Sign of the times
Taxpayers, council members, and now apparently even members of the Teaneck BoE are expecting, or at least hoping, for some sort of giveback from teachers' unions in the reshaped budget. In the course of explaining to The Record why he is declining to publicly call for concessions, school board president Ardie Walser hints that such a development would not be unwelcome.
"I don't think that we can put any more pressure on the teachers union than has already been put on by the public," said Ardie Walser, the school board president. "It's a union decision, and a personal decision by members of that union as to what they feel they can do to help us with this issue. I'm not interested in vilifying them, because the ones that are left will have to work harder than they ever have before."
A pay freeze or additional teacher contributions toward benefits costs would certainly make the task of the BoE easier as it prepares to take some hard decisions. Might they also make sense from the perspective of the teachers? Walser seems to suggest as much, reasoning that by relieving some of the pressure on the school budget teachers would be doing themselves a favor by preserving their colleagues' jobs, thereby lightening their workload.
Though united through collective bargaining, it appears that teachers are now placed in a position where individual self-interest will carry the day. A teacher who is likely to keep his or her job and is closer to retirement and therefore less worried about what any future contract might look like is likely to take a stand for the sanctity of contracts. Others might be more willing to support concessions, distasteful as that may be.
Realistically, it appears that the battle that the teachers' unions lost in the court of public opinion is going to cost them the war too, and not just in Teaneck. Across the bridge in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is moving to cancel scheduled pay hikes for teachers in an effort to preserve teaching positions. Politicians and voters alike have come to understand that as spiraling personnel costs have come to account for larger and larger percentages of public spending and private employees' wage growth has failed to keep pace with that of public employees, future teacher contracts cannot be as generous and that even existing arrangements deserve reconsideration. The times demand it.