Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

May 23, 2012

Another View: Settlement helps resolve crisis

Pontiac's teachers are a good example to follow for teachers in other cash-strapped school districts in the county and state.

After 18 months of contentious negotiations between the district on a contract, the teachers union has tentatively agreed to a 10 percent wage reduction and concessions in health care in a new two-year pact.

"Although we were not responsible for the financial disaster the district found itself in, Pontiac teachers recognized the serious consequences facing the students, parents and employees of the district and stepped up to meet the challenge," said Aimee McKeever, president of the Pontiac Education Association.

The example set in Pontiac should be followed in other Oakland County school districts facing financial shortfalls for funding public education.

Pontiac is under a mandatory deficit reduction plan that will require officials to slash spending by $21 million by June 2013 and $26 million by June 2014, according to Pontiac School District Superintendent Walter Burt. If not, an emergency manager could take over the system, making Pontiac the first city in the state with emergency managers controlling daily operations of both the city and school system, a dubious distinction.

Burt hoped that the state of Michigan will now come through and free up $1.25 million in April state aid.

Jan Ellis, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, said whether the state aid payment is given to Pontiac depends on when the concessions contract is finalized and ratified.

The agreement came ... after 18 months of negotiations.

Dan McCarthy, the Michigan Education Association representative to the Pontiac Education Association, said the tentative deal will be reviewed and then it will be up to the Pontiac Board of Education to give the pact its approval.

He congratulated the union for "recognizing the need for tremendous change."

And, we agree the PEA made a step forward to help resolve the crisis in light of continuing declines in property tax revenue which supports school systems.

Earlier, the district announced 95 layoffs, including 43 teachers, in the district with some classes being consolidated as teachers lose jobs between April 16 to June 30.

The Oakland Press

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