Teachers, school board must talk to each other

There are sound arguments on both sides when it comes to needs, priorities and concessions as the Keystone Central School Board yet again struggles to balance a new fiscal year budget – this time for 2019-2020.

But when there is a lack of communication between the school board and unionized teachers, there will only be more angst, more suspicion and more distrust … all at the expense of students.

We respectfully plead for school board and teachers’ union leaders to stand up and take heed:

– The school board and the teachers union need to sit down and talk … regularly through the budget process.

– The board needs to provide to teachers an outline of specific budget challenges for 2019-2020.

– What costs are not covered by revenues?

– What list of items are up for cuts or reduction even with another property tax hike, flat state subsidies or a minimal increase from Harrisburg?

– What does the second citizens task force recommend?

– What options are there to mitigate cuts so to minimize the impact on students?

– In other words, what ideas can teachers – perhaps a membership-selected committee of teachers – provide to the board to help ease any impact on students?

Folks, we’re not being overly dramatic by insisting that the quality of our students’ education is at stake with every decision about spending, staffing and programs.

We want our paid professionals to work together to solve challenges and problems.

Keystone continues to struggle – more so than other districts, we argue – because the burden of fixed costs to active employees and retirees for pensions and health care insurance are monumental.

Keystone is among a small number of districts in the region that still pay the bulk of their retirees’ health care insurance until they turn 65, when they’re eligible for Medicare.

It’s not sustainable.

So in the meantime, we cut, cut and cut more.

How many cuts are made until the district is hallowed out?

We’re not bashing teachers over this. They have negotiated contracts in good faith. Who would not want the most they could get from a contract?

But we expect … No, we demand – and so do parents and taxpayers — that the board, administrators, teachers and designated citizens on the task force sit down together and work through this process.

Shame on the teachers for not telling the board first that they don’t want to again consider a pay freeze.

A similar tactic was used last year. It’s not professional.

There are outstanding people on both sides of the struggle.

They are dedicated, passionate professional educators and volunteer board members and citizens.

Please, get your act together.