If the teachers’ union thought that the school board was going to walk away from a fight over the FACE report and its devastating indictment of the school district’s unsustainable trends in teacher salaries and benefits, the school board cured them of that notion Saturday evening.
That was when school board President Mark Lipton released an uncharacteristically sharp and pointed refutation of the embarrassing grandstand stunt pulled by seven members of the teachers’ union at the Dec. 13 school board meeting.
The union’s over-the-top attack last Thursday on schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Kreutzer “was the Tet Offensive that we were warned about last spring,” one longtime observer of district politics told Briefing Book. Like the Tet Offensive, it was an epic failure. Unlike Tet, it was also a psychological defeat. In their zeal to topple Dr. Kreutzer, the union leaders embarrassed themselves and failed to utter two words — the two magic words that would have made them heroes instead of zeroes.
It’s clear from the last few months that public employee unions are on a losing streak. The union effort to overturn Wisconsin’s public education reforms failed miserably. Michigan, the birthplace of the American labor movement, passed a right-to-work law. The New York state tax cap is forcing Westchester school districts to address the trend of more spending and fewer kids. And the new FACE report predicted a school budget of more than $126 million by 2017 — a cost of more than $42,000 per student.
So the union panicked, swung for the fences, and struck out. They dumped a package of recycled trash on the school board and hoped they could intimidate the school board into dumping Dr. Kreutzer. The union pushed hard. Surprisingly, the school board pushed back harder. Mr. Lipton dismissed the union’s trumped-up charges as nothing more than old wine in new bottles. “None of the information made known to the public [by the teachers’ union] was unknown to the board,” Mr. Lipton confidently asserted, before slamming the teachers’ union for its “unfortunate” and “confrontational” behavior.
The fact is that the teachers’ union’s problem isn’t with Dr. Kreutzer, but with Gov. Scott Walker and the pioneering education reforms he instituted in Wisconsin. Dr. Kreutzer not only supported those reforms, he articulately and rationally defended them. For the union, last week’s debacle had nothing to do with Dr. Kreutzer’s behavior since his hiring and everything to do with the fact that he was hired in the first place.
But why was the union attack such a misfire? Why did the union’s ambush spark a firestorm in the first 24 hours and then flame out over the weekend, ultimately failing to win the support of the taxpaying parents who expect better conduct from the adults in the room? Because the union completely and utterly failed to utter two magic words — words that would have conclusively demonstrated that the teachers’ union really gets it about education spending in our district.
One longtime observer of district politics was succinct in analyzing the union’s spectacular belly flop last Thursday evening, telling us here at Briefing Book that “despite the fact that the teachers in our school district are literally among the best paid in the country, they continue to feel oppressed.”
As we’ve written here the past few months, Katonah-Lewisboro outspends school districts in Bedford, Byram Hills, Chappaqua, Harrison, and Scarsdale per pupil by a pretty respectable margin. The salaries we pay to our teachers are higher than the salaries they pay to the teachers in those five districts. As a result, the retirement pensions we pay our teachers are higher than the retirement pensions they pay in those five districts.
So here’s a suggestion for the teachers’ union. Next time you feel the urge to speak up at a school board meeting, try this instead. Step up to the microphone, take a look at your paychecks, and just say these two magic words: “Thank you.”