Cranston Public Schools Superintendent Judith Lundsten today said she is disappointed with the Cranston Teachers' Alliance, the teacher's union, over "their approach to budget negotiations that have languished" since last year.
The statement follows Friday's filing by the union of a claim of unfair labor practices with the state labor relation's board on behalf of teacher's assistants.
“We greatly value our teachers and the service they provide,
but at this juncture we are deeply disappointed in their approach to the negotiation
process. Their initial approach of a 4% increase on both compensation and
benefits is asking for money we simply don’t have,” Lundsten said. “Their latest action of filing a Unfair
Labor Practice does nothing to move the ball forward. We are at the negotiating
table already. Mediation continues and we will continue to negotiate in good
faith with the funding we have at our disposal.”
Lundsten said the district is enjoying the positive side of the fair funding formula right now, getting $3.5 to $3.6 million extra in the first three years. Those increases will continue for the next four years, but by 2018, the transition period ends and "the district will probably only receive minor increases or possibly deceases based on changes in student demographics," Lundsten said.
“Even if Cranston Public Schools were to accept the union’s latest 3 percent proposal the cost to the district would be approximately $3.6 million each year over a three year period. Again, the School District receives an additional $3.5 - $3.6 million from the Fair Funding Formula. Therefore, their contract would not allow the district to have any excess resources available for other contractual and fixed cost increases,” said Cranston School Committee member Janice Ruggieri. “Additionally, the union proposal leaves no money for new educational programming like all day K.”
School officials pointed to a tentative agreement reached with the custodian's union in a deal that took four months to reach and said it's a sign of the district's ability to negotiate in good faith.
"Negotiations only took four months and we were able to reach a successful resolution without the mediation process,” Lundsten said.
Ruggieri said the district had operated in deficit for years and "it would be fiscally irresponsible of the School Committee to put itself back into a financial hole.
The district is facing some major financial initiatives in the coming years, including the replacement of the district's old bus fleet, safety improvements to the building and increased technology support.
Additionally, the district is working to implementing all-day kindergarten in the "near future," Ruggieri said. "None of these requests were funded by the city council. The School District has made a commitment to complete these initiatives within our own budget."