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Our View: Don't strike in District 157

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Padding the pensions for new teachers and how much teachers with a master’s degree make is what stands in the way of a new teachers contract in Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157.

The district and the Richmond-Burton Education Association have reached an impasse in negotiations regarding a new five-year contract. The teachers have filed a 10-day notice, which is required before teachers can go on strike.

We urge District 157 teachers to stay on the job and not strike as they continue to negotiate a new contract with the school board. We also think the teachers should take a second look at the district’s final offer.

The teachers union asked for a higher cost-of-living increase for teachers with master’s degrees and the most experience. In a sampling of 21 area districts, Richmond-Burton teachers were paid above average when they had a bachelor’s degree and no experience but were paid about $7,700 less than the average when they had a master’s degree and 20 years of experience, the union’s report said.

The district said it would agree to the additional pay if the union would agree to eliminate pre-retirement salary increases for new hires, the district said in its release. The union wants the district to continue the practice of providing 6 percent salary increases in a teacher’s final four years.

The pre-retirement salary increases serve as a pension-padder for teachers since pension benefits are based on ending salary.

If teachers don’t walk out, they will continue to earn the respect of students, parents and administrators.

We understand negotiations can be frustrating. Striking, however, is not the way to go about trying to get your way. It sets a bad example for students and divides the community. Strikes also put school boards in situations where they are forced to make promises that taxpayers can’t afford so students get back into the classroom.

That’s why we support legislation that would prohibit teachers from striking. That certainly would even the playing field for taxpayers.

Teachers should be treated the same as firefighters and police officers, who are barred from striking under state law. Firefighters and police officers must solve their contract disputes through arbitration, not strikes. With the ability to strike, teachers have all the leverage. School officials have very little. And students and taxpayers are placed in bad situations.

We hope District 157 teachers and the school board reach a fair agreement for both sides and taxpayers that doesn’t include a strike.

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