Monday, February 24, 2014

Statement to the School Board at the 2-24-14 Meeting

School Board Chair Heidemann, Board Members, Superintendent Carlson, guests. My name is Julie Blaha and I am the president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, our teachers union.  I am joined by the AHEM Negotiations Team, colleagues, fellow union members, and neighbors:

It’s time.

Our contract is 239 days over due.

And we are not alone. There are seven groups that are over seven months overdue for a new contract in our district. You may approve a one-year contract for Interpreters tonight. Custodians are 359 days – almost a year – overdue.

We are doing our part to come to a fair, reasonable settlement.

·      We started by making our bargaining process truly open. We met in the evening so more people could observe. We shared our proposals publically all along the way.
o   Despite that transparency, Superintendent Carlson’s last interview in MinnPost regarding bargaining shows you all are not up to speed on what actually happened during those twelve sessions.

·      We made offers based on your own budget assumptions. Then we double checked to see that your plans were affordable. (They were.)
o   You responded with economic offers that would continue years of take home pay that has remained unchanged or even dropped for many of our teachers.

·      In November, we came here and shared our concerns about lack of progress and asked you to join us at the table.
o   You offered a Meet & Confer, which is an informal meeting, but weren’t willing to join us at the bargaining table where decisions are actually made.

·      We sent you over 2,000 postcards highlighting our above average student achievement results that deserve the recognition of a fair, competitive contract.
o   We have heard no response.

·      We filed for mediation.
o   After two sessions, we (as in AHEM) have made real movement at the table. Apart from shifting things around, your position is virtually unchanged.

·      We began to working to rule, where we withhold the many voluntary activities teachers do above and beyond their normal duties. That is one of the most wrenching actions teachers can take.
o   Again, no response.

We are running out of options.

We don’t understand why we are in this place when our district’s financial situation is improving and academic performance is on the rise.

·      Our district has unprecedented reserves, $94 million dollars at last count – that’s about 23% of our budget.  The National Association of State Budget Officers recommends 5%-15% in a fund balance. We are well beyond that.

·      School funding finally turned the corner at the legislature. We are seeing an increase of about $13 million over the period of our contract.

·      Your staff is delivering above average student achievement results. Our scores are above average in every subject and at every level.  We were singled out for our progress just two weeks ago by the Star Tribune.

All of that should add up to a reasonable settlement.

Yet, if we were to accept your current offer, we would be taking one of the worst settlements in the state. That just doesn't add up.

·      It is time for serious offers that make real progress toward a settlement.

·      It is time to budget in a way that puts people before fund balances.

·      It is time to recognize the significant progress we are making for our students.

We are doing our part. It is time for you to do yours.