Teacher contract outcome only buys time

With the North Dakota Education Factfinding Commission blaming the Minot Education Association for the failure to resolve an impasse over teacher contract negotiations and representatives of the school board not embracing another round of negotiations, the only accomplishment is the purchase of time.

Over the next year, Minot schools are going to have to find a way to save money or rake in more revenue just to maintain its current baseline – and that’s completely setting aside additional capital and program needs.

From the beginning, this looked like it would be the outcome. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? The impasse eventually declared officially was really there from the start. Teachers wanted a modest increase to starting salaries. The district is already over-budget. Exactly where do you go from positions like those. One certainly cannot make a villain of either interest. There was some negotiating room on another couple of issues, but the big ticket, big-bucks item – there simply was no obvious way around the conflict.

All that appears is going to happen now is for the district to have bought time. Minot taxpayers are in no mood to render more unto Caesar, even for schools, and it would be a shock if they felt more generous next year or the year after. Meanwhile, costs will go up just to keep up with enrollment and health insurance benefits.

So what’s to be done? Over the next year, the district must identify and enact cost cutting, must look at eliminating duplication of services or out-sourcing services… must find some way to invest more in its teachers without drawing the ire of taxpayers.

Otherwise, this is a vicious cycle that will only repeat.