Record editorial: Bumpy road will hopefully lead to compromise between teachers, district
It appears the Park City Board of Education and teachers may yet reach a compensation agreement.
Negotiations, the sides announced last week, are back on after the Board of Education halted them based on word that significant cuts to the district’s state funding were forthcoming. Those cuts didn’t materialize, and now the elected officials have returned to the bargaining table.
That’s good news. It’s unclear how much the board will be able to offer teachers given the uncertain financial future the district is facing due to the coronavirus pandemic. But hopefully the sides will be able to reach a fair agreement that maintains the relative peace between the district and its teachers that has marked the last several years.
Parkites need only look back to early last decade, when a round of acrimonious negotiations stretched for a year and a half and left relationships strained, to recall the potential of a labor dispute to corrode trust and, ultimately, hinder the mission of educating students.
It will be a credit to both sides if they are able to avoid a similar fate this time despite the unexpected circumstances that have upended the negotiations.
At the same time, the board and the Park City Education Association, which represents teachers, each shoulder a bit of blame for the bumps in the process so far.
For its part, the board made a mistake in stopping the negotiations last month and announcing a salary freeze for employees before the Legislature actually amended the state budget to account for the pandemic. Rather than cutting education funding, lawmakers ultimately preserved a modest increase, which will essentially keep the district’s state revenues even with last school year.
As the teachers pointed out, the elected officials should have instead waited until after the financial picture was more clear to stake out their position.
The Education Association, though, also missed the mark in expressing frustration about the possibility of teachers not receiving a salary increase. No doubt, teachers deserve to be paid more, a point the Board of Education willingly concedes. That has never been more clear than this spring when teachers, on a dime, adapted to an entirely new way of educating students during the schools shutdown.
But teachers’ claim that not getting a raise is akin to a pay cut is remarkably tone-deaf, ignoring both the challenging financial realities suddenly hamstringing the district and the grim situation unfolding in the broader community, where many Parkites have suffered actual pay cuts, or worse, lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Fortunately, those missteps did not scuttle the process. Now that talks have resumed, the community that both the Board of Education and teachers serve demands they work in good faith to forge a deal that both sides can support.
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