Distribution of the races at SPPS (www.spft.org).
by Steve Timmer
Feb 16, 2014, 1:00 PM

Whatever’s wrong . . .

It’s the teachers’ fault!

Most readers here know that the St. Paul Federation of Teachers has scheduled a strike vote for February 24th. They’ve been negotiating with the district for a new two-year agreement since last May. The actual dollars-to-teachers amount that separates the district and the federation is peanuts. The teachers want a one percent raise and no reduction in benefits, and the district offers about the same amount, but the teachers pay more of their benefits. Naturally, one percent isn’t even the rate of inflation, but never mind.

There is also the issue of about $9 million in Q-Comp, the let’s turn teachers into competitors and see who claws his/her way up colleagues’ backs idea so in vogue with the Visigoths who really want to destroy public education. Frankly, if this was teachers’ idea of fun, they would have become investment bankers. Teachers don’t like Q-Comp because they think that teaching is a collaborative enterprise and that there are better and more fair ways to evaluate them than narrow high-stakes student test scores.

Q-comp’s also peanuts in the district’s budget. But the mayor of St. Paul says, Please, teachers, reconsider; don’t strike; think of the most vulnerable students in the district.

Now, I know — and like — Chris Coleman, the mayor of St. Paul. But he seems late to the party; the real impasse in the negotiations include class size and staffing levels for the district. Maybe the real questions the mayor ought to be asking are to the district administration: How did we get to the point where a kindergarten class of 28 students is still “in the target range?” What financial corner did we paint ourselves into so that so that we have only one school nurse for every 570 students and some schools where there isn’t one? Or 1,286 students per elementary school counselor? Or what about the 3,369 student/librarian ratio?

How did this happen?

And then the next question is: How is this the teachers’ fault? Because inquiring minds want to know. How much of it can be attributed to that hole in the bucket called charter schools? Is the administration itself bloated and inefficient?

At any rate, Mr. Mayor, please don’t try to pin the plight of “vulnerable students” on the teachers. They’re the ones who actually do the educating, day in and day out, and by that simple fact demonstrate that they’re the ones who care the most about students, including the vulnerable ones. I invite you to walk in the footsteps of a teacher for a couple of days and tell me you don’t agree.

Update: The pontiffs over at the Strib weigh in on point this morning (2/17). On the wrong side of it, of course. Why, the teachers forget themselves, says the Strib. “Hard staffing rules like those the teachers are demanding don’t belong in a contract.”

However, the district administration doesn’t seem to be even talking much with parents about the issue. It seems to be blowing them off, as a matter of  fact. Isn’t it nice that somebody is able to negotiate on behalf of the students?

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