By Jerry Waxman
“Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little: cheep, cheep, cheep talk a lot pick a little more.”
Meredith Willson’s delightful chorus number from The Music Man is an apropos way to start this conversation. The song, if you remember, features the School Board members in counterpoint (Good Night Ladies) telling the town’s ladies to go home and stop talking. Fast forward from River City circa 1905 to Orange County 2013 and see if this sounds familiar. Now obviously no one was told to shut up and go home, at least not blatantly but the tone was “Don’t bother us! We’re busy trying to adopt a workable budget, and besides we’re not the bad guys; blame your state legislators, or blame the sequester or blame the anemic tax base etc. You teachers need to work out a deal with our negotiators.”
The budget, as presented in a Power Point presentation showed mostly bullet points with a brief explanation by CFO Richard Collins on both revenues and expenditures. A brief explanation of a three billion dollar budget still takes quite a while but the outcome of the discussion is “We don’t have enough money to fully fund your raise.” The teachers countered with “Don’t cry poor all the way to the bank!” Diana Moore, President of the Classroom Teachers Association pointed out that the overage in the fund balance in 2012 was three hundred eighty million dollars and as of June 30 this year the overage was over four hundred thirteen million. The excuses that the Board is not in control of that money, and there are regulations and minimums fell on completely deaf ears as well it should. There’s no explainable excuse other than they don’t want to ruffle political feathers instead of finding a way to satisfy teachers. Two Board members weren’t even there for the most important meeting on the schedule. I don’t know why Nancy Robbinson was absent but former chairman, Joie Cadle, had an important meeting with some business people. Obviously that took priority over a three billion dollar budget and satisfying teacher concerns.
Once the budget explanations were finished, despite showing up over a half hour late the Board took a recess despite the very vocal objections of the over capacity room. Everyone on the teachers side, perhaps a hundred and fifty or more started shouting, er chanting “Vote Them Out!” a couple of dozen times.
After the break it was time for public comment. Some of this stuff is heartbreaking. The links will be at the end of the article. The board then voted unanimously to adopt the budget without even trying to accommodate the teachers. So much for advocacy for its chief asset that helped this board make a record number of A & B schools. A word to this board in particular-scorned lovers can wreak the kind of revenge you’ve never dreamed of. Sometimes it is definitely better to give than receive. If the teachers and their allied unions ever get their collaborative acts together they will control the election process in Orange County, although you couldn’t see it last evening. Only Steve Clelland from the Orlando Firefighters and a few people from Unite Here were there in support. Sure, the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles was on, but a Central Labor Council with over 40,000 members that couldn’t scrape up thirty or forty members to show support for a sister union is tragic. The teachers and the public deserve better.
Round three of the contract talks will start Thursday morning. Let’s see what happens. Excuse me please while I egest my breakfast.