a commentary by Craig Masters
Nancy Rumfelt stepped to the podium at the Wednesday meeting of the Thompson School District Board of Education and the standing room crowd of teachers was dead quiet. The main item on the agenda was the approval of the new contract with the Thompson Education Association and Rumfelt was there to speak on behalf of taxpayers and the lack of public input before the agreement was finalized. Her request was not out of order, she simply asked the Board to give the public additional time to review the hundreds of pages of the agreement that obligate how public money be spent. In the end, one board member presented a motion to postpone their vote for two weeks – but not one other member would even second the motion and the agreement / union contract / memo of understanding or whatever you want to call it was approved by the Board.
Two others also addressed the issue of lack of time for review of this most important agreement, but not one disagreed with the concept that quality teachers deserve raises as their value increases. The new agreement is roughly 250 pages and was released for public review only one day before the scheduled Board vote. Worse still is the fact that details of the compensation package were not included in the information released for public review. So why the rush to release the terms of this agreement and bind the taxpayers to it with a Board vote before the compensation details are even made available to the people who pay the bills?
The opinion of the majority of the Board and the teachers present was very clear; it is none of the public’s business how much these public employees receive! One member of the Board, who said she was a city employee, even stated it wasn’t anyone’s business but her’s (and her boss’s) if, or how much of a raise she gets. Wow! She wants the public to be forced at the point of gun to pay her salary or lose their homes – but she thinks it is none of our business? And the teachers in that room applauded her idiotic comment.
As insulting to taxpayers as that comment was, that episode was not even the high point of arrogance for the meeting and the new TEA agreement with the district. In what could only be labeled as a transparent attempt by the superintendent and his ‘cabinet’ to buy the loyalty of the TEA (the teachers’ union) and weaken the control of the elected Board, the taxpayers are forced to pay the salary of the union’s president whose primary job it is to negotiate for the union members’ interests – not the interests of those who pay the bills. Why Rumfelt and the other speakers didn’t draw this point out is perhaps due to the fact that they hadn’t yet had time to completely review the compensation package. Clearly at least one board member recognized the conflict of interest in the union’s president being paid by the public instead of the union members.
For those who will point out the terms that call for the union to reimburse the district for “up to” about half of the president’s salary – please don’t embarrass yourself and your profession by pretending the district, paying the salary of a replacement teacher while the union president is too busy to teach, isn’t related to the ‘salary’ of your association’s president. The fact is that the public is forced to pay twice for most of the union president’s wages and benefits.
It was embarrassing enough when the TEA president tried to underhandedly correct Rumfelt and the other speakers by stating the “association” wasn’t a “union.” But it was actually insulting when a teacher in the audience commented (out of order) that they were the public too and thus implying that “the public” was represented in the negotiations. Let’s pray to God she isn’t an economics teacher.
I found myself crying for the future of our children as four little girls presented a request for a more understandable dress code.