>Baker City Herald | Baker County Oregon's News Leader

Baker news NE Oregon Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Follow BakerCityHerald.com

Baker City Herald print edition

view all Baker City Herald print publications »

The Baker City Herald is now online in a Replica E-edition form and publishes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Current subscribers have full access to the E-edition.

View Paper

If you are not a current subscriber, subscribe today for immediate access.


Recent article comments

Powered by Disqus

Home arrow Opinion arrow Avoiding school layoffs won't be easy if we point fingers


Avoiding school layoffs won't be easy if we point fingers

Pointing fingers isnt going to solve our school funding crisis unless the tips point to solutions.

That is why we are setting high expectations for teachers, parents and school administrators going into tonights school board meeting and the coming school year.

Because the options are fairly straightforward, whether we like them or not. Start slinging accusations like mud and we arent going to go anywhere. Seek meaningful options and cooperation, however, and we might salve the pain and solve the problem.

Last week, administrators and union officials made a crucial first step towards cooperating to find a way out of the worst predicament for schools in recent memory.

They agreed to seek voluntary separation agreements from 10 staff members. Severance includes a $12,000 payment, plus a cash stipend equal to the districts insurance contribution monthly for 12 years or until age 62.

Eligibility is limited to teachers with 10 or more years of service with Baker School District 5J. Of the districts 140 teachers, 74 are at or near retirement age.

Finding 10 people willing to make that kind of sudden life change in a pinch will be difficult.

Presumably, the union is up to the challenge. Negotiators signed on to the program instead of proposing an alternative, such as an across the board pay and benefit freeze or decrease that would preserve jobs. No doubt, it will be easier to convince 10 people to retire than convince 140 people to accept less pay for the same job.

Within hours, however, union officials were throwing up roadblocks to achieving the voluntary cuts. Union president-elect Carmen Ott called the move blackmail, citing the districts intention to lay off seven teachers if 10 wont retire.

Current union president Judy Trohkimoinen equated the savings from the cuts to the amount still in dispute between Baker schools and the Union-Baker Education Services District for special education. She suggested teachers are being forced to bear the brunt of a funding error committed by Superintendent Toni Hardman.

Certainly, the absence of more than $300,000 in anticipated revenues from this past years budget was a setback for the district. And other revenue sources projected for the upcoming year have come up short, too, compounding the districts problems.

The gaffe with the ESD is certainly worthy of review by the school board, and Hardman is likely not beyond reproach for her handling of the verbal agreement that became a very expensive misunderstanding.

But like it or not, that money doesnt exist. And neither do the reserves the district has been spending down the last seven years to increase salaries for teachers and administrators, pay higher benefit costs and cover other expenses.

The opportunity to avoid past mistakes is over. The school board is now charged with scrutinizing the proposed budget and making cuts that will maintain essential services while reducing costs.

Unless the teachers union can offer an alternative, we have to agree with Hardman that the districts offer of voluntary separation is the most humane option.

In lean times, an employer doesnt have to offer employees the chance to decide who will stay and who will leave. That decision can come written in pink with no warning and no input from teachers.


blog comments powered by Disqus
Local / Sports / Business / State / National / Obituaries / Submit News
Editorials / Letters / Columns / Submit a letter
Outdoors / Go Magazine / Milestones / Living Well
Baker Herald
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Privacy Policy / Commenting Policy / Site Map
Also Online
Photo Reprints / Videos / Local Business Links / Community Links / Weather and Road Cams / RSS Feed

Follow Baker City Herald headlines on Follow Baker City Herald headlines on Twitter

© Copyright 2001 - 2015 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use