Methuen schools are facing the loss of 22 teachers. Yet the teachers union is unwilling to consider any concessions that might save those jobs.
The loss of 22 teaching positions surely will have a negative impact on the quality of education provided to Methuen's children.
We hear continually from teachers that their sole focus is "the children." Yet, when the time comes for teachers to consider a freeze in their own pay and benefits to maintain a quality education for Methuen's children, the union refuses even to discuss the matter.
"There does not have to be any teacher layoffs in this community," said Mayor William Manzi. "Let's work together and let's come up with solutions where everyone shares equally."
The actions of the Methuen Education Association speak more loudly that its empty words. The teachers union stands not with city's children or taxpayers. The union stands only for itself.
The Methuen school system faces a $1.84 million budget deficit. Yet teachers union members will receive $2.2 million worth of contractual pay raises.
Part of the blame for this fiasco rests with the school and municipal leaders who agreed to a contract with pay raises that the city cannot afford. But surely the teachers can see that agreeing to forgo just a part of their raises would eliminate the need for these layoffs.
School Superintendent Jeanne Whitten said there is nothing else to cut in the budget and so the pink slips have been mailed.
School Committee member Gary Marcoux said blame for the layoffs rests with teachers union leaders for not letting rank-and-file teachers vote on whether to make pay concessions.
"We have a small corps of people directing what goes on in the Methuen public schools. I find that appalling," Marcoux said.
Marcoux is no union basher. He is the former head of the Lawrence teachers union.
But Methuen Education Association President Donna Gogas told reporter J.J. Huggins after the meeting that the union's executive board talked to members and the members opted not to concede.
The union seems to be banking on the hope that some money will be "found" at the last minute to save their jobs. But the fact is that cities and towns can no longer afford the extravagant pay and benefits they have doled out to public employees for so long. And so, 22 teachers may indeed find themselves out of work.
That's too bad for Methuen's children, who will pay the price for the union's intransigence. School administrators need to come up with a plan to continue to provide a high-quality education without the 22 teachers.