Letter skewed the facts and figures of WNESU teacher contract impasse

SAXTONS RIVER — As a concerned taxpayer in Rockingham, I am writing in response to “Contract negotiations not about devaluing education” [Letters, March 7], which contained erroneous and biased information surrounding the current Windham Northeast Supervisory Union (WNESU) teacher contract difficulties.

To make matters worse, it was signed “WNESU Negotiating Committee, Bellows Falls,” and yet none of the authors was even present for the last meeting of the Negotiating Committee for the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union.

The authors of the letter compared a figure for median income in Windham County from 12 years ago, with the highest teacher salary in the WNESU currently. The figure for median income used in the letter was said to be from 2010, when in reality the figure for median income for 1999 was used. This figure was contrasted with a current figure for the highest-paid teacher - a slanted and misleading comparison.

A more relevant comparison might be the 2011 median income in Windham County, $46,714, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to the 2011 median WNESU teacher's salary, which is $46,636.

But don't forget that teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree, if not a master's degree, and the ensuing student loans to pay each month. Add to that out-of-pocket expenses for the classroom, as well as an increasing share of insurance premiums each year (currently 15 percent), and you will see the teacher's salary fall farther and farther behind the county median.

In 2008, the base starting teacher salary in WNESU was $35,716. Now, in 2012, the base starting teacher salary is $37,892, still substantially under the median income level and increasing at an annual rate far less than the 3 to 6.84 percent quoted in the original letter.But by far the most important fact which the Windham County public needs to know, not mentioned in the directors' letter, is that the current WNESU teacher's contract impasse has not resulted from disagreements about pay or benefits at all.

The board wants to take away arbitration rights in the new contract, which would be a first for school districts anywhere in Vermont. Teachers, like all employees, deserve the right to retain these basic due process rights.

It is admirable that these directors are willing to serve their communities as chairs or past chairs of their local school boards, but if they submit public letters to our local paper and community, the description of issues should be fair, inclusive, and nonjudgmental.

Unfortunately, this recent letter to The Commons was none of these.

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