Many school boards around the state are being maligned in an NEA-style attack campaign. The union marketing is relying on partial truths to deceive educators and communities about the bargaining issues.
The best remedy for partial truth is more information, and the Kennewick School Board is poised to make transparency the disinfectant.
School board members there may be addressing the union misinformation campaign by opening the collective bargaining meetings to journalists and other observers. The Tri-City Herald reports district will be voting on July 11 on whether to make bargaining meetings public.
Residents and families have an enormous interest in the concessions made at the bargaining table. Taxes, services, accountability and even the very solvency of the district are all impacted by the union’s demands.
School district are facing misinformation battles from the union
Like most districts, the Kennewick levy is the source of salary enhancements required by previous union contracts. The Freedom Foundation has concerns about how these uses of limited levy funds squeeze out other services intended to help children. Former Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn also expressed concerns and filed a lawsuit to end this practice. Current Superintendent Chris Reykdal and many school administrators expressed concerns and urged the Legislature to end levy-funded salary enhancements.
The legislative solution was to shift salary funding away from levies and back to the state. Accordingly, the new law enhances state average salary provision from $55,705 to $65,216 or about 15 percent, prohibits levy-funded salary enhancement, and cuts most districts’ levy collections.
In Kennewick, the current union contract funds 29.5 days’ worth of salary, representing a 16 percent wage enhancement. The new state funding system makes this now illegal, and the state is cutting the levy collection for Kennewick from $3.41 per thousand to $1.50 per $1,000 because the levy doesn’t need to fund salary any more.
The new state money increases salary by about 15 percent statewide, and it will be passed along, but the local funding will be drying up. The district simply cannot reduce the illegal levy-funded 16 percent salary, and add the new state 15 percent salary money and then to add another 15 percent as the union demands.
The union statewide suggests that billions of new state dollars are being provided, and that districts are refusing to give the 15 percent net pay increases they demand with those dollars.
The billions in new funds includes the 15 percent base salary increase but are also intended for specific services like Special Education, smaller class size, transportation, Career and Technical Education, Highly Capable Education, supplemental services for students in poverty, English Language Learner services and materials, supplies, and operating cost. Only by diverting money from these services will districts be able to comply with the union demands.
Which is fine by the unions, but a terrible idea for students.
Allowing reporters in the meeting would help remove the smokescreen and neutralize the misinformation campaign. Accurate information will be key to making sure everyone in Kennewick understands the risk of financially irresponsible school board decisions before it’s too late.