if teachers' job actions were to persist after QEO was invoked, I would feel that I had been cheated.  Teachers may well be able to demonstrate, but that sends a terrible message to the kids and to the public.

I know quite a few teachers and I know some school board members here and elsewhere, and I've yet to find this kind of hyperbole in any of those people.  I tend to think that the majority of teachers are not in favor of these "stunts" but probably feel compelled to participate or risk being "called out" in a meeting or over coffee or in some other setting where they'd be embarrassed.

I want to continue to believe that I am right about this; I'd hate to learn that I was wrong.

Now, beyond all this, there remain some basic issues that need to be addressed.  If WEAC's WEA Insurance Trust health premiums run $22,000 per teacher per year, and if the typical employer carries a cost of as much as $11,000 per employee per year, that is a problem.  I also know that many employers have average costs per employee well beneath the $11,000 range.  There needs to be an introduction of reality in these bargaining sessions, and that seems lacking from what I see and hear.

Too bad the board doesn't have a "big brother" to corner that "schoolyard bully" on the way home someday.  That always seemed to work in years past whenever a bully tried to intimidate others.  And intimidation is precisely what is being played out here.

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