What happens to negotiated pay increases when a local education association and a school district is at impasse during contract talks? In all other districts in New Jersey, staff receives retroactive pay once the two sides agree on terms. Everywhere, that is, except Lakewood Public Schools.
According to the Lakewood Scoop, at last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting the Board finalized a 2012-2013 budget that deprives teachers of retroactive pay for the last two years.
From The Scoop:
The BOE voted late Thursday night on a final budget that included a $500,000 dollar increase in the tax levy, down from a proposed $3.3 million dollar increase. But board members say the reduction came out of the hard work of one man. ”Chesky Seitler, named as Budget Committee chairman only three weeks ago, worked tirelessly to understand the budget and to determine exactly why such a large increase was needed”, a board member said.
At a meeting last week, the Lakewood School Board Budget Committee Chair ‘Chesky Seitler had an inspiration:
Seitler determined that the budget called for $2.8 million dollars in raises for the Union teachers, that would pay for the past two years of raises. What Seitler proposed, was that the Union contract be negotiated starting now, and the years past be considered a zero raise.
“The idea of forcing the taxpayers to pay all 3 years worth of raises in one year was too much to bear”, Seitler says.
In what is clearly a violation of the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) the Board unilaterally approved a withholding of salary increases.‘Chesky Seitler explained, “The union has not accepted the Board’s position, however the budget now does not have the funds needed for their demands. Their choice is either to accept the new terms, or continue without a contract.”
No word on counsel offered by the Board Attorney, Michael Inzebuch, who also serves as District Special Education Advocate, Board Parliamentarian, and Title 1 Overseer.
Meanwhile, Lakewood is gearing up for board member elections, with six candidates running for three slots. One is an incumbent, Yoni Silver, who describes his platform:
This year our new members along with the other 2 incumbents running for reelection have proposed a 5.2 % budget increase costing the average property tax payer $300.00. While I originally felt that Lakewood had decided to take a different route, I contemplated not running again. I was encouraged however by many in our Kehilla [community] that last year was a mistake and now is not the time to step aside. The work I started 3 years ago must continue and it was this encouragement by many legitimate Askonim [politicians, functionaries] and Mosdos [yeshivas, or Jewish day schools] that pushed me back into the race.
Another candidate is 18-year-old Aasim Johnson, a Lakewood High School student, who explains that he wants “to offer an education experience for all religious and non-religious students.” He adds, “[o]ut of my four years in the High School, I’ve been through 2 Superintendents, 3 Principals, and 7 Vice Principals, and that tells you a scary thing about Lakewood.”