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Letter: Press city officials to hold the line with school unions

To the Editor

With contract negotiations now underway, Norwalk taxpayers would be well advised to pressure city officials — the mayor, BOE and BET — to put taxpayer interests ahead of our highly overpaid school teachers. Two years ago, the Arbitration Panel Report detailed that city school teachers were the 5th highest in the state but city incomes ranked only 19th. No other city in CT showed such a disparity between teacher salaries and residents’ incomes. Our continued stagnant property values reflect that abhorrent disparity.

There’s no mystery how that disparity arose. Past city officials — the mayor, BOE and especially the BET — failed their assigned duties to protect the public interest. In no other CT city have incomes changed just 10 percent over the past two decades amidst a whopping 55 percent increase in city spending. That’s failed government. The results are all around us — years of stagnant property values amidst a national housing boom. And a city that’s becoming a city of renters who now make up one-third of city residents. Prospective city newcomers understand all too well the connection between punitive property taxes, stagnant income and stagnant property values. And move elsewhere.

Two years ago the BOE, under the stewardship of Chairman Mike Lyons had the “right stuff” to take Norwalk’s NFT — reportedly the most hostile teachers union in the state — to arbitration and won a resounding victory for city taxpayers. In their brief, the NFT argued that Norwalk was one of the wealthiest communities in the nation and could well afford continued pay hikes. Would that statement be true! Residents are advised to read that NFT brief to learn how the NFT views Norwalk — just a “gravy train.”

Mayor Rilling, who enjoyed unprecedented support by our hostile NFT, will be called upon to demonstrate firm resolve in contract negotiations. And, the BET despite its chronic absence of financial experienced members needs display firm resolve to protect citizen interests. Even the Common Council, whose finance chairman is a former school teacher, can join the chorus of putting taxpayers first.

Norwalk has paid a terrible price in lost property valuations and reluctance of business firms to invest here because of the punitive taxes levied to give lofty salaries to our school teachers who return the favor by living outside the city because of our high property taxes and under-performing schools. No other city routinely appoints citizens without financial backgrounds to its financial board nor appoints former school teachers to head its Common Council Finance Committee. Such indifference to established norms begets bloated budgets.

Now is the time for taxpayers to put pressure on city officials and demand they put taxpayer interests first. The difference between city incomes and city teacher salaries reflects poor judgments. Let’s encourage the BOE, BET and mayor to have the collective fortitude to take the hostile NFT once again to arbitration if necessary to seek the very best terms for city taxpayers.

Indeed, with teacher salaries 5th highest in the state there’s a strong argument for no increase in Norwalk’s next NFT contract.

Peter I Berman

Comments

7 responses to “Letter: Press city officials to hold the line with school unions”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    Highly paid teachers and hostile NFT, you lost me when you use those words, there is no arbitrary nature to this commentary, it’s a rally for those in this town who know that one way out of poverty is a good education.

    I have seen the work produced by the teachers of Norwalk, and I would argue those who feel the teachers are overpaid, and the lesson plans are sub standard, have themselves an opportunity to better the situation; They can move.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  2. John Hamlin

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/10/justice/california-teacher-tenure-lawsuit/

    Tenure is on its way out — we need teachers to be accountable. California has the new answer!!

  3. Oldtimer

    Can’t help wondering why Professor Berman is so bitter about present teacher salaries. Could it be he doesn’t understand how the dollar has shrunk since he was teaching ?

  4. EveT

    With all due respect and admiration for the excellent work most of our teachers perform, I have to agree with Mr. Berman on one point: compensation for Norwalk’s teachers is out of proportion with the city’s economy. I don’t know how many Norwalk teachers live outside of Norwalk, but if you teach in Norwalk and you can afford to live in, say, Wilton, what does that indicate about your salary? On a broader level, how many workers in other fields have gotten automatic raises year after year — ever — but especially since the crash of 2008? I’d be the last one to argue that teachers don’t deserve good pay, but there comes a point when enough is enough.

  5. One and Done.

    1. End the automatic year over year increases immediately. There is no other industry in the world that gets raises just for showing up to work next year after a 10 week holiday. It is disgusting and ridiculous and must end.
    .
    2. End all the special perks, pork, and payoffs hidden in various sections of the contract. One salary and one salary only.
    .
    3. No banking of sick time. Use it or lose it. Those who use theirs judiciously will see more potential for advancement. Those who chronically use it up every year will be put on performance review.
    .
    4. Misappropriation of city assets will result in immediate dismissal without pay. No more paid suspensions or letters of recommendation for criminal behavior. I’m surprised the school district where Polselli landed hasn’t sued us for fraud yet.

    5. Put all teachers and city workers and retirees on Obamacare effective immediately. The unions supported this measure on a national scale and now they should practice what they preach. .
    .
    These moves will save the city hundreds of millions of dollars that is sorely needed in repairing the crumbling infrastructure that has suffered so that we can over compensate these voting blocks.
    .
    When you consider that the educational outcomes are the same a few decades ago as they were last decade then you can easily conclude that the extra billion dollars we spent was wasted.

  6. John Hamlin

    More important — freeze compensation until teachers agree to performance evaluations and ratings, accountability (including dismissal when warranted), and the complete abolition of tenure and special treatment based on seniority. When teachers agree to that, then agree to generous compensation increases based on performance.

    Perhaps it’s time for a lawsuit in Connecticut like the one in California on the unconstitutional teacher tenure system:

    http://nypost.com/2014/06/11/ny-advocates-eye-teacher-tenure-overturn-after-california-legal-ruling/

    Go Ted Olson!! He’s doing for public education what he did for marriage equality!!

  7. piberman

    A well functioning city requires public employees be paid in accord with city incomes. Median family incomes in our city are just about $70,000 and per capita incomes have been stagnant for two decades -up only 10%. But City spending is up 55% during the same period and most of that increase went to our overpaid teachers. Why should a city ranking 19th in income pay the 5th highest salaries in CT ? Surely not because of their superior performance. Not even the NFT claims top performance. Excessive teacher salaries are paid in Norwalk Only because Norwalk’s elected officials are more concerned about City employees ( who mostly live outside the city) than City taxpayers. Changing that equation requires electing more competent officials. That’s a major challenge for Norwalk.

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