An editorial written by By Richard P. Harkawik President, Wallingford Education Association – as published in the Record Journal on Saturday February 20, 2010
A common misconception concerns the salary increase Wallingford teachers received as a result of the last contract negotiations. The belief that all teachers received a 4.2 percent increase in salaries this year is not accurate.
The 4.2 percent represents a percentage of last year’s salary account.This “pool” of money is then used to first pay the cost of increments that are part of the contractual salary schedule; the remainder is then applied to all teachers as an increase. Thus, a 4.2 percent increase does not add 4.2 percent to all salaries. In fact, the majority of teachers received a 2 percent increase this year, as opposed to the national wage increase average of 2.8 percent. Much time was spent during negotiations in determining how we could “fix” the salary schedule so that it would be more evenly balanced between the different steps, and to make Wallingford more competitive in attracting and retaining quality teachers.
In fact, Wallingford lagged behind almost every other town in New Haven County when salary schedules were compared. In order to make Wallingford’s salary schedule more equal with the other towns, the 4.2 percent increase was necessary. Additionally, the teachers also made several concessions to help this happen: a step freeze this year, and the addition of one step in the schedule. Teachers now have 13 steps; other town unions have between 3 and 5 steps.
The contract itself was approved by the Board of Education and the Town Council, during the worst of the economic crisis. Both had the opportunity to reject it; neither chose to do so. It was not long after this contract was passed last year that teachers were asked for givebacks. This year, again, we have been asked to make concessions. One has to wonder why agreements are made if the intent is not to honor them.
The process of negotiating a contract involves give and take. Wage increases are negotiated in the context of other components, such as insurance co-pays, premium shares, and other benefits. Aiming for this balance,the contract was negotiated in good faith, and we now look to the mayor and town council to honor their commitment to the education of our town’s children at the level of excellence they have always received from the teachers of Wallingford.