I enjoyed Mr. Slater's letter to the editor on a more pragmatic approach to addressing the fiscal challenges our town's educational system faces. I understand Mr. Slater can't provide specifics and he needs to focus on solutions rather than how we got here, but I do want to bring up one unnerving point.
The ratification of a new 3 year agreement with the teachers union by an 8-1 margin days before knowing aid would be decreased is an affront to the intelligence of the community and frankly smacks of collusion. Getting back $1 million in health care costs and saying we're under the Union county salary increase average is not enough of a basis to ratify such a deal in these continuing economic turbulent times and right before clarity would be reached on state aid.
Why the rush? Who benefited?
70% of the budget this year is salaries which means a 3.9% increase amounts to an additional cost of $1.5 million (after subtracting $1 million in health care savings). This would meet ~30% of the projected shortfall in state aid alone if salaries remained flat.
Mr. Slater will get my vote if he can bring some balance to the board of education which clearly doesn't seem qualified to negotiate such contracts. Mr. Slater might want to look into bringing in professionals to negotiate on the town's behalf considering the professionals the NJEA employs.
Before we take construction paper from the kindergarten class due to state aid cuts (which some teacher protesting in Trenton threatened), let's at least be honest with ourselves and look at the salary and benefit increases promised to the union membership. It's been 2 years since I've received a raise and that was a collective decision we were allowed to make to save others jobs.
Let's have the same shared sacrifice from our educators and administrators.